Comprehensive Examination


The purpose of this exam is to ensure that graduating students have mastered the research and pedagogy involved in dealing with ESOL/ESL/EFL students.

Five Areas

The comprehensive exam for students in the M.A. TESOL program is normally taken in the last or next-to-last semester of study. The exam should be taken after the courses related to the five comp questions have been or are being taken. The comprehensive exam consists of five questions, one each in the areas of second language acquisition, ESOL methods, critical approaches to ESOL (curriculum), applied linguistics, and problems in ESOL evaluation.

Students have access to a list of 15 possible exam questions (see Comprehensive Examination Questions). There are 3 questions for each of the TESOL areas. On the day of the exam, each test taker will be given a list with his/her 5 questions.

Second language acquisition deals with research in language acquisition and requires test takers to cite current research to support their answers. (Test takers may mention researchers or studies in the other 4 areas, but this is a requirement for the second language acquisition question.) ESOL Methods deals with methodology in ESOL/ESL/EFL classes. Critical Approaches deals with curriculum issues, including materials appropriate for ESL students. Applied linguistics deals with application of linguistic knowledge to help ESL learners. Problems in ESOL evaluation covers testing issues with emphasis on ESL learners.

Requesting an Appointment

The comprehensive exam is administered each semester about midway between midterm and the semester end. Students should contact the program assistant early in the semester in which they plan to take the exam to sign up for the exam. There is no fee.

Students who are taking the test contact the program assistant to set up an appointment (date/time/place) for their exam. The exam is generally scheduled to be taken within an announced week, and students are free to schedule their exams for any 3-hour time block between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. during that week. It is preferred that students take their exams on the computer, but students may also choose to write their exams by hand. It is important that test takers let the program assistant know their preference when setting up their exam appointment.

Test Format / Scoring

Students must answer all five questions. A passing score is awarded if all of the answers are satisfactory. An especially strong answer in one question may compensate for a weaker answer in another. Each exam is read by the coordinator of the program and other TESOL committee members.