Comprehensive Examination Prep

   

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

1. What is the purpose of the comprehensive examination? 

The comprehensive examination is designed to assess the degree to which you have met your program goals and learner outcomes.

2. What resources are available to help me prepare for my comprehensive examination?

  • Comprehensive examination guide
  • Program outcomes
  • Course materials

3. What can I do to prepare for my comprehensive examination? 

  • Review the comprehensive examination guide.
  • Review program outcomes.
  • Review your course materials.
  • Access the online comprehensive examination toolbox.
  • Read and review examples of questions posted on the online comprehensive examination course.

4. When do I take my comprehensive examination? 

You should work with your department chair or designee to communicate  your intention to take the comprehensive examination in the term in  which you are enrolled in the last course or courses required for your  program of study.

5. How do I take the comprehensive examination? 

You will be attached to the online comprehensive examination course  during he term in which you are scheduled to take your comprehensive  examination. The examination questions are made available to students  within the online comprehensive examination course on the day the exam  is scheduled to begin. You will have one week to develop your responses  and submit your work to the examination submissions area of the course.

6. What is the best way for me to prepare for the comprehensive examination? 

You should begin preparing for the exam from your very first course  in the program. Outline essential material as you progress through each  course so that you will be able to draw from this when preparing for the  actual exam.

7. How long do most students take to study for and prepare for their comprehensive examination?

This is a value judgment to be decided on by each student. Keep in  mind that you are preparing for the exam during every course you take in  the program. The exam is administered electronically and is open book  and open note, so keeping your course materials, adding to your  outlines, or keeping a course-by-course journal will expedite the  preparation process. 

8. Do I have to use APA format in my comprehensive examination? 

Yes, the expectation is that you will follow APA guidelines as you complete the comprehensive examination.

9. How important are correct grammar and spelling in my comprehensive examination? 

Correct spelling and grammar are expected at all times from all students.

10.  Are the readers of my comprehensive examination expecting me to know all of the theories associated with my concentration? 

The readers expect you to exhibit a thorough knowledge of all relevant theories as studied throughout your courses.

11. If English is not my primary language, may I have an editor review my responses and make suggestions? 

Graduate students are expected to complete the comprehensive  examination without the assistance of an editor or other individuals.  Independent work is expected of all students in completing the  comprehensive examination.

12. Will there be anyone available while I am taking my comprehensive examination to answer questions that I might have?

You may address questions related to accessing the comprehensive examination toolbox to your program chair or designee.

13. How are my responses assessed? 

Two faculty members will read and assess your work.  Your responses  will be scored against program-specific learning outcomes and in  accordance with graduate level expectations of performance.

14. How am I notified of the results?

Your department chair or designee will post your exam results in the  course and/or email the results to you by the final day of the term.

15. How long do I have to wait for the results? 

You will be notified of your results prior to the end of the session in which you take the comprehensive examination.

16. What happens if I do not pass? 

You have two more opportunities to successfully complete the  examination if you do not pass the first time.  See the Comprehensive  Examination Guide for additional details.

   

SAMPLE QUESTIONS

Please note that the following vignettes represent  samples of the types of questions you will be asked to respond to on the  comprehensive exam. You will NOT receive these questions on the  comprehensive exam; they are for study purposes only.

Please compose a well-written and organized essay in response to each  of the following questions. When writing your essays, please

  1. Use APA (6th edition) Style, with 1-inch margins, double-spaced, 12 font, .
  2. Write clearly and concisely.
  3. Cite appropriate, and especially current, literature (empirical and/or theoretical).
  4. Avoid all sexist idioms and allusions.
  5. Remember to demonstrate your multicultural competence where appropriate.

