BETHANY, W.Va. – In early January, approximately 125 Bethany College seniors took a rite of passage familiar to all Bethanians when they completed their senior comprehensive examinations, most commonly known as “comps.” These three-day examinations, which feature both a written and oral section, test seniors on all materials learned in their major area of study.
Bethany College is in a small, elite group of institutions that still require their students to take senior comprehensive examinations.
The examination assures the College of 'qualitative accomplishment and leads the student to self-confidence and achievement.' In order to take the examination, a student must have senior standing, are completing requirements for a major, and have a grade-point average of at least a 2.0 in that major.
Students who have completed all requirements in their majors may take the examination in January. Those who do not pass in January may take their examination again at the end of the spring semester in April. No student may take their senior comprehensive examination more than three times.
The first two days of the examination feature a written section. The set-up for the written portion varies from major to major but can feature essays, multiple choice and short answer completion.
After successfully passing the written section, students are assigned a day for their oral examination. This day requires a student to answer questions and discuss topics pertaining to their major with three professors – two professors from the student’s chosen major and one professor from another discipline.
In order to prepare for such an extensive test, students spent hours reviewing class notes, reading textbooks, preparing flashcards, and participating in group study sessions.
Samantha Steele, a Psychology major, said, “I took good notes in class so I found my old notebooks and constantly read over them and memorized everything over and over again. I also read the end of each chapter of the general psychology book. It was really stressful, but I knew I was ready when I started dreaming psychology.”
Jon-Erik Gilot and Rebecca Repasky, History majors, spent time making study guides and re-reading class notes in order to prepare for their examination.
“I made a study guide for broad questions and each day I broke it down into a section that was going to be on comps,” Repasky said.
Gilot gave credit to Professor of History, Gary Kappel, for helping to prepare him for his comps.
“Dr. Kappel is one of the best professors. He’s been preparing me since freshman year for senior comps,” he said.
Students believe that taking comps will help them in the future, whether for graduate school or in the workforce.
Dea Merenda, a Communication major, said, "I want to attend law school and several Bethanian lawyers, judges and law students I have spoken with say that comps really prepares you for the degree of discipline and comprehensive studying required in law school."
Repasky added, "I learned self discipline and that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to."