Department of Economics Senior Integrative Exercise ("COMPS")

Class of 2016 Dates and Procedures

Senior Economics majors in 2015-16 can satisfy the college requirement for an "Integrative Exercise" in their major either by writing a Comprehensive Paper in Fall, Winter or Spring terms of 2015-16 (procedures below) or by successfully completing a four-hour written examination to be offered in the Spring Term of 2016. Under normal circumstances, these options are not available to juniors. Under certain exceptional circumstances, a junior may request a waiver of this senior-only rule.

I. Comprehensive Paper Option

A. General Procedures

Students planning to elect the Comprehensive Paper option must enroll in one of the Comps Seminars Fall Term 2015-2016.

Students enrolling in the seminars who plan to write a Comprehensive Paper must submit a Prospectus to the instructor of the seminar by no later than the end of the seventh week of the term in which the seminar is taken (see dates below).  The Prospectus will be evaluated by the Department and the student will be notified of its approval, conditional approval, or rejection by the end of the ninth week of the term (see dates below). At least two faculty members will read each Prospectus and each Paper. All department members on campus will read Papers considered for distinction. An oral component will form part of the Paper.

If the Prospectus is rejected, the student will not be allowed to elect the Comprehensive Paper option and must enroll for the Comprehensive Exam in Spring Term (details below). If the proposal is accepted, the student may proceed to register for six credits of Economics 400 in the next term for which the student is registered following the seminar.

Please be careful to observe the specific procedures and deadlines described below. Distinction on the paper requires excellence and creativity in the use of economic analysis and excellence in the exposition of that analysis. Failure on the Paper results in failure on Comps.

B. The Prospectus

The following general guidelines are usually followed in preparing the Comps Prospectus:

  • The Prospectus should be 3-5 pages in length.
  • The Prospectus should contain a preliminary statement of the hypotheses to be examined in the Comprehensive paper and the rationale for examining them.
  • The Prospectus should contain a statement of the general methods of testing or examining the hypotheses, including variables, methodology and sources.
  • The Prospectus should identify specific data sources that might be used for analysis in your comps paper as well as plans for obtaining the data.
  • The Prospectus should contain a bibliography.

C. The Paper

1. The Comprehensive Paper should be between 35-60 pages in length.

2. The paper usually follows the format outlined below:

  • Abstract (100-150 words)
  • Introduction to the topic and summary of conclusions
  • Literature review (including only literature relevant to your final paper, not necessarily all literature reviewed for your 395 seminar paper)
  • Presentation of the model
  • Research plan and empirical results
  • Suggestions of further areas of research and critique of the model
  • Conclusions
  • Data appendix
  • Bibliography

3. The paper option also requires a Spring Term poster presentation.

D. Dates and Procedures

1. Prospectuses must be submitted in final form (two copies, typed, double-spaced with one-inch margins) to the Instructor of the Seminar no later than 5 pm October 30 (Fall Term 2015).

2. Students will be notified of the acceptance, conditional acceptance, or rejection of their prospectuses by November 13 (Fall Term 2015).

3. Students who have had their prospectuses approved have until the end of the add/drop period in the subsequent term they are enrolled on campus to notify the department if they would like to switch to the exam option. This notification must come in writing to the Chair of the Department. Students not requesting this switch must successfully complete the paper option to successfully complete the comprehensive exercise. Switching to the exam is not an option after the end of the add/drop period.

4. Papers must be submitted in final paper form (two copies, typed, double-spaced with one-inch margins) to the Comps Supervisor no later than 5 pm February 26  (Winter Term 2016) or May 20 (Spring Term 2016).

5. Three sets of electronic files - the Abstract, the Comps Paper (including title), and relevant data, must be submitted in final form to the following:  The Comps Supervisor, the Comps Archiving Coordinator for digital archiving in the Library and the Administrative Assistant (emailed as an MS-Word or pdf attachment to ( no later than one week after final papers are submitted, by March 4 (Winter Term 2016) and by May 27  (Spring Term 2016). A digital file of your PowerPoint poster should also be submitted.

6. The data appendix should contain enough information so that the results of the analysis could be easily replicated. Information could include (but is not limited to) adequate references to the public data sets used and where they were obtained (including stable URLs or URLs with date of access), clear definitions for all variables, discussion of variable construction (including formulas if needed), survey forms, relevant contact information, and the like.

7. All students choosing the Paper option will be expected to create a poster (36" by 48" PowerPoint) of their Comps research and participate in a Department Poster Session on Thursday, May 26 in Great Hall. You must mount your poster on the bulletin board (in Great Hall at 3:30 pm) and be set up and READY by 4 pm. The session is open to the community, parents and friends. Those students graduating early or will not be on campus spring term are still required to prepare a poster and are expected to make a good faith attempt to be present at the poster session. In the unusual event you cannot be available, you should have a proxy prepared to represent you and describe your research. Failure to prepare and present a poster can result in the failure of Comps. Questions should be directed to the Chair of the Department (see poster guidelines on the Economics Department website for more information). 

Please note that the poster session is effectively a class meeting.  If you want to register for another course which conflicts with this meeting of ECON.400, please be sure to contact the professor of the other course before registration to learn if it is okay for you to miss all or part of one day of that course.

8. Students will be notified of a grade of either Pass, Fail or Revise and Resubmit by March 11  (Winter Term 2016) or June 3 (Spring Term 2016). Students required to Revise and Resubmit their papers have until the end of exam period of the term in which they submitted their original papers to complete their revisions and turn in the revised paper. Subsequent to resubmission the student will be notified of a grade of Pass or Fail no later than a week after the paper is received by the Department. Distinctions on Comps will be announced by June 1. Note that student grades for Econ 400 will be reported by the registrar as "CI" until late Spring term, when all Comps grades are verified at the same time by the Department Chair. If you have received a letter confirming that you have passed, you do not need to contact your Advisor or the Chair about your grade.