Vignette: Utilize this scenario for all of your responses

A 42-year-old African American woman was brought to the emergency  room by police officers for evaluation prior to going to jail to await  disposition. She reported that she had been shopping when “something  happened.” She said that she had no recollection of events between the  time she entered the store and an hour later, when she was arrested for  shoplifting in a nearby department store with a considerable amount of  stolen property on her person. She protested her innocence and became so  agitated, belligerent, and profane that the arresting officers took her  to the hospital for evaluation. At the hospital she reported that two  years previously she had been arrested for shoplifting and had had  amnesia for the act. 

The charges against her were then dropped because  she explained that both the shoplifting and the amnesia resulted from  her forgetting to eat after taking her insulin. Of note, her blood-sugar  level on testing in the emergency room was elevated.

The patient calmed down appearing asymptomatic after the evaluation  and was transferred to jail pending a preliminary hearing. 

When she  learned that her release was planned for the next day and that the  charges against her would not be dropped, she became extremely agitated,  angry, and abusive to the officers. Shortly thereafter, she complained  of a headache and said she had no recollection of her abusive behavior.  Later that evening she accosted an officer angrily. When the officer  responded and addressed the patient by name, “Naomi,” the patient said  that her name was “Oprah” and that she would not allow herself to be  called “Naomi,” whom she described as a “wimp and a loser.”

“Oprah’s” voice and movement were somewhat different from those of  “Naomi.” She claimed that she had done the shoplifting and stepped back  so that “Naomi” could be caught and humiliated, and that if she had  wanted to, she could have evaded detection easily. She was returned to  the ER and subsequently admitted to the inpatient psychiatric unit for  observation. 

For the next two days, the patient had many apparent  switches of personality, accompanied by conspicuous changes in dress,  makeup, and demeanor. On several occasions “Oprah” was disruptive, and  twice “Naomi” reported to nurses that she had found things belonging to  other patients in her possession.

There were no consistent differences in blood-sugar levels in the  different personalities or changes at the time of the shifts. A  neurological workup with extensive electroencephalographic studies  proved unremarkable. The patient began to complain that her behavior was  out of her control and that she could not be held accountable for it.  Each day’s progress notes revealed further details of the differences  between “Oprah” and “Naomi.”

A counselor was asked to see the patient. He observed the presence of  both “Oprah” and “Naomi” and documented their polarized and clear-cut  differences. The personalities were detailed and elaborate as they  discussed issues relating to the patient’s current legal difficulties.  He learned that the patient had an extensive history of discrepant  behaviors that she had “forgotten,” to which many witnesses would  attest, and that her family often remarked that she was “like two  different people.”

 He found that these episodes had usually occurred  when the patient had engaged in behavior that brought adverse personal  consequences upon her. He noted that the patient was on a unit that, by  coincidence, had three other patients with similar symptomology and  that, beginning the day the patient learned that the charges against her  would not be dropped, she had begun to associate more frequently with  those patients.

An extensive history, taken over several days, and ancillary sources  failed to reveal any history of childhood abuse and there was no  indication that the patient had experienced any other overwhelming  traumatic events. 

Furthermore, the history indicated that the patient,  despite the apparently classic nature of her two personalities, had  never shown or complained of any other significant psychological  symptomology. Her history includes having been raised as an only child  in a middle-class urban environment by her mother and grandmother. 

She  reports that she has a good relationship with all members of her family  although she has a more distant relationship with her father, who works  long hours as an engineer. His mother and grandmother work as teachers  in nearby private schools. Both her parents are of Haitian descent  though the patient was born and has lived her entire life in the United  States.

The patient’s developmental history includes having met all physical  and cognitive developmental milestones on time, with mild difficulties  in reading and peer relationships. In early elementary school she was  reported to have had some ‘acting out’ problems including hitting  another child, and talking back to adults, however, these behaviors were  not severe or long-term enough to warrant suspension or ongoing  concern. In high school, no behavior problems were noted, and she was  described as socially somewhat reclusive, having only one or two close  friends.

Prior hospital records were found for “Naomi” indicating a long  history of alcohol, heroin, and cocaine use, but upon confrontation  about this history she claimed to have been clean for three weeks prior  to her arrest. Her initial blood work was positive for both opiods and  cannabis.

