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Clinical Psychology @ Queens College

Comprehensive Exams and Research Requirements

  1. The First Doctoral Examination: Research Methodology: This exam is taken before the completion of 45 graduate credits (including transfer credits). Students may not register for courses beyond the 45-credit limit or apply for externship training until they have passed the First Doctoral Examination.  For the exam, students are presented with three research questions.  They must choose one question and design an experiment or research study to address the question.


  2. En-Route Master’s Project: This empirical research is conducted by the student in a faculty member’s research lab and should culminate with a research report of publishable quality by the end of the second year in residence. The project is equivalent to a Master’s Thesis and students can apply for and receive an en-route Masters Degree upon completing the First Doctoral Examination and the En Route Master’s Project.

  3. The Clinical Competency Exam: Students must pass the clinical competency exam prior to application for internship. This exam may be held anytime in the year prior to internship application, but we expect that most students will schedule the exam at the end of the spring semester prior to internship application. The exam consists of a written and an oral component.  The written component consists of a summary of externship training experiences and a deidentified written report that describes an intervention that was implemented with an individual, family, couple, group, etc.  In the report, the student should discuss 1) the assessment strategy used to identify the presenting issues (e.g., intake interview, diagnostic interview, standardized tests); 2) the nature of the intervention, including the empirical basis for applying the intervention strategy; and 3) how he or she evaluated the outcome of the intervention. The student should also conceptualize an alternative perspective for approaching the intervention.  Finally, the report should include a discussion of ethical issues and address issues of cultural diversity with respect to assessment and/or intervention. 
    The oral examination evaluates the student’s ability to conceptualize the case described in the write-up, defend the choice of assessment tools and intervention strategies, outline steps in clinical decision making, and discuss the application of research findings to the clinical work.  Students are expected to demonstrate breadth as well as depth in their thinking about clinical activities. The exam is expected to last no more than 1.5 hours.

  4. The Second Doctoral Exam: The Second Doctoral Examination must be successfully completed no later than the last day of classes of the 10th semester in the program.  This exam is designed to give students the opportunity to examine a specific topic of interest in depth and has both a written and an oral component. The written component may be either a focused review paper (similar to those found in Psychological Bulletin) or a dissertation grant application that is submitted to an external agency (e.g., NRSA application to NIH). After deciding upon a topic with the research mentor, a three-person committee (including the research mentor) is formed to evaluate the finished project as well as the student’s knowledge and understanding of the topic in an oral examination.  

  5. Dissertation Research: Students are required to submit a Topic Proposal for the dissertation no later than the end of their fourth year in residence and prior to application for internship. At this time, a Dissertation Advisory Committee comprised of at least three faculty members is formed; the Chair of the Dissertation Advisory Committee must be a faculty member in the PhD Program in Clinical Psychology at Queens College, and at least two members (including the chair) must be Program faculty. Once the topic proposal has been filed, the student is required to arrange a meeting of the Dissertation Advisory Committee at least once per semester.  At these meetings the student should describe the work done since the last meeting of the committee.

    After the three members of dissertation advisory committee have approved the written dissertation, two additional readers, one typically from outside the university and always from outside of the Program, are asked to review the written document.  The Dissertation Defense may be scheduled when three of the five members have approved the dissertation. The dissertation defense consists of a public portion, approximately 30 minutes in length, during which the candidate presents a summary of the dissertation research and answers questions from the audience. The remainder of the defense is conducted in closed session with the five member dissertation committee. Students are encouraged to defend their dissertations prior to internship, although some students complete the defense after the internship has ended.