Comprehensive Exams


In order to receive the MA or MS degree, students must pass BOTH PARTS of the Comprehensive Exam: Microeconomics and Macroeconomics. 

The Comprehensive Exam consists of two thematic parts: microeconomics topics and macroeconomics topics, both with the application of econometric techniques. The microeconomics part covers, among others, the analysis of supply and demand, the use of optimization techniques, consumer and producer behavior, competitive markets, monopoly pricing with market power, and welfare analysis. The second part includes, among others, the determination of macroeconomic equilibrium in the goods, financial, and labor markets, monetary and fiscal policies, and issues ranging from business cycles to taxation and economic growth. Econometric techniques are applied to the forecasting of key macroeconomic variables.

The Comprehensive Exam is offered twice a year, during the normal finals week: in the fall semester and in the spring semester. To graduate, the student must successfully pass both parts of the Comprehensive Exam by the end of the student's program.

Exam Q&A

When are exams offered and how do I sign up?

Both exams are always offered during exam week (finals week). Current master's students will receive an email approx. one month before finals with the date and times of each exam, and instructions for signing-up. Students are urged to sign up well in advance of the exam. 

Who creates the exams?

The exams are created by a faculty committee that structures the exam around the content of various applications of economics.

Is there a sample exam available to study?

Sample comprehensive exams are not distributed. This is to deter students from studying only the sample questions and bypassing key material for their exam, which can lead to a failing result. We encourage all students to carefully review the materials in ECO 505, 507 580, 581 and their applications in the students' subsequent classes.

What should students bring to the exam?

  • UB Identification Card. Without this card, students will not be allowed to sit for the exam.
  • Pens/Pencils. Students must supply their own writing utensils (pens/pencils). They will not be provided. Test booklets and additional blank paper will be provided by the proctor. 

What items are NOT ALLOWED at the exam?

  • Jackets/Schoolbags are NOT ALLOWED near the students' chairs. In an effort to promote academic integrity, all exam takers will be asked to place all jackets and schoolbags in the front of the room before the exam starts. Students should not bring these items to the exam if they are uncomfortable leaving them at the front of the room until the exam is over. 
  • Calculators are NOT ALLOWED. In an effort to promote academic integrity, calculators are no longer allowed for the Master's Comprehensive Exam. The exam has been structured so a calculator is unnecessary.
  • Dictionaries are NOT ALLOWED. In an effort to promote academic integrity, dictionaries of any kind are no longer allowed for the Master's Comprehensive Exam. Student should not need a dictionary to complete the exam.
  • Electronic devices are NOT ALLOWED. There are absolutely no PDAs, cell phones, laptops or other communication devices allowed during the exams.

Students with a special learning need (i.e. disability) who require special arrangements or additional time for the exam should contact the Assistant Director.

Where does the exam take place?
The Assistant Director will email students the information on exam location well in advance. All exams take place on UB campus. Students may not take the exam off-campus. There is no exception to this rule.

Are there any alternative exam dates?
Unfortunately, there are no alternatives exam dates. The exam cannot be administered unless all students take it at the same place and time. Students who have a conflict with the exam date should contact the Assistant Director.

When are results distributed?
It usually takes about two weeks to calculate exam results. Students will receive an email if they pass or fail, and what are the next steps.

Can exam results be contested?
Please review the procedure for students who fail the comp exam:

  1. Exams are graded double-blindly.
  2. Third time fails are identified by the Master's Program office, and are reviewed again by the exam committee, double-blindly. 3rd time fails could lead to dismissal from the program.
  3. Students are then informed of the outcome. If requested, the exam committee will hold a session to review the exam questions within ten days of the results' announcement, agreeable between the students and the committee members.
  4. From this point on, any questions from the students must be submitted in writing and channeled through the Master's Program office.
  5. The exam committee will review the student submission and render a final decision. Once the exam committee makes a final decision, students are not permitted to make additional requests for further consideration.

If students have completed all courses but failed the exam, what should they do?
If a student fails a comprehensive exam, he or she must continue taking it whenever offered. Per Graduate School Policies and Procedures, if a student has fulfilled all the course requirements and is not taking any more courses, the student will have to register for at least one Graduate Economics credit (usually ECO 598) in order to maintain continuing student status.

In order for a student to graduate, they must maintain continuous registration status as outlined by the Graduate School. This states that a student must be registered for at least one credit for the semester in which they are graduating. For example:

  • In order for a student to graduate in June, they must be registered for at least one credit in the preceding Spring semester.
  • In order for a student to graduate in September, a student must be registered for at least one credit in either the preceding Spring or Summer semester, not both.
  • In order for a student to graduate in February, they must be registered for at least one credit in the preceding Fall semester.

With any additional questions about the comprehensive exams, please contact the Assistant Director of the Master's Programs.