The counselor also noted that the “Naomi” he was interviewing was  somewhat different from the “Naomi” with whom her family and friends  were familiar. The usual “Naomi” was pleasant and mild-mannered unless  “crossed,” at which times she became angry and belligerent. He also  found that the patient was not very hypnotizable. 

He undertook a  prolonged interview in which he covered a wide range of topics over  several hours. As the interview proceeded, “Oprah,” who was completely  consistent in her presentation during her discussion of matters related  to the shoplifting and disruptive events on the ward, began to become  inconsistent in her voice and manner. She complained that the consultant  disbelieved her and was trying to “trick” her. 

As “Oprah” seemed unable  to maintain her presentation, “Namoi” vehemently reproached the  consultant for doubting the account offered by “Oprah,” for whose past  behaviors and current interactions with the consultant she had  consistently maintained she had amnesia. At these angry moments, her  behavior was indistinguishable from “Oprah’s.” After another hour’s  interviewing, during which the patient made several efforts to convince  the consultant that she had amnesia during the shop lifting episode, she  ceased to display the amnesiac behaviors.

When she was introduced to her public defender who told her she would  be arraigned the following day, she flew into a rage and threatened  that she would slash her wrists with the first sharp object she could  find. She also claimed that she was hearing voices in her head telling  her to kill herself.

Based on the vignette provided, please compose a well-written  and organized response to each of the following questions.  When  writing your responses, please:

  • Use APA (6th edition) Style, with 1-inch margins, double-spaced, 12 font, with a reference list at the end.
  • Write clearly and concisely.
  • Cite appropriate, and especially current, literature (empirical and/or theoretical).
  • Avoid all sexist idioms and allusions.
  • Remember to demonstrate your multicultural competence where appropriate. 

Psychological Theory and Practice

  1. What assessments would you conduct to enhance your understanding of  the problems of the person in the vignette and how would your choice of  assessment(s) inform your diagnostic formation and treatment planning?  Assessments may include structured or unstructured interviews, valid and  reliable assessment measures, and/or formalized assessment procedures  that may be conducted by yourself or by someone else referred by you. 
  2. Provide your diagnostic impressions (based on the DSM-5) for this  individual. In narrative form, please describe how the individual meets  the diagnostic criteria for the disorder(s) chosen in addition to the  differential diagnostic thought process that you used to reach your  hypotheses. Be sure to include any additional (missing) information that  is needed to either rule out or confirm your differential diagnoses  impressions.

Legal Theory and Application

  1.  Explain the background, current presentation, and behavior of the  person in the vignette utilizing biological, learning, and social  theories on offenders to support your position. Do not simply restate  the background information from the vignette. Instead, provide a  theoretically-based discussion to understand the criminal behaviors of  the person in the vignette.
  2. Consider the type of crime in the vignette and discuss how that type  of crime generally impacts a victim of it.  Do not limit yourself to  discussing just the victim in this vignette.  Instead obtain scholarly  sources for information on how this type of crime can affect any victim,  their family members, and other members of society. 
  3. Describe the psycholegal standards and/or definitions for each of  the following: competence to stand trial, duty to warn, and insanity.  Identify and describe one or more landmark case(s) for each standard (at  least three cases total). Describe the elements or issues that a mental  health professional usually focuses on when assessing a person’s  adjudicative competence, risk and insanity, and any additional items  that might be especially important to focus on in the provided vignette.

Assessment, Research and Evaluation

  1. Describe tests or assessment procedures you would employ to address  the psycholegal issues of (competence to stand trial, risk of  dangerousness, and insanity). You may refer to these from the  Psychological Theory and Assessment Section “A” if you already covered  them there.  Discuss what the anticipated conclusions would be based  upon information provided in the vignette.
  2. Develop a research question and a testable research hypothesis  regarding offenders or the type of crime that is discussed in the  vignette (such as, addiction, recidivism, criminal behavior, etc.).   Explain the variables in your question and the type of research study  that could answer your question as well as why that research would make a  contribution to the field of forensic psychology.

Leadership, Consultation, and Ethics

  1. What are the ethical and legal dilemmas this vignette introduced?  What would be your immediate steps and why? Please be specific and make  sure that you describe your process of ethical decision making and the  solutions/consequences to which this process might lead. Your discussion  should be informed by the American Psychological Association’s Ethics  Code as well as the Specialty Guidelines for Forensic Psychologists.

Interpersonal Effectiveness

  1. What diversity factors, cultural considerations, or other  demographic variables pertaining to the person in the vignette would you  take into account in rendering diagnoses, choosing assessment measures,  forming case conceptualizations, and designing the treatment plan?  Be  sure to discuss cultural/diversity factors that could apply even if they  are not explicitly mentioned in the vignette.
  2. Your writing, use of citations, ability to form a logical argument,  and proper APA Style, including the use of paraphrasing, will be  evaluated as a measure of your interpersonal effectiveness. No response  is required for “B”.

   

APA Format

Written Assignment Standards

All written assignments submitted are expected to be of the highest  caliber and consistent with quality professional standards and should  demonstrate mastery of standard American English. The  university-approved edition of the Publication Manual of the American  Psychological Association must be followed. The manual provides explicit  instructions on how to structure work, construct references, create  headings, present ideas, generate tables, report numbers and statistics  correctly, and more. The manual organizes all written work products and  all students must strictly adhere to APA style, format, and  organization.

APA Resources

The following reference materials on style and format are published by the American Psychology Association ( http://www.apastyle.org/):

APA Publications Web Site

http://www.apa.org/pubs/index.aspx

APA Manual & Related Resources

http://www.apastyle.org/pubmanual.html

APA Style Helper (Electronic)

http://www.apastyle.org/elecref.html

 ( if interested here are the Instructors final scores, comments from the first exam taken by the previous tutor)!!!

MA FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGY COMPREHENSIVE EXAM 

STUDENT ID:  Student A 

Fall A 2017 

PSYCHOLOGICAL THEORY AND PRACTICE:  ASSESSMENT (A) 

Grade:  Unacceptable (1) 

The  student demonstrates insufficient knowledge of how the assessment  process might be utilized to enhance understanding of the client’s  presenting problems, as well as aiding in formulating diagnostic  impressions and a treatment plan.  The student states that he/she would  conduct “personality assessment, family relationship assessment and  mental health assessment to analyze the problems of the Abby” but does  not detail any specific assessment instruments that would be recommended  (other than a structured interview).  There is also no mention of  specific mental health issues that would be addressed in assessment  (e.g. intellectual functioning, suicidality, homicidality, psychosis,  sociopathy).  There are statements in this section that reflect a lack  of familiarity with and accuracy of understanding the assessment  process, e.g. discussion of psychiatrists rather than psychologists  conducting diagnostic testing and the statement that assessment results  increase patient confidence and make them more aware of their own  capacity.  Finally, this section is poorly written grammatically, making  it somewhat difficult to follow the student’s communications.   

PSYCHOLOGICAL THEORY AND PRACTICE:  DIAGNOSTIC IMPRESSIONS (B) 

Grade:  Emerging (2) 

The  student lists Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Schizophrenia Spectrum  Disorder as possible diagnoses, but the student’s provided list of  diagnostic criteria is not matched to these diagnoses.  One of the  criteria listed in the DSM-5 for a diagnosis of OCD is that the  disturbance is not better explained by the symptoms of another mental  disorder.  In this case, Trichotillomania (Hair Pulling Disorder) would  more precisely describe the client’s presenting symptoms.  The student  identifies some specific disorders within the broad category of  Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorders (e.g. Delusional Disorder,  Schizoaffective Disorder, “Personality Disorder”, and Schizophrenia),  but does not indicate why one of these diagnoses might better fit the  presenting data than another.          

The student does  not include any discussion of whether the client’s symptoms might merit a  diagnosis within the category of Disruptive, Impulse Control and  Conduct Disorders.  Additionally, there is no mention of whether Bulemia  Nervosa and Pyromania might be listed as provisional (rule out)  diagnoses meriting further investigation, along 

with  consideration of possible organic factors, exposure to trauma and  possible intellectual disabilities.  Finally, the student mentions that  the client’s level of openness should be considered in formulating a  diagnosis, but does not elaborate on this point or offer other  individual/cultural factors which might be considered.    

Overall, this section does not represent a proficient understanding of the diagnostic process.    

LEGAL THEORY AND APPLICATION:  THEORETICAL FORMULATION 

Grade:  Emerging (2) 

The  key task in this section is to conceptualize the client utilizing a  specific theoretical framework.  The student provides a description of  social, biological and learning theories, but does not seem to  understand the meaning of these theories and does not link them at all  to actual events in the client’s history/presentation which may explain  her symptoms, such as pregnancy and birth complications, developmental  delay, sexual trauma by father and brothers, etc.  Further, the student  does not sufficiently address the topic of victim/offender psychology,  as there is much in this client’s history which suggests that her  history of trauma (biological and psychological) may have contributed to  her forensic presentation. In conclusion, the student does not  sufficiently grasp the purpose of a theoretical formulation as a means  of understanding the client’s behavior and their alleged crime.     

 

LEGAL THEORY:  DESCRIPTION OF CRIME 

Grade:  Unacceptable (1) 

The  student describes the crime in the present case as arson.  While this  is a component of the crime, it would be important to note that the  client was charged with attempted murder of her brother by arson.   Furthermore, life imprisonment is not necessarily the penalty for arson.  Additionally, if convicted, this client would be convicted of attempted  murder, not just of arson.  The student offers one scholarly citation  discussing the general impact of arson on its victims.   

LEGAL THEORY AND APPLICATION:  LEGAL IMPLICATIONS 

Grade:  Unacceptable (1) 

The  student provides a sufficient description of the legal definition of  Competency to Stand Trial, but does not provide a specific legal  standard/landmark case precedent relevant to this standard, focusing  incorrectly instead on the forensic psychologist’s evaluation of the  patient facing trial.   

The student’s description of the  concept of Duty to Warn is poorly written, with confusion about  references to therapist, client, and victim.  It is not accurate that  clinicians fail to warn out of fear of being found liable under Duty to  Warn; in fact, liability would more likely arise out of a failure to  warn an identifiable victim.  Again, the student provides no landmark  cases in this area, misunderstanding the concept of a landmark case  precedent.   

The student’s description of the concept of  Insanity is also poorly written, with references to “abnormal”  behavior…violation of community norms, …and dangerousness.”  This  definition is not accurate and also does not reference the important  point that the insanity defense pertains to the defendant’s mental state  at the time of the commission of the crime.  The student cites a case  where a defendant was found to have feigned insanity, rather than a case  where a defendant was found to be criminally insane at the time of the  commission of the crime.    

This section is poorly written and demonstrates an unacceptable level of understanding of the three key legal concepts. 

   

RESEARCH AND EVALUATION:  FORENSIC EVALUATION   

Grade:  Unacceptable (1) 

The  student discussed no specific instruments which might be used to  address the forensic questions in this case.  In fact, the student seems  not to understand the idea of how specific assessment instruments might  be used to determine the client’s psycho-legal status.  The student  mentions seeking a patient history, which is valid, but focuses on  potential data such as interviewing police officers and people who have  interacted socially with her, rather than actual police/court records  and records from her lengthy mental health settings and services.  

 

While  evaluating context is always useful, and assessment of the patient’s  current state of arousal may offer clues, there is no mention of  standardized measures to assess the client’s possible insanity at the  time of the crime, risk of danger to self/others and competency to stand  trial. 

  

Finally, rather than rendering a judgment as to  whether the client meets the three psycho-legal standards, the student  states that the client may be suffering from a “personality and mental  health disorder” such as OCD, which the student offers as an explanation  for the behavior which led to the alleged crime of attempted murder by  arson.       

Overall, there is no meaningful linkage of  clinical data with legal standards to address the relevant forensic  questions in this section.  

  

RESEARCH AND EVALUATION: RESEARCH PROPOSAL 

Grade:  Emerging (2)  

The student begins by proposing the following research question:   

“What are the effects of personality aspect of Abby to her criminal behavior?”   

Not  only is this statement poorly written grammatically, it focuses on  researching the client rather than a broader sample of persons charged  with a similar crime.  The student correctly states that personality  factors would be the independent variable in this study and criminal  behavior would be the dependent variable.  

The student states that a  survey method would be used, but does not state who would be surveyed,  what instruments might be used, what specific aspects of personality  would be addressed, etc.  The potential contribution of this proposed  study is very generic, rather than offering something more specific like  identifying predictive factors that might contribute to prevention of  such behavior. 

The student does not express a clear  understanding of the value of research methodology in contributing to an  understanding of criminal behavior in this section.  

  

LEADERSHIP, CONSULTATION AND ETHICS:  ETHICAL ISSUES 

Grade:  Unacceptable (1) 

The  student erroneously states that the ethical/legal dilemma is the  present case is whether the client is a candidate for a community  resource program.  This is the referral question, not an ethical/legal  dilemma. The student displays further confusion about ethical/legal  dilemmas by stating that the client’s potential conflicting issues or  professional duties should be explored, rather than addressing those  issues regarding the clinician. As the student continues to detail a  step by step plan, there is no mention of any actual ethical/legal  dilemmas in the present case.  Further, the student fails to identify  any specific important ethical considerations, consistent with the APA  Ethics Code and SGFP, such as informed consent, steps to ensure privacy  and confidentiality, avoidance of harm and steps that would be taken if  the client reveals current risk of harm to self or others.  It should  also be noted that the court is the “client” in this case.  Therefore,  the client must be informed that he is not entitled to confidentiality  with respect to the court, though his record is otherwise confidential  with respect to outside parties. It would also be useful to voice  caution about serving in a potential Multiple Relationship, if serving  simultaneously in both an assessment/referral role to the court and a  treatment role.  

INTER-PERSONAL EFFECTIVENESS: DIVERSITY AND MULTICULTURAL COMPETENCE 

Grade:  Unacceptable (1) 

The  student begins this section by stating that sexual orientation, SES and  physical disability are the relevant diversity factors that would be a  focus in this case.  This is curious as there is no mention of the  client’s sexual orientation or of her being sexually active and there is  no mention of the client having a physical disability.  The student 

otherwise  only mentions culture and historical context in a general way as  important, but offers no specific aspects of the client’s identity that  may be important to consider in assessing, diagnosing, conceptualizing  or treating this patient.  There is no mention of key salient cultural  factors which were identified in this case such as  intellectual/developmental functioning, family constellation, trauma  history,  

age, obesity and other medical concerns and psychiatric status.    

   

It  is very unclear why the student offered the following additional  statement regarding diversity:  “However, the aspect of globalization  has facilitated multiculturalism thus making it hard for the  psychiatrists to determine the cultural competence of the patients  (Hays, 2016).”  

Finally, there was also no discussion  of specific areas of competence which the assessing or treating  clinician should possess in order to work within the boundaries of their  competence and to serve the client effectively.  Likewise, areas of  cultural similarity or difference between therapist and client would  also be important to consider.   

INTER-PERSONAL EFFECTIVENESS:  WRITING IN APA STYLE  

Grade:  Unacceptable (1) 

The  quality of the student’s writing and expression of ideas is very poor  throughout the paper and is not at all consistent with graduate school  scholarship.  There are citations provided in the paper and listed in  the reference list, though quotations did not include page numbers in  the citation per APA guidelines.   

Total Points:   13/40 FAIL 

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