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PhD comprehensive examinations for Apologetics, Systematic Theology, and Church History
PhD comprehensive examinations for Apologetics, Systematic Theology, and Church History
Justin Rainey avatar
Written by Justin Rainey
Updated over a week ago

The PhD Comprehensive Exam is made up of:

  • 1 'major' exam, 8 hours

  • 2 'minor' exams, 3 hours each

  • Oral examination by the field committee

Comp Exam Schedule

  • Last week in November and April (written) and Reading Week (oral). See the Academic Calendar or email for the current dates. By registration ONLY.

When can I register for the exam?

During the regular registration period. Exams may only be taken after your language exams and your coursework requirements are fulfilled (it is okay if you are completing your final course(s) while you complete your comprehensive exam).

How do I schedule the exams?

You can register for the exam in Populi. If you have any issues or questions, contact Myranda Scherschligt at

The Student Success team will arrange for proctoring during each exam and deliver the completed exam to the Field Committee.

Exam Format

Written Exams

The written comp exams test the student’s knowledge of each of the three concentrations within the field. In the student’s own concentration, extensive and in-­depth knowledge is expected. The student will be required both to analyze and to evaluate the central documents and ideas within that concentration, and an ability to contribute creatively to discussion of the fundamental problems in the concentration must be demonstrated. 

In each of the other two concentrations in the field, the student is expected to show a general familiarity with basic issues and trends and to be aware of the contributions of specific individuals. In all three concentrations, the student must reflect on the Seminary’s own heritage and perspective, although no student is ever required to agree with the Seminary’s position on any issue.

The written examinations are over two days—eight hours for the students’ concentration and six hours for the other two concentrations within the field (three hours each).

Written exams are typed on a laptop in a quiet space in either the Library or Andreas Center, as determined by Academic Affairs.

Breaks are permitted, but shall not exceed 30 minutes. No studying is permitted during break time. All start and end times (including any breaks) must be recorded on the exam.

Oral Exam

The oral portion of the comprehensive examination will be scheduled as soon as possible after the written comprehensive examinations have been accepted.

The oral exam is given on the basis of your performance in the earlier written examinations. Students are highly encouraged to bring a printed copy of their written responses with them to the oral exam for reference. Oral exams are given shortly after the written exams, on a day specified by the HTFC chair. Orals are usually given during the reading period, after the last day of classes. 

Aids Allowed

Greek/Hebrew Bible. For exams in church history, an English Bible may be used.

Exam Preparation

Reading lists and other preparatory materials are available in the PhD Resources Google Folder.

In preparation for the the oral exam, it is permissible to review the questions and responses from the written examination, beginning directly after completion of the written exams. Ask your proctor for copies.

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