Skip to main content

Saint Louis University Gnaegi Center for Health Care Ethics Header Logo Center

Menu Search

Comprehensive Exams

After you have completed courses and practica in the health care ethics P.h.D. program, you must pass the comprehensive examinations with an examination board comprised of Saint Louis University faculty.

These examinations will be written and oral and they will be scheduled as required by the department chair or delegate. Ordinarily, comprehensive exams (written and oral) should be completed within one academic semester (excluding summer) of completing course work.

Written Exam

The purpose of the written exam is to assess your ability to write a doctoral dissertation in health care ethics. The following process will be followed:

You will present two essay questions to the appointed board. Because the purpose of the written exam is to demonstrate the ability to conduct independent research, both essay questions must propose to develop arguments you’ve not previously developed in coursework.

Upon the recommendation of the chair, the board will assign you one of the two essay questions.

Within a period of five working days at home, you will write 25-page essay addressing the question. The essay must display above all the ability to develop an ethics argument and to integrate the relevant interdisciplinary literature. You may not receive mentoring of any kind from faculty or peers in writing the assigned essay.

The comprehensive written exam will be graded on a pass/fail basis. A passing grade will be assessed on four criteria: development of the argument; integration of the literature; problem and significance; writing style and form. The passing grade requires an assessment of good in all criteria with at least an assessment of “very good” in either the argument or the literature.

In the event that you fail the written exam, you may present a new list of two essay questions (at least one of which is new), and may re-write the exam following the same procedure. In the event that the exam is failed a second time, you will be ineligible to progress further in the Ph.D. program.

Oral Exam

After you have passed the written examination, a 90-minute oral examination with the board will take place. Ordinarily, no more than one month should elapse between completing the written exam and taking the oral exam.

The purpose of the oral examination is to assess your "integration of knowledge across the discipline." In particular, you are expected to demonstrate mastery of the Ph.D. curriculum.

To this end, as part of your application to the oral examination, you must provide the board with a comprehensive exam reading list comprised of all required readings indicated in the syllabus of each course completed in the Ph.D. program.

After the oral exam, the board will provide a grade of "Pass with Distinction," "Pass" or "Fail."

If you pass the written exam but fail the oral exam, the oral exam may be taken again according to specifications of the Graduate School. Ordinarily students may take the oral exam twice with the permission of the Dean of the Graduate School. Once a you have successfully passed both the written and the oral comprehensive examinations, you will be eligible to submit a dissertation proposal following departmental policies.

Note that the comprehensive exam committee for MD/Ph.D. you must include at least one person who is a member of the MD/Ph.D. program steering committee.