Successful Completion of the Master's Degree
All Master's students must keep an eye on the end game. Be aware that there are some things to be done just before you graduate. To learn more, go to our Timeline page.
The Comprehensive Examination for Courses-Only (including courses-only Masters-en-Route-to-PhD Students)
The Graduate School requires that all non-thesis track Master of Science (MS) students at MSU take a Comprehensive Examination just prior to graduation. In accordance with graduate school policy, the Computer Science Department has settled on the following examination structure.
- The Comprehensive Examination will be administered once during the fall semester and once during the spring semester of each academic year if there is at least one student on the courses-only track graduating during the semester in question.
- Courses-only Master’s students and Masters-en-Route-to-PhD students with a cumulative GPA of at least 3.5 in their final semester (at the start of the final semester, not at the end) do not need to take the comprehensive exam to earn their Master’s degree. Note: The GPA that will be used is the cumulative GPA from courses listed on the student's Program of Study, excluding courses that are provisional requirements.
- For the remaining M.S. students who plan to graduate during the current semester, they must inform the Master's Program Coordinator and their graduate committee via email by the third Friday of the semester of their intent to take the comprehensive examination.
- After notifying the Master's Program Coordinator and his/her graduate committee, the student will be provided a list of published research papers chosen by his/her committee. The student will consult with his/her committee to select one research paper. The paper will then be reviewed by the student individually.
- The student must study this paper, write a review, and submit the review to his/her committee. The deadline for submitting the review will be no later than two weeks prior to the final date allowed by the Graduate School for the master’s comprehensive exam.
- The review, not exceeding 4 pages, must include the following sections:
- An overview of the problem being solved and why it is significant
- An overview of the solution
- The strengths of the paper
- Constructive criticisms
- The student’s review is graded by the student’s graduate committee as either Pass or Fail. If the student receives a Fail, the graduation committee will provide the student a list of comments. The student needs to revise the review based on the provided comments. The graduation committee will grade the revised review, and the result is either Pass or Fail. If the student receives a Fail for the revised review, the student needs to retake the comprehensive exam in a subsequent semester. A failed second attempt results in an unsuccessful completion of the Master's degree.
The Defense of Thesis and Comprehensive Examination for Thesis-Track Students
The Graduate School requires that all thesis track Master of Science (MS) students at MSU take two examinations: a Defense of Thesis, and a Comprehensive Examination just prior to graduation. In accordance with graduate school policy, the Computer Science Department has settled on the following examination structure for thesis-track students.
- The Defense of Thesis component has two parts: public and private
- To satisfy the public part the student must hold a seminar that is announced and open to the public, and in which the results of the thesis are presented.
- Within one week of the public seminar, the student must take a private, oral examination that satisfies both the private component of the Defense of Thesis and the Comprehensive Examination.
- The private oral examination will be attended minimally by all members of the student's Master's graduate committee and may be attended by other members of the faculty.
- The oral examination will have two components: questions about the thesis (to satisfy the Defense of Thesis component) and questions about subject matter on the student's program of study (to satisfy the Comprehensive Examination component).
- Carefully note, however, that students must be prepared to answer computer science specific questions that naturally arise during the examination of their thesis, providing them the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to synthesize knowledge of computer science and apply it to their thesis. Thus, it is strongly recommended that students review their coursework and knowledge of the computer science fundamentals underlying their thesis. For example, questions about the time complexity/computability issues involved in their work are likely to arise, as are questions about the content-specific nature of their work.
NOTE: You know the semester in which you intend to graduate. You should begin reviewing your course material, preparing your talk, and getting ready for your defense of thesis in timely fashion without any prompting from the faculty.