Comprehensive Exam

The Comprehensive Examination (also referred to as Departmental Examination) must be completed by all doctoral students. The examination consists of two mandatory components:

  1. An oral examination focused on clinical competency
  2. A written review paper

A pass on both components is required for you to continue on in the program.

2018-19 Dates:

Nov 1 Comprehensive Examination Research Paper Requirement Topic Proposal Form
Dec 14 Research Paper Outline for Supervisor Feedback
July 1 (or next business day) Review Paper Deadline
Oct 31 Review Paper Re-submission Deadline

Clinical Competency Oral Examination

The purpose of the oral examination is to provide students with the ability to apply their knowledge of case conceptualization, assessment, treatment, and ethics to a clinical case. Questions pertaining to these issues, including case descriptions, will be provided by members of the clinical comprehensive committee. During the one-hour examination, students will be examined by two members of the Graduate Department of Psychological Clinical Science. The committee may include any full or associate member of the department, but will exclude the Graduate Chair in the case of an appeal. Questions will fall into four broad areas: case conceptualization, assessment, clinical intervention, and ethical and diversity issues. Students will be asked specific questions based on 1) their personal clinical experience (e.g., as part of their practicum and other professional training) and 2) clinical descriptions provided to them during the examination.

Exam content: The exam will include questions often proposed by the College of Psychologists of Ontario (CPO) Oral Examination for registration as a psychologist, as well as questions typically seen on interviews for practicum and internship. Students should have an available working knowledge of their assessment and treatment experience; they should be well versed in the CPO Standards of Professional Conduct, Canadian Psychological Association Practice Guidelines for Providers of Psychological Services, and the Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists. Students will be asked approximately 4-5 primary questions, with each answer spanning 15-20 minutes (including any follow-up questions by the committee).

Timing of Exam: The exam will be held at UTSC and will be given to all students on the same date in November of the PhD2 year. Students will be assigned to one of two timeslots and will be notified via email of their assigned time and examining committee. Students are expected to attend the examination as scheduled. Only under extenuating circumstances (with appropriate documentation) will the Department consider scheduling a make-up examination.

Evaluation: A student who successfully passes the oral examination will be able to (a) identify a theory of case conceptualization and accurately apply it to a case, (b) accurately identify the appropriate assessment measures and/or procedures, (c) provide an exhaustive list of potential diagnoses and identify the appropriate steps for making the differentials, (d) describe appropriate, evidence-based treatment options with associated therapeutic techniques (e) provide an exhaustive list of ethical issues raised by the case and identify the appropriate strategies for addressing these issues, with reference to relevant legislation and standards of practice, and (f) show insight in identifying personal, cultural, or diversity issues raised by a case, as well as how to address these in practice. The two-person committee will decide by consensus whether the student passes and students will receive a letter from the Graduate Chair notifying them of their results.

Research Paper Requirement

To satisfy the research component of the Comprehensive Requirement, students will write a substantive review paper on a topic relevant to clinical psychology. The purpose of this component is to demonstrate breadth of knowledge in clinical psychology. Therefore, the topic of the paper must not be the same topic as the doctoral dissertation or the Master’s thesis, but may be related to the student’s research program.

To maintain the integrity of the Comprehensive Examination process, faculty will not be involved in the student's research paper beyond reviewing the paper outline. Students are welcome to submit a draft outline to their supervisors for feedback no later than Dec 14, 2018.

Proposal: The COMPS Research Paper Requirement Topic Proposal Form must be submitted for approval by November 1 of the PhD2 year. This form includes abstracts from the Master’s Thesis and Doctoral dissertation proposal, as well as a 1-page proposal on the topic of your Comprehensive Requirement Research Paper Requirement. The Program Coordinator will decide if the topic is sufficiently different from previous or future theses. In addition, this paper cannot serve as a chapter in the student’s dissertation.

Review Paper: Students should write the review paper (30-50 pages) according to the most recent author guidelines for Clinical Psychology Review and should browse the latest issues of the journal for examples of how to prepare and format the paper. The purpose of this paper is to produce a qualitative and, or, quantitative (e.g. meta-analysis) literature and/or theoretical review on a topic in the student’s broad area of study. The topic should be broad enough that students are able to find a sufficient number of published papers to support the review. However, it should be focused enough that the paper has depth and students are able to thoughtfully explore the methodological and theoretical issues raised by the topic. The paper should not be a simple description of studies in the area; it should make a theoretical and/or methodological contribution to the literature. Students should submit an electronic copy of their paper to

Evaluation: Evaluation is based on a review by the Examination Committee (comprised of GD-PCS faculty members) who will assign a "Pass" or "Fail" grade. A passing paper should propose an interesting and important question to the field of clinical psychology, be comprehensive in its review, and summarize the implications of the research area while advancing theory and/or methodology in the topic area.