John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences

News and information from the UND John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences.

Spring 2012 Comp Exam – TOPICS GIVEN

For students intending to graduate in the coming semester or soon thereafter:


The Masters in Space Studies program is an interdisciplinary program that trains students to think broadly about space related issues. During the program we introduce you to the breadth of Space Studies and the linkages between the different disciplinary areas: history, policy, business and economics, technical/engineering, and science. You then build on the content, approach, and methodologies of the different disciplines in discipline-specific courses. The goal is to develop an interdisciplinary understanding and thought process. Therefore, the purpose of the comprehensive exam is to assess the integrated knowledge that you have attained during the course of your Master’s program in Space Studies and your ability to bring this knowledge to bear in analyzing a major space initiative. As such, the comprehensive exam will not test you on the specific content of any particular course you have taken, but rather requires you to use the principles and methodologies, and your understanding of the interplay between different, often competing, forces, e.g., foreign policy vs. science, that you learned through your program of study. The expectation is that our graduating students should be able to provide a broad-based, integrated, and analytical response on any major space-related issue.

The comprehensive exam for Spring 2012 will consist of a single essay exam question. You will have two (2) hours in which to complete it, which will be electronically timed. The exam is scheduled for Saturday, March 24th, and will become available at 8:00 AM Central Daylight Time for 12 hours.

Those taking the examination must have completed at least 24 semester credits, including all technical area and policy area requirements, before the semester in which the comprehensive examination is taken.

The faculty will jointly choose one (1) of these four major space initiatives or issues as the subject of the comprehensive exam question:

  1. 1.      Chinese space program
  2. 2.      Implications of a human mission to an asteroid
  3. 3.      Space tourism suborbital and orbital
  4. 4.      Retrospective look at the benefits of the Shuttle program

Your answer must be an integrated analysis of the subject initiative, which includes at least three (3) of the Space Studies disciplines given below. More than 3 disciplines are welcomed.






You must choose at least one discipline from Science or Engineering and another discipline from Policy, History, or Business. The third discipline is your choice from either group. Keep in mind that you need to explain the interrelationships among the disciplines that you select.

Note that answers to the comprehensive exam question are now restricted to a strictly-enforced 2000-word limit. Typical exam answers should be in the 1500 to 2000 word range. Answers which exceed this limit may attract a penalty.

It is strongly suggested that you consult with your academic advisor for exam preparation. In the past, some students have formed study groups and utilized chat sessions. The results of past exams have shown that preparation is the key to success. The average success rate for the four most recent exams has been 80%. The success rate is higher among students who have prepared for the exam and lower for students who have not prepared. Please see the Space Studies Graduate Student Handbook for advice on how to prepare for the comprehensive exam, or visit with your advisor concerning ways to effectively prepare for the exam. All faculty members are available to assist you in your preparation even though they may not be your advisor.

At the graduate level, we expect our students to distill information from a variety of sources (which you should already have done during your program here and study preparation for the exam), and then synthesize and analyze the issues to provide a cogent, well-organized, well-written answer that covers all aspects of the question. You are given two hours to complete the exam. Successful students can be characterized as having studied and prepared for the question in advance and thus are able to isolate the important from the peripheral. Most of the two hours should be used to organize and write your answer. Any resources or references used must be cited fully.

Plagiarism (copy/paste techniques from web-sites without reference, etc.) will not be tolerated and we strongly recommend that you visit and understand the material contained in the following web site:

To see how this is dealt with at UND, please review UND’s Code of Student Life at   section IIIa-3 on page 38.

We expect all students to be aware of these issues and the consequences. This is important, because a number of students have been failed on the exam due to plagiarism violations. If you are at all unsure of the expectations, please make sure you contact your advisor well in advance of taking the exam.

The grading will be done by the faculty on a pass/fail basis. Students will receive written notification of the examination results approximately 3 weeks after taking the examination. Dr. Vadim Rygalov is the exam facilitator for the summer semester. Any questions regarding the exam process can be directed to your advisor or to Dr. Rygalov

If the student fails their comp exam, he/she will be allowed to retake the exam at the scheduled offering during a subsequent semester. Students are allowed three attempts to pass the exam before a petition is required to allow a fourth attempt. Under a newly initiated policy, a student – after failing the exam at least twice – may request the option of taking the alternate comprehensive examination. To implement this option, the student should contact their advisor after reviewing the alternate comprehensive examination documents posted at the One-Stop Student Services webpage under the Policies and Handbooks section.

Examination Process

The comprehensive exam will have a “classroom” of its own in the HTMLeZ system titled “Comprehensive Exam – Spring 2012.”  To access this classroom:

1.      Login at HTMLeZ (

2.      The next screen you will see is your Control Center.

3.      Select “Browse” from the upper right-hand corner of the screen.

4.      Choose the “Comprehensive Exam Spring 2012” for the correct semester from the directory.

5.      As with other courses, you will need to request access. Select the “Request Access” link from the navigation bar. Access will be granted within a day or two. Request access only if you plan to take the comprehensive exam this semester.  Requesting access to the classroom is all that’s necessary to indicate or “register” that you plan to take the exam.

Once inside the classroom, you will notice an instructions page. Please review this in its entirety. You will see the general overview information taken from the Space Studies Graduate Student Handbook. You will also see the exam guidelines, including the possible topics for this semester’s exam.

Pay close attention to the “How to use the Exam Tools” section. This describes how to take the actual exam.

After you review the instructions, you should take the practice exam from the link provided in the left column. The practice exam features operate exactly in the same way as those of the actual exam. The practice exam is provided to give you an opportunity to try the new feature before the exam date. This will alleviate problems on exam day. Please complete the practice examination by March 10th.

You will also notice that there is a chat room link in this exam room. Students may coordinate chat sessions as a study tool for exam preparation. There will be scheduled chats with faculty members, but students are also encouraged to schedule chat sessions between themselves.

A comp exam email listserv has been created that may be used to contact all students that are planning to take the exam this semester and have requested access to the classroom. The listserv is You may use this to contact one another for study purposes, or to schedule chat sessions. As students request access to the classroom, their names will be added to this listserv.

If you have any technical problems or questions with the exam process, please consult with Dr. Rygalov. Please contact your advisor for exam preparation assistance.

The exam room for the official comp exam will be open on Saturday, March 24th for the 12-hour period beginning at 8 AM Central Daylight Time.