9. No extensions will be given. Students who fail to submit the final Paper by the time and date of the deadline must submit to the Department Chair a written explanation for the delay and a request that the late Paper be considered for a passing grade. Late Papers will not be eligible for Distinction and may result in failure for the Comps Exercise.

10. Comps papers are expected to be well-written. They should be clear, polished papers. Any paper that does not meet this requirement will be returned for a rewrite and will not be considered for Distinction. The corrected paper must be turned in no later than one week from the time the student is notified.

11. Students who fail the final paper will receive a failing grade for the Comprehensive Exercise (i.e. they are ineligible for the Comps Exam).

II. Comprehensive Examination Option

A. General Procedures

The Examination will take place Spring Term (see dates below) and will be composed of a two-hour morning examination and a two-hour afternoon examination. The morning examination is designed to test the student's proficiency in microeconomic and macroeconomic theory while applying that theory in the context of micro and macro problems. The afternoon examination tests the student's expertise and/or knowledge of theory and its application in econometrics and in one of the applied fields of economics offered at Carleton (see Choice of Fields below).

Any student who, for whatever reason, fails all or part of this first examination will have the opportunity to retake a similar examination approximately four weeks later before the Department reports his or her grade in Comps to the Registrar. The Department will orally inform any student failing the examination of the reasons for failure, and the Department will also provide and pay for student tutoring services to help in preparing for the retake. Failure on the retake results in failure on the Comps exercise.

To earn Distinction in Comps from the examination option you must earn Distinction in Micro Theory, Macro Theory, and Econometrics, and Pass or Distinction in the afternoon field question.

B. Dates and Procedures

  1. By February 15, 2016, you will receive sample questions for both morning and afternoon exams. Sample questions for all applied fields will be provided.  You will receive a Choice of Fields form listing fields of applied economics. You are to choose two fields. On the afternoon portion of the Exam, you will answer questions from one of the two fields you have chosen. Return the form to the departmental assistant by the date specified on the form. Students who do not submit their form by the date specified will have their fields chosen for them by the department. Soon thereafter, and no later than the third week of the term, you will receive a confirmation list with each major's choice of fields specified. At that time you will also receive a number from the departmental assistant that you will use to identify all your green books. Only she will know which student has been assigned that number.
  2. The date of the first Comps Examination in 2015-16 is Saturday, April 23, 2016, in Willis 203. The morning exam in micro and macro theory will be held from 9:00-11:00. The afternoon exam in econometrics and one field area, from 1:00-3:00. You will be notified of the location of the examinations during the preceding week. After reviewing the field questions on the afternoon exam, you are to choose one field question to write on from among the two field questions for which you have studied.
  3. All exams will be read by at least two faculty members and more, in the case of distinction and failure possibilities. While grading your green books, we will only be able to identify you by number. Only after grades have been assigned will the departmental assistant tell us whose name corresponds with which number.
  4. Each student will be notified of the grade he or she has earned (Pass or Fail) by May 6, 2016. All green books, except those of students not receiving a passing grade, will be retained by the department.
  5. Anyone not receiving a Passing grade on the first Comps Exam will be asked to retake all or part of the exam. These students will be informed orally by a departmental faculty member of the reasons for the non-passing grade. The retake must be completed by Friday, May 27, 2016. The exact time and place will be determined by the student and the Department Chair. Only those who failed the first examination may sit for the retake and, if successful, will receive a grade of Pass in Comps. In exceptional cases the department may ask a student to present an oral explanation or defense of any part of his or her retake examination.
  6. Distinctions will be announced by June 1, 2016.

C. Choice of Fields

Listed below are the fields the Department expects to write questions for this year. You will be asked to choose two of these fields to study for the Comprehensive Exam. During the Exam, you will choose to answer questions from only one of the two fields you have studied. We will assign a failing grade to any student answering a field question that is not among the two originally chosen by that student. The probable fields from which you are to choose two this year are:

1.  Behavioral Economics

2.  Economics History of Financial Crises

3.  Economics of Cost Benefit Analysis

4.   Economics of Natural Resources and the Environment

5.   Economics, Property and Institutions in Natural Resources

6.   Economics of the Public Sector

7.   Economics of Sports

8.   Economics of the European Union

9.   Economics of Welfare

10.  Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Economic Performance

11.  European Economic History

12.  Experimental Economics

13.  Game Theory and Economic Applications

14.  Growth and Development

15.  Health Care Economics

16.  History of Economic Thought

17.  Industrial Organization and Firm Behavior

18.  International Finance (Open Economy Macro)

19.  International Trade

20.  Labor Economics

21.  Law and Economics

22.  Microeconomics of Development

23.  Money and Banking

24.  Water Resources and Western Economic Development


10/30 - 5pm, Seminar Prospectuses due (Fall Term)

11/13- Notification of acceptance of Prospectuses (Fall Term)

2/26- 5pm, Final Comps paper due (Winter Term)

2/15 - Receipt of sample exam questions and field choices

3/4 - 5pm, Electronic Comps files due (Winter Term)

3/11 - Notification of Pass/Fail on Comps Paper (Winter Term)

3/7 - Return "Choice of Fields" form

4/23 - 9-11am, Morning Comprehensive Exam (Willis 203)

          - 1-3pm, Afternoon Comprehensive Exam (Willis 203)

5/6 - Notification of Pass/Fail on first exam

5/20 - 5pm, Final Comps Paper due (Spring Term)

5/26 - 4-6 pm, Poster Presentation (Great Hall)

5/27 - 5pm, Electