The Catholic University of America


The 2015 Senior Comprehensive Exam for Media Studies Seniors will be held from 9:00am-12:pm on January 30, 2015, location TBA. All students planning to graduate in 2015, whether in May or December, must take the exam in January. Plan to arrive early; students must be in place on time.

Registering for the Senior Comprehensive Exam should be done along with spring course registration. If you are an active student you will enroll in COMP 498.

Any student failing the Comprehensive Exam requirement in January 2015 will be required to retake and pass the exam re-take (April 2015 date TBD) or defer graduation. For a rubric detailing passing standards, go here. Only students who first take the entire exam in January are eligible for the re-take, should that be necessary (i.e., first attempts are not permitted at the re-take). Students failing any portion of the exam in January must re-take the entire exam (all three parts) in April.

Bring writing implements and your copy of the assigned text(s) to the exam. Drinks in sealed containers are permitted; food is not.  All personal belongings (bookbags, coats, purses, electronic devices, etc.) will be held at the front of the room and may not be accessed during the exam.  Plan accordingly.

Please note: If you are a student entitled to testing accommodations because of a documented disability, it is your responsibility to make an explicit, individual request for those accommodations by contacting the department chair at least three full weeks before the Comprehensive Exam. Consult with the Office of Disability Support Services for further information.


Information about the 2014-15 Senior Assessment requirement for Media Studies majors.

All students in the School of Arts & Sciences fulfill a Senior Assessment requirement that is unique to their major field of study.

For all Media Studies majors, the Senior Assessment involves (1) Completion of MDIA 499 with a grade of C- or better; and (2) Completion of the Media Studies comprehensive exam with a grade of "Pass" or "Pass with Distinction."

(1) MDIA 499 is the Senior Seminar, which must be taken in the Fall of a student's senior year. MDIA499 is offered only in the fall semester.  Building on skills developed in the prerequisite MDIA399 (Junior Seminar), the Senior Seminar requires each student to design her or his own research question and produce a paper (approx. 20 pp. plus bibliography, as described and approved by your instructor), and/or other media text, such as a documentary film, while engaged in the intellectual exchange of an advanced seminar on a specific topic in Media Studies.  Specific seminar topics are disseminated with other registration information by email.

(2) The Media Studies Comprehensive exam will be given on January 30, 2015. Current seniors are enrolled in a Blackboard called Media Studies Comps Review where various helpful documents are stored. You will be excused from classes for the morning of the test. The exam will consist of three parts designed and graded by a faculty panel. To learn about the standards by which comprehensive exams are graded go here to view the assessment rubric. The parts are as follows.

Analytical Essay:
You will be asked to write an essay on a media text that is shown to you at the exam. The question will be distributed, and you will be shown a brief audio-visual clip to analyze in answer to that question. Click here to view a sample question.

Terminology and Concepts:
You will be tested on your knowledge of the critical terminology and concepts used in the field of Media Studies. Click here to view a list of terms. The list is drawn from core media studies courses. If a word on the list is not familiar to you, consult the suggested resources at the bottom of the list. Be prepared to define any term and apply it to an example. You may be asked to provide a term and definition for an audiovisual artifact that you are shown. For terms that may have also have a commonplace meaning, be sure to define it as it is used in media studies. Beware of Wikipedia as a study source.

Reading Critical Texts in Media Studies:
You will be asked to write an essay on a critical text or texts that you study on your own. The texts for the 2015 edition of the exam are three articles--(1) Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception;” (2) Benjamin Alan Wiggins, “The Culture Industry, New Media, and the Shift from Creation to Curation; or, Enlightenment as a Kick in the Nuts;” and (3) Raul Rodriguez-Ferrandiz, “Culture Industries in a Postindustrial Age: Entertainment, Leisure, Creativity, Design.” Copies of these articles are on the Comps Bb. You may discuss the text with your peers before the exam, and you may bring your copy with you on the day of the exam. Underlining and marginal notes in your copy are allowed; post-its and loose pages of notes are not. Click here to read a sample question from a prior exam.


Students who do not satisfy the Senior Seminar requirement during Fall 2014 must defer graduation and retake the course during Fall 2015. Senior seminar is never offered during Spring semester. Students who do not pass the Comprehensive Exam requirement in January 2015 will be required to retake and pass the exam in Spring 2015 (date TBA) or defer graduation.