FAQ: Departmental Written Comprehensive Exam

How should I prepare for the exam?

It is recommended that students prepare for the comprehensive exam by revisiting course readings, studying class notes, and re-reading assignments and papers in order to sharpen their understanding of important theories, concepts, practices, and examples covered in those courses. You should approach the study for this exam as you would study for a course. 


The suggested reading list may be updated with future test administrations. It is recommended that students check the list during the semester they plan to sit for the exam for any updates.

Discussing past questions with students/alums who have taken the HRD comprehensive exam is prohibited and will be considered a violation of Villanova’s academic integrity policy.

All students taking the comprehensive exams are expected to uphold Villanova’s Academic Integrity Policy and Code. 

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What time is the exam?

The exam will be held between 11:30am-3:30pm EST on Saturday, November 18, 2017.

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When will I be eligible to take the VUHRD departmental written comprehensive exam?

Students must have completed at least 24 credits and have a 3.00 GPA or higher.   

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I'm an online student, and it has been more than four years since I started the program. Can I still take the exam?

Students who have completed all coursework, but have not yet passed the comprehensive exam, and who are approaching or are beyond the four year requirement to complete the program have been granted an extension by the Dean of Graduate Studies to take advantage of this additional comprehensive exam option.  These students have until December 31, 2017 to successfully pass this requirement.

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How do I apply for the VU developed written comprehensive exam?

To register, students fill out the top portion of the "Comprehensive Exam Registration Form."

For this Spring, students must register for the comprehensive exam by September 13, 2017. Beginning in the summer of 2017, students must register by the dates listed on the graduate academic calendar. Students must submit the form to Marie Pelcin.

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Is there any cost for the written comprehensive exam?

No, the Villanova developed comprehensive exam is free.  

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Are there other times offered for the exam, other than 11:30am EST?

If there is a hardship caused by the scheduled time, you may request to reschedule. This may be granted at the discretion of the HRD Program Director, Dr. Gerard Brandon. 

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How is the exam structured?

The departmental comprehensive exam is closed-book and will consist of short answer and longer essay questions that provide an opportunity to synthesize and integrate knowledge and perspective gained from coursework in the HRD program, and that also has the breadth reflective of the requirements of professionals who work in the HR discipline.  

The exam is a program-developed essay exam designed to draw on HR principles and concepts covered in the course curriculum.  This type of exam has historically been offered to campus students in a live proctored environment.  With advances in remote proctoring, Villanova is now able to offer this option to online students.

Once students enter Blackboard and begin the exam, they will have four hours to complete and submit their responses.  

Here are two sample questions to give you a sense of the types of questions that will be on the exam.

Sample Long Essay Question:

There is a need for businesses to transfer knowledge from the baby-boomers who are retiring over the next decade (or so) to the millennials who bring different talents and expectations.  Describe how an organization can build a collaborative, knowledge sharing environment that supports both groups of employees.

Sample Short-Answer Essay Question:

Many organizations rely on employee referral programs to identify prospective employees. What are the advantages and disadvantages of such an approach?

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What subjects are covered in the exam?

HRD’s goals for the exam include adequately covering concepts within the scope of the subject matter in our program, presenting problems that integrate key concepts within a course or across HR sub-disciplines, and challenging students to apply these concepts to real world problems and situations.  

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How will the exam be administered? Where do I access it?

The comprehensive exam is administered online via Blackboard, utilizing its testing security features. You will need access to a computer that has internet connection and an operational webcam. 

Once the application is complete, eligible students will be registered for a special course in Blackboard.  You will access the course using your Villanova (MyNova) ID and password.  If you have trouble with your ID and password, you should contact Villanova tech support during regular business hours. The University Help Desk may be reached at 610-519-7777. This help will not be available on the day of the exam.  Prior to taking the exam, it is recommended that students review the guidelines and technical instructions, accessed via the Blackboard course.

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Where can I get technical assistance if there is a problem before or during the exam?

Tech support will NOT be available due to the exam being administered on a Saturday.  You should test your connection and access prior to the day of the exam and resolve problems by contacting the University Help Desk at 610-519-7777.  

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How will the exam be graded?

The exams will be evaluated independently by two faculty members currently teaching in the HRD program using a standard answer rubric and then they will come to consensus on a final grade. The HRD Director will consult with appropriate faculty if any problems, such as accuracy, arise with the use of ideas from their respective courses.  

All answers are subject to being checked against a database of prior examinations and Internet sources using anti-plagiarism software.  

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When will I be notified of the results?

The HRD Director will report the results (pass or fail) to the Graduate Studies Office, which will then notify the student.  The Graduate Studies office sets the deadline for grade submission.  

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What happens if I don’t pass this exam?

In the event of failure, one re-examination will be permitted, but not within the same semester.

In lieu of passing the departmental written comprehensive exam, Villanova HRD will continue to accept the following HR certification exams: PHR, SPHR, GPHR, AOL, SHRM-CP, or the SHRM-SCP. SHRM will no longer be offering the AOL after the Spring 2017 testing window.  

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Contact Information

Campus Programs
St. Mary's Hall, Suite 119

800 Lancaster Ave.
Villanova, PA 19085
(p) 610-519-4582
(f) 610-519-5826
gradhrdoffice@villanova.edu

Online Program
M.S. in HRD
c/o University Alliance
Call 1-866-220-0017 or visit
 www.villanovaU.com