Comprehensive Exams

Before receiving their MA in Economics, students must pass two comprehensive examinations: one in microeconomic theory and one in macroeconomic theory. Each three-hour exam goes beyond the coursework in the theory courses and tests for comprehensive knowledge of the subject.

The comprehensive exams will be offered the Saturday morning of the first week of classes in the Winter, Spring and Summer quarters on an alternative schedule. If during the academic year the Microeconomics sequence is offered than we will offer the Macroeconomic comprehensive exam in Winter and the Microeconomic comprehensive exam in Spring and Summer. If during the academic year the Macroeconomics class is offered than we will offer the Microeconomic comprehensive exam in Winter and the Macroeconomic comprehensive exam in Spring and Summer.

Students must register for the comprehensive exam during the quarter prior to its offering. Registration is online at Registration closes four weeks before the exam date. If a student that has registered for the exam decides not to take the exam, s/he must notify the graduate advisor at least one week before the examination. If a student registers for the exam and does not take the exam or notify the graduate advisor in a timely manner about not taking the exam, the student will receive a grade of FAIL, the equivalent of taking the exam and not passing.

Exams are graded as HIGH PASS, PASS, LOW PASS and FAIL. A student must receive a grade of LOW PASS or better on both the microeconomic and macroeconomic comprehensive exam in order to receive a MA in Economics. Students may attempt each exam twice. If, after two attempts, a student has not received a passing grade, a third attempt may be granted at the discretion of the Department. The Department will schedule the third examination ONLY after the student has met with the graduate advisor, established a plan for remediation work with one of the graders of the examination, and successfully executed the plan for remedial work. The remediation plan must include a schedule for taking the exam and a statement about whether the exam will be oral or written. The plan for remediation must be signed by the student, graduate advisor, and at least one professor that will supervise the remediation and will be included as part of the student’s file. Failing the third exam attempt will mean disqualification from the program.

The comprehensive examination is not a "big" final examination. It is designed to test the student’s overall knowledge of a subject and it is expected that student’s knowledge of material goes beyond the material covered in a particular course. Stated somewhat differently, students are expected to demonstrate independent learning when they take the comprehensive examination.

To help focus students' studying for the comprehensive examinations, the Department has developed Reading Lists in both Microeconomics and Macroeconomics. Questions for the examinations will be confined to areas that are covered in these reading lists.

We also make available to students past comprehensive examinations. Although some students feel past exams provide a good basis for studying, the Department encourages their use only as"practice tests." Exam coverage, emphasis, and structure can vary with current events or theoretical developments in the field. Do not expect that you will pass a particular comprehensive examination if you simply use past exams for your studying and do not expect professors to provide answers to old exam questions. Most professors will be more than happy to guide you if you are stuck in your attempt to solve an economic problem or question; however, they will not work a problem for you.

Comprehensive Examination Sign-Up Form 

Reading Lists:

Past Exams

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