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Comprehensive Examinations

IN CHEMISTRY, BIOCHEMISTRY, AND CLINICAL CHEMISTRY

The comprehensive examinations are offered on a Saturday morning near the midpoint of the Fall, Spring, and Summer semesters of each academic year. They consist of multiple choice and short answer questions covering the topics of core courses for each major. Listed below are the prerequisites for taking the examinations and descriptions of the individual examinations.

Chemistry majors must have completed (with passing grades) or have obtained approved waivers for all of the following courses: CHEM 530, 531, 540, 562, 563, 570, 571.

Biochemistry majors must have completed (with passing grades) or have obtained approved waivers for all of the following courses: CHEM 531, 550, 551, 563 (or 560 and 561), 570, 571.

Clinical Chemistry majors must have completed (with passing grades) or have obtained approved waivers for all of the following courses: CHEM 531, 550, 551, 570, 571.

Students that have been granted waivers or transfer credit for courses covered on comprehensive examination are still responsible for those sections of the examination.

A student intending to take the comprehensive examination must sign up (with Graduate and Continuing Education Services) by the date specified in the graduate studies catalog. If you have signed up, but subsequently discover that you will be unable to take the examination, please notify Graduate and Continuing Education Services as soon as possible, but no later than the Friday immediately preceding the examination. As stated in the catalog, students failing the comprehensive examination twice will be dismissed from the program.

The comprehensive examination sections are graded by the faculty members responsible for those sections. The total score over all of the sections is then compared against the departmentally determined minimum passing score. Achieving a score equal to or higher than that minimum passing score constitutes passing the examination. Achieving a total lower than the minimum passing score constitutes failing the examination. Students are permitted to view their scored examinations after the scores have been reported to the College of Arts and Sciences.

The following pages contain descriptions of the comprehensive examination sections.

EXAM 1: Structural Organic Chemistry (required for Chemistry majors)

The examination will focus on:

  1. the assignment of isomeric relationships of organic molecules,
  2. the determination of organic structure through the interpretation of spectra,
  3. how reactant structure and stereochemistry effect reaction rate and product regio- and stereo-chemistry,
  4. the application of molecular orbital theory,
  5. orbital symmetry rules for pericyclic reactions,
  6. concepts of aromaticity.

EXAM 2: Mechanistic Organic Chemistry (required for Clinical Chemistry, Chemistry and Biochemistry majors)

The examination will focus on:

  1. the fundamental mechanisms (ionic, concerted and radical) of the major classes of organic reactions (for example, substitution, elimination and addition),
  2. the prediction of reactions and proposal of mechanism based on the reactivities of the functional group classes,
  3. the experimental methodologies for the elucidation and testing of proposed mechanisms of reaction.

EXAM 3: Inorganic Chemistry (required for Chemistry majors)

The Inorganic Comprehensive Examination consists of 15 multiple choice questions taken from topics covered in the CHEM 540 course. These topics include: Group Theory, chemical applications of symmetry, bonding and structure, term symbols, Tanabe-Sugano and Orgel diagrams, the solid state, coordination chemistry, nomenclature, isomerism, the Trans effect, kinetics, ligand substitution reactions, organometallic complexes, the EAN rule, catalysis, and photochemistry. Character tables and Tanabe-Sugano diagrams are included with the exam packet. Students should bring molecular model kits to the exam.

EXAM 4: Biochemical Structure and Function (required for Clinical Chemistry and Biochemistry majors)

The comprehensive exam in Chemistry 550 consists of 20 multiple choice questions. The topics covered in the exam include structure and function of amino acids, sugars, nucleotides, lipids, proteins, nucleic acids, membranes, and carbohydrates. Also included are the methodologies utilized to analyze the macromolecules. Recombinant DNA technology and the biochemical basis of the expression of genetic information are also among the topics, as are pH determinations and thermodynamics. There are calculations on the exam. Students may use nonprogrammable calculators. As during the course, students are responsible for formulas, but the values of constants will be provided.

EXAM 5: Biocatalysis and Metabolism (required for Clinical Chemistry and Biochemistry majors)

The graduate comprehensive examination in Biocatalysis and Metabolism will include questions which cover the fundamental themes of the course (CHEM 551) which include: oxygen binding proteins, enzymology and intermediary metabolism. Important subtopics with oxygen binding proteins are thermodynamics, structure-function relationships and regulation of small molecule-protein binding. Major themes in the enzymology section of the course are nomenclature, kinetics and thermodynamics as these relate to enzyme-catalyzed processes, enzyme structure, function, and control, and the principles of mechanism for general and specific enzyme-catalyzed reactions. The major metabolic routes to be known include glycolysis and gluconeogenesis, the tricarboxylic acid cycle, oxidative phosphorylation and electron transport, fatty acid synthesis and catabolism as well as synthesis of phospholipids. Also covered are amino acid synthesis and catabolism with emphasis on the role of nitrogen and special topics on carbon metabolism from amino acids. Synthesis of nucleotides including degradation and the salvage pathways is also a significant topic. In addition to knowing the basic pathways, students are expected to understand and apply principles of metabolic regulation, thermodynamics and enzymology (including mechanistic principles) to the broader topic of metabolism.

EXAM 6: Thermodynamics and Equilibrium (required for Biochemistry majors)

This comprehensive examination is based on the topics taught in CHEM 560 or CHEM 563. There are twenty multiple choice questions covering the fundamentals of thermodynamics (internal energy, entropy, enthalpy, free energy relationships), phase and chemical equilibrium, solution chemistry, colligative properties, the phase rule, electrochemistry, gas laws, statistical thermodynamics, and kinetic theory.

EXAM 7: Physical Chemistry (required for Chemistry majors)

This comprehensive examination is based on the topics taught in CHEM 562 and CHEM 563. There are twenty multiple choice questions covering the fundamentals of thermodynamics and equilibrium listed above, as well as topics in quantum chemistry (atomic and molecular structure and properties) and spectroscopy (rotational, vibrational, electronic and magnetic resonance).

EXAM 8: Analytical Chemistry (required for Clinical Chemistry, Chemistry and Biochemistry majors)

This is a two-part examination, covering the topics of CHEM 570 and 571. Part 1 deals with the topics found in CHEM 570. This comprehensive involves 10 problems (questions) in a multiple choice format. The questions involve the type of problems assigned as homework in the course or used in the exams. The problems are straightforward and involve simple substitution into analytical formulae. The questions involve rational thinking of analytical concepts with emphasis on the applied use of analytical numbers. Part 2 deals with the topics found in CHEM 571. Multiple choice questions cover how to use the instruments for the lab, how the instrumental variables affect the results and the calculations used to obtain the concentration of unknown analytes.