Comprehensive and Qualifying Examinations: A Qualitative Review of APA-Accredited Doctoral Psychology Programs

Kyle J. Self*, Phillip C. Kroke, Andrew J. Waters, Jeffrey L. Goodie, Layne D. Bennion

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Comprehensive, qualifying, or preliminary examinations are typically administered in U.S. clinical, counseling, and school psychology (i.e., health services psychology [HSP]) doctoral programs to assess graduate student knowledge and serve as a milestone before granting student doctoral candidacy. The American Psychological Association’s (APA) Commission on Accreditation does not require the use of qualifying exams for accreditation, nor does it specify content or purposes of such exams; rather, individual doctoral programs choose the content and format of these exams and how they are administered. As a result, there are wide variations in how these exams are implemented and what content is covered. The present study reviews prior literature on history and issues of doctoral qualifying examinations and summarizes current practices by reviewing publicly available online data coded from a random sample of approximately 25% of each discipline within APA fully accredited HSP PhD programs. In total, 99% of all health services psychology doctoral programs surveyed (n = 81) included a written exam portion, and 64% included an oral exam portion as part of qualifying exams. Overall, 47% of programs did list specifically covered APA-specified domains within qualifying exams. Psychometrics of these exams were not found in publicly available data for any of the programs surveyed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)391-399
Number of pages9
JournalTraining and Education in Professional Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • accreditation
  • clinical
  • counseling
  • graduate
  • school


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