PP&D Ph.D. students must pass comprehensive exams (“comps”) before they propose a dissertation and advance to candidacy. There are two parts to the comprehensive exams, the field (or “area”) exam and the methods exam. These exams test the student's depth and breadth of knowledge of the major issues in his or her concentration of study, and the methods of study used in his or her field.
 
Comps are offered at the end of the summer and are usually taken following the second year of study. Students who enter the program with a strong background in research methods may be able to take the methods exam in the September following their first year.