PA 999 the Comprehensive Exam

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The MPA Comprehensive Exam is the culminating experience of the degree.  It evaluates what you have learned throughout the program.  All core classes must be taken before registering for the exam and the exam MUST be taken in-person on the CSUSB main campus. During your program you should retain your books, syllabi and papers. You should also download from Blackboard any information you want to keep for studying.  Previous Blackboard courses may not be accessible at a later time.  I also recommend you look at the questions for each class you are taking WHILE YOU ARE TAKING THE CLASS, and be sure you are able to answer them.

On the day of the exam you will be asked to sign a

that affirms you are in good health and ready to take the exam.  

General Considerations

Credit for PA 999 will be awarded for passage of the comprehensive exam, plus completion of several evaluation and career development activities including:

  • Completion of an online Exit Survey
  • Completing a variety of Career Development Activities. 
    View the Career Development webpage.  For more information contact Dr. Pamela Abell  909-537-3393
  • Completion of a Reflective Essay emailed directly to Dr. Jonathan Anderson

Note: Career Development activities may be completed earlier in your program.  The exit survey and reflective essay must be completed in your final quarter.

For more complete information 

 which outlines what you need to do to get credit for PA 999

Dr. Anderson holds a review session 3-4 weeks prior to each exam.   You should NOT wait until this review session to start studying.  At the review session you should have selected the questions you are preparing to answer and be ready to ask questions about their meaning.   The review will not give you answers to questions, but will discuss address overall concepts and strategies.  The sessions are held in Jack Brown 280 on Saturdays -- and are streamed through Zoom.

2019-20 Comprehensive Exam Review Session Dates:  Always in JB 280 and Zoomed- (either at 10 or 11 am)

Winter 2020  Saturday January 11, 2020
Spring 2020  Saturday April 4, 2020

2019-20 Comprehensive Exam Schedule 
Fall 2019       Friday, October 18, 2019             
Winter 2020   Friday, January 31, 2020 
Spring 2020   Friday, April 24, 2020 

2020-21 Comprehensive Exam Schedule
Fall 2020 - Friday, October 2
Spring 2021 - Friday, March 5


Students must register for PA 999 either through the regular registration process or through the Center for Extended Learning (CEL)..  Students must have completed all their core classes before taking the exam.  They may take an elective the same quarter as the exam.  Registration requires Department approval - so call staff, who will check to see if you have completed the requirements.

Registration options:

A) If you are taking another class, just register for the 0 credit PA 999 in the normal process after getting Department approval

B) If you are taking ONLY PA 999 register for the class through CEL. Fill out the

and follow the registration 

Introduction to the Exam

The pool of questions for MPA students for 2018-19 has been revised. Course based questions are mostly different.  Integrative questions are new.  The Department reserves the right to adjust the questions administered at any time.

The MPA Comprehensive Exam consists of two parts; a core course section and an integrative section. On exam day you will be required to answer two core questions and one integrative question. There are four possible questions for each core course. One question for each core course will be on the exam. Students select which two core corse questions they will answer. 

Note: Students taking the Public Financial Management concentration MUST answer the 615 and 663 questions and students in the Leadership concentration MUST answer the 662 and 664 questions.

After the core questions are a list of five integrative case study questions. For the exam you will be randomly assigned ONE of the integrative questions to answer. That means you need to prepare for all of them.  

The Chair will hold exam review sessions 3-4 weeks before each exam.  You are encouraged to attend.  You are also encouraged to study in groups so you can balance each others' understandings.


1) Outline your answers to each question you are preparing to answer

2) Answer at least one question in full-- in a simulated test environment-- have someone else select the question and give yourself an hour to answer. 

3) Study in Groups!

4) Attend the review

5) Review the advice provided on point 19 of the 26 Points MPA Handbook.

Format of Exam

The Comprehensive Exam must be taken in person on the CSUSB main campus.  The exam is closed book. You will type your answers in a computer lab. You will not have access to the internet. Students are no longer able to handwrite the exam.  The exams go to PA faculty graders without names or identification. Two readers independently read exams and provide an overall high pass, pass, or fail. Disagreements go to a third reader.If there is any question of test security whatsoever, you will be required to retake the examination.


About 85% of students pass the exam the first time.  Approximately 15% do not. That is usually because of lack of preparation, organization or neglecting to answer parts of the questions (

). Because there are only three questions, failing one question results in failing the exam. Students who do not receive a passing grade may repeat the examination, one additional time only, with the written approval of the MPA Graduate Coordinator. This is not automatic. If you wish to take the exam a second time, you must fill out a 

Important Note: Students who are registered for PA 999 and do not show up for the exam, and have not notified us of any problem will be charged with an exam attempt.

An MPA grad who failed the exam once and achieved a high pass the second time wrote out a short brief outlining his preparation. 

Please contact the MPA Coordinator, Dr. Jonathan Anderson, with any questions about the process.