Comprehensive Examinations

Open notebook on a desk in front of a well-cushioned chairExam Schedule | Area Committees and Reading Lists | Instructions for Students | Comprehensive Exam Policy

The PhD program requires that students take two comprehensive examinations in their chosen major fields of sociology.

We offer comprehensive exams in the following core areas of department specialization: Colonialization, Racialization and Indigeneity; Sociology of Crime and Law; Sociology of Culture; Gender; Global Migration; Health & Mental Health; Political Sociology; Qualitative Methods; Computational and Quantitative Methods; Social Networks; Theory; and Work, Stratification & Markets.

We recommend that students take at least two courses in the area prior to taking the comp exam in that area. Most courses are offered at least every other year in all core areas; yearly in theory and methods.

In addition to the examinations offered in core areas, students may request to take a comprehensive exam in the following areas of expertise: Aging & Life Course; Environmental Sociology; Family; Social Policy; and Urban Sociology. Students may file a request with the Grad Office to take an exam in one of these areas of expertise at least six months ahead of time; if the Associate Grad chair is able to form a faculty comp committee in that area, s/he will approve the request. We will not offer comprehensive examinations in other areas.    

Comprehensive Exam Schedule

Comprehensive Exams are tentatively scheduled for:

  • August 19–23, 2024
  • February 5–9, 2024

We advise students to plan to take their Major comprehensive exam at the end of year one and their Minor comprehensive exam by the end of the second year, after having taken coursework related to the field being tested. Students have the option of sitting the exams in February or in August. The Major exam is offered as a five-day take-home exam, and for Minor exams as a three-day take-home exam. The amount of time and the timing of the exam is non-negotiable.

Differences between Major and Minor exams are described below (note that students are permitted to take both exams under the Major exam format). Students must notify the Graduate Office of intent to take the comprehensive examination via email to the Graduate Program Assistant by October 15 for February exam or April 15 for August exam.  The completed Comprehensive Exam Request Form is due to the Graduate Office after the group meeting occurs but no later than November 30 for the February exam or May 31 for the August exam.

Area Committees and Reading Lists

*Previous COMP Committees, Reading Lists, and COMP Exams Link 


Area Reading List Comp Exam Exam Date Chair Member Member
PDF iconColonialism, Racialization, Indigeneity - 2023 (PDF).pdf PDF iconCRI Exam - Feb 2023 (PDF).pdf August 2024 Berrey Adese Grey
February 2024 Berrey Adese Grey
PDF iconCrime & Law Reading List, as of May 29 2023 (PDF).pdf PDF iconCrime and Law Exam (PDF) August 2024 Berrey Maurutto Smith
February 2024 Berrey Maurutto Smith
PDF iconSociology of Culture - 2023.pdf PDF iconCulture (PDF).pdf August 2024 Leschziner Johnston Mullen
February 2024 Leschziner Johnston Baumann

PDF iconGender - 2023 (PDF).pdf


PDF iconGender Exam (PDF)

PDF iconGender Exam - Feb 2023.pdf

August 2024 Taylor Fields Green
February 2024 Taylor Fields Alegria


PDF iconGlobal Migration (PDF).pdf


PDF iconGlobal Migration Exam - Feb 2023.pdf August 2024 Landolt Elcioglu Sarkar
February 2024 Landolt Elcioglu Sarkar
PDF iconHealth and Mental Health - 2022 (PDF) PDF iconHealth and Mental Health Exam (PDF) August 2024 Schieman Nicholson Wheaton
February 2024 Schieman Nicholson Wheaton
PDF iconPolitical Sociology - 2022 (PDF) PDF iconPolitical Sociology Exam (PDF) August 2024 Pettinicchio Hoffman Veugelers
February 2024 Pettinicchio Hoffman Veugelers

PDF iconQualitative Methods - 2022 (PDF)


PDF iconQualitative Methods Exam (PDF)

PDF iconQualitative Methods Exam - Feb 2023 (PDF).pdf

August 2024 Hermer J. Lee Sarkar
February 2024 Sarkar J. Lee Elcioglu
PDF iconQuantitative Methods (PDF) PDF iconQuant Methods (PDF).pdf August 2024 Miles Fosse Spence
February 2024 Miles Fosse Spence

PDF iconSocial Network - 2023 (PDF).pdf


PDF iconSocial Networks Exam (PDF)

PDF iconNetworks Exam - Feb 2023.pdf

August 2024 Erickson Boase Smith
February 2024


Boase Smith
PDF iconTheory (PDF) PDF iconTheory Exam (PDF) August 2024 Hoffman Baber Bryant
February 2024 Hoffman Baber Bryant
PDF iconWork, Stratification, and Markets (PDF).pdf PDF iconWork, Stratification, Markets Exam (PDF) August 2024 Schieman Horowitz Welsh
February 2024 Schieman Horowitz Welsh

In recent years, because students have requested it, we have also offered comprehensive exams in PDF iconLife Course and Aging (PDF)PDF iconEnvironmental Sociology (PDF).pdfPDF iconSociology of Families - 2024.pdfPDF iconSocial Policy.pdf, and PDF iconUrban Sociology (PDF).

Comprehensive Examination Instructions for Students

The following instructions are mailed out to exam takers 2 weeks prior to exam start and at 9am on day of exam: I will e-mail your questions to you at 9am on Monday, [date of exam start]. If you do not receive your exam by 9:15 am, contact the Graduate Office immediately. These instructions will be included:

  1. Be sure to send a quick reply to let the Graduate Office know you received the questions, and indicate in your email that you read and understand these instructions, as well as the University’s policy on Academic Integrity and the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters (links below).
  2. Any medical, mental health and/or accessibility issues must be discussed with the Graduate Office and/or the appropriate University Office (e.g. Accessibility Office) at least six weeks prior to the exam. Any accommodations suggested by those offices must be in place before the exam begins.
  3. Do NOT email the comp exam committee directly for any reason during or after the exam. When your exam is complete, email the answers to the Graduate Office at
  4. Answers must be submitted in Word format no later than 5:00 PM EST on Wednesday/Friday, [date of exam end]. Answers will not be accepted after this time. Your exam will be marked as a fail in these cases.
  5. For Major exams:  You are required to answer THREE (3) QUESTIONS (ONE QUESTION FROM EACH OF PARTS A, B & C).  Each answer should be 10-12 pages (12-point Times New Roman font, standard margins, and double-spaced) in length. The complete exam should not total more than 36 pages in length (12-point Times New Roman font, standard margins, and double-spaced), not including references. THE COMMITTEE WILL NOT READ PAST THE 36TH PAGE.
  6. For Minor exams, assuming the standard shortened option:You are required to answer ONE (1) QUESTION. The answer should be 10-12 pages (12-point Times New Roman font, standard margins, and double-spaced) in length, not including references. THE COMMITTEE WILL NOT READ PAST THE 12TH PAGE.
  7. If you have a clarification or other question that arises once the exam has been sent to you, direct your question to with a CC to the associate graduate chair (
  8. If, for any reason, you feel you cannot complete the exam on time, do not quit writing. You must turn in as much writing as you possibly can. You will be graded and given comments on what you complete even if it is only an outline of what you planned to write. Let the Graduate Office know immediately if this situation occurs and we will send you further instructions. If you do not turn in any writing or you do not notify the Graduate Office of problems at the time they occur, the exam will be marked as a fail.
  9. Academic Integrity: The use of generative AI tools for writing comps answers is prohibited. Some students may have used such tools to help prepare and organize readings for the exam. However for the writing of the exam, using only your own ideas and writing to craft answers to the questions at hand is required. 
    In addition, no one other than you may read, edit or comment on your exam prior to submission to the comp committee and Graduate Office. It is your responsibility to read and be aware of the University’s Academic Integrity resources, and specifically the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters. Please note, your exam may be run through a plagiarism detection tool, Ouriginal, for a review of textual similarity and detection of possible plagiarism. The terms that apply to the University’s use of the Ouriginal service are described on the Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation website:

  10. Students will receive results approximately four weeks after turning in the exam.
  11. Once the grade is submitted, you will be notified of your results by the Graduate Office.

Comprehensive Exam Policy

You can view the PDF iconComprehensive Exam Policy May 2023.pdf here.