Epidemiology Field of Study Comprehensive Exam Information

Fall 2020 Epidemiology and Biostatistics Comprehensive Exam Committee:

Exam Information

All PhD students are required to write a comprehensive examination after completion of the core courses in epidemiology and biostatistics. The exam is written in the fourth term, provided that the first-year coursework has been successfully completed.

The PhD comprehensive exam will provide the opportunity for students to demonstrate their ability to integrate material across the core courses. It is expected that all students will be able to critically evaluate published and proposed research, taking into consideration both epidemiology and biostatistics principles.

The PhD comprehensive exam will be held during the mornings (4 hours each) on November 19 (in person) and November 20 (remotely), 2020. Each day will consist of an independent exam of the following format:

  • Day 1 – Exam questions will take a more structured format, examining students’ depth of understanding of key concepts in epidemiology and biostatistics.
  • Day 2 – The second portion of the exam will have a more open-ended format, examining students’ ability to apply epidemiologic principles and critical appraisal skills, as well as their ability to conceive of and design “next steps”. Examples include peer review of a published paper or designing a study on a given topic.

Important note: The two portions will be graded as a single exam.

Potential Outcomes

  • If the student does not perform satisfactorily on a specific question or topic, the comprehensive exam committee may request additional written or oral response, or require the student to take remedial action (ex. take an extra course). This option is at the sole discretion of the committee.
  • If a student fails, the entire exam must be rewritten, typically within 4 months of the original exam. Failure at the second attempt will result in withdrawal from the program.

Resources for Review

Suggested Epidemiology Readings

  • Rothman (2012) Epidemiology: An Introduction, 2nd Edition
  • Koepsell & Weiss (2014) Epidemiologic Methods: Studying the Occurrence of Illness, 2nd Edition
  • Szklo & Nieto (2007) Epidemiology: Beyond the Basics, 2nd Edition
  • Rothman, Greenland, & Lash (2012) Modern Epidemiology, 3rd Edition
  • Porta (2008) A Dictionary of Epidemiology, 5th Edition

Suggested Biostatistics Readings

  • D’Agostino et al. (2006) Introductory Applied Biostatistics
  • Vittinghoff et al. (2012) Regression Methods in Biostatistics

Please note: Copies of previous exams and examples of student responses are available from the Academic Programs Coordinator.