Main Content Region

PA 6980 - Comprehensive Exam


Read this Page Carefully

The MPA Comprehensive Exam is the culminating experience of the degree.  It evaluates what you have learned throughout the program.  All core classes must be taken before registering for the exam. During your program, you should retain your books, syllabi, and papers. You should also download from your course site any information you want to keep for studying.  Previous years' course sites may not be accessible at a later time. I also recommend you look at the question themes for each class you are taking and be sure you are able to address them.

On the day of the exam, you will be asked to sign a Certification of readiness to take the Comprehensive Exam that affirms you are in good health and ready to take the exam.

Comprehensive Exam Schedule
Term  Date
Fall 2023

Friday, September 29, 2023           

Spring 2024 Friday, March 1, 2024

Review Sessions

Dr. Robert Stokes holds a review session 3-4 weeks before each exam. You should NOT wait until this review session to start studying.  At the review session, you should have selected the questions you are preparing to answer and be ready to ask questions about their meaning. The review will not give you answers to questions but will address overall concepts and strategies. 

Comp Exam Review Session
Term Date Time Zoom Link
Spring 2024 Saturday, February 3, 2024 10:00AM 

request link via email


Introduction to the Exam

The comprehensive exam evaluates your learning in your core and concentration classes.  That means you MUST have completed your core and concentration classes before taking the exam.  You may enroll in one of your open electives simultaneously with the Comprehensive Exam.

Each year students will be given a general theme relevant to each class.   A theme represents an area/topic from which the actual Exam question will be drawn. Students are expected to study all aspects of the indicated theme and be ready to answer questions related to the theme.

For quarter catalog followers, on exam day you will be required to answer two core questions and one integrative question. For semester catalog followers, on exam day you will be required to answer one core question, one concentration question, and one integrative question. Students can select their core class(es).   Quarter catalog followers may NOT answer Concentration questions.

Note: For quarter catalog followers, students taking the Concentration in Public Financial Management MUST answer the 6150 and 6630 questions, and students in the Concentration in Leadership MUST answer the 6620 and 6640 questions. For semester catalog followers, students can choose any core class, however, they must answer the question for their concentration.


2023-24 Comprehensive Exam Question Theme Pool. 

Important- The quarter and semester core classes are different.  Make sure your question selections follow the appropriate catalog.

Quarter Themes Semester Themes

Quarter 2023-24 Comp Themes

Semester 2023-24 Comp Themes

General Considerations

Credit for PA 6980 will be awarded for passage of the comprehensive exam, plus completion of several evaluation and career development activities including:

  • Completion of an online Exit Survey.   NOTE: The Reflective Essay is now part of the Exit Survey, it is not a separate activity.
  • Completing a variety of Career Development Activities. View the Career Development webpage.  For more information contact Dr. Pamela Abell at 909-537-3393

Note: Career Development activities may be completed earlier in your program.  The exit survey must be completed in your final term.

For more complete information SEE the CURRENT SYLLABUS which outlines what you need to do to get credit for PA 6980



Students must register for PA 6980 either through the regular registration process or through the College of Extended and Global Education (CEGE). Students must have completed all their core and concentration classes before taking the exam. They may take an elective the same semester as the exam.  Registration requires Department approval - so call staff, who will check to see if you have completed the requirements.

Registration options:

   A) If you are taking another class, just register for the 0 unit PA 6980 in the normal process after getting Department approval

   B) If you are taking ONLY PA 6980 you can register for the class through CEGE for a discounted rate. Fill out the Comprehensive Exam Registration form.

Tips for preparedness 

1) Outline the most important aspects of each theme.

2) Study in Groups!

3) Attend the review

4) Review the advice provided in the 26 Points MPA Handbook.

Format of Exam

For Fall 2022, the Exam will be offered both on-campus and online. PA staff will inform you of the technical details that you need to follow in order to be ready on Exam day.

The exams go to PA faculty graders without names or identification. Two readers independently read exams and provide an overall high pass, pass, or fail. Disagreements go to a third reader. If there is any question of test integrity whatsoever, you will be required to retake the examination.


About 85% of students pass the exam the first time.  Approximately 15% do not. That is usually because of a lack of preparation, organization, or neglecting to answer parts of the questions (see the 26 points). Because there are only three questions, failing one question results in failing the exam. Students who do not receive a passing grade may repeat the examination, one additional time only, with the written approval of the MPA Graduate Coordinator. This is not automatic. If you wish to take the exam a second time, you must fill out a Petition to Repeat the Comprehensive Exam pdf

Important Note: Students who are registered for PA 6980 and do not show up for the exam, and have not notified us of any problem will be charged with an exam attempt.

An MPA grad who failed the exam once and achieved a high pass the second time wrote out a short brief outlining his preparation. 

Download Study Tips

Please contact the the MPA Director, Dr. Robert Stokes -  with any questions about the process.