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Comprehensive Examination for the Master's Degree

Study Guide for Written Comprehensive Examination

Department of Administration and Leadership

(Revised by Department of Administration & Leadership, 19 August 2008)

Part I:  Sample terms.

The first part of the examination will consist of terms and concepts with which you should be familiar. The following list is only a sample list. You should review the courses in your program to build a list of significant terms that may not be listed below. On the exam, you will be asked to accurately and comprehensively define or explain 25 terms such as:


A Nation At Risk
Affirmative Action
Balance Sheet
Brown vs. Board of Education
Buckingham, Marcus
Capital Budget
Charter School
Checks and Balances
Child Benefit Theory-Cochran Case
Closed Forum
Collective Bargaining
Cooperative Learning
Covey, Stephen
Criterion Referenced Test
De-facto segregation
Due Process
Edwards vs. Aguillard
Elementary & Secondary Education Act
Establishment Clause
First Amendment
Fourteenth Amendment
Free exercise clause
French & Raven’s Five Types of Power
General Welfare Clause
G. I. Bill
Glasser’s Five Needs that Drive Us All
Hertzberg’s Two-Factor Theory
High Stakes Testing
Honig vs. Doe
In Loco Parentis
Judicial precedent
Kotter, John
Lemon V. Kurtzman

Marzano, Robert
Middle School
Morrill Land Grant Act
Multiple Intelligence Theory
No Child Left Behind
Norm-Referenced Test
Operating Capital
Organizational Climate
Organizational Culture
Participatory decision making
Peer coaching
Preventive legal audit
Procedural due process
Proposition 13
Readjustment role of schools
Reconstruction role of schools
Reproduction role of schools
Reserved Power
School Board
School Culture
School District
School Partnerships
Sergiovanni, Thomas
Serrano vs. Priest
Servant Leadership
Sexual harassment
Site-based Management
Strategic Planning
Theory X & Theory Y
Tinker vs. Des Moines School District
Title I
Title IX
Transactional Leadership
Transforming Leadership
Universal Schooling
Virtue Ethics
Wisconsin vs. Yoder


Part II:  Sample essay items.

You will be asked to respond to a set of essay items similar to the following. The samples listed below are classified according to credential competencies for the Preliminary Administrative Services Credential. You will be required to respond to one item plus your choice of two of the remaining test items.

Be sure that your response is supported with adequate educational research and theory. While your personal experiences and preferences are of value, they provide an insufficient basis for informed practice. Those scoring your exam response are looking  for evidence of your ability to analyze, synthesize and evaluate,  as well as for evidence that your academic program has increased your fluency and abilities as an administrator.

ISLLC Standard 1: An education leader promotes the success of every student by facilitating the development, articulation, implementation, and stewardship of a vision of learning that is shared and supported by all stakeholders.

  • Describe your vision for education and explain how you could effectively use your vision as a basis for developing a shared vision in a school setting.

  • Explain the difference between thinking and functioning as a leader and as a manager. Analyze how the two roles relate to each other in the life of a principal.

ISLLC Standard 2: An education leader promotes the success of every student by advocating, nurturing, and sustaining a school culture and instructional program conducive to student learning and staff professional growth.

  • If one of your teachers were having trouble with classroom discipline, what are things you should evaluate in the classroom, and what steps (short-term and long-term) can you take to assist the teacher in his or her professional development?

  • Define school culture and indicate what steps you can take as a new principal to understand your school’s culture as well as influence its shape.

ISLLC Standard 3:  An education leader promotes the success of every student by ensuring management of the organization, operation, and resources for a safe, efficient, and effective learning environment.

  • Some have asserted that an organization’s budget is a more accurate mission statement than the organization’s published mission statement. Explain why this statement is or is not true. Explain how the organization’s mission and budget should affect each other.

  • Identify and explain the major issues related to educational technology today. Describe the implications that these issues have for the improvement of student learning. Propose and defend a solution for the most pressing of the issues that you have identified.

ISLLC Standard 4: An education leader promotes the success of every student by collaborating with faculty and community members, responding to diverse community interests and needs, and mobilizing community resources.

  • You are a new administrator in a school that is experiencing a poor relationship with its local community. Articulate some short-term and long-term strategies that you would implement to improve relationships with your community. Explain and defend your strategies.

ISLLC Standard 5: An education leader promotes the success of every student by acting with integrity, fairness, and in an ethical manner.

  • Some leadership theorists refer to the work of leadership as having a moral dimension. Assuming that they are correct, what might be described as the moral dimension in the work of an educational administrator? Provide and explain at least three examples of that moral dimension of leadership.

ISLLC Standard 6: An education leader promotes the success of every student by understanding, responding to, and influencing the political, social, economic, legal, and cultural context.

  • Identify three of the most important contemporary educational challenges. Explain why they are significant. Carefully analyze one of the issues and propose at least one attractive and practical solution.

“Students failing comprehensive exams for a second time are academically disqualified, they are not readmitted to the program, and the Office of Admissions is so notified.” (Graduate Bulletin, p. 35)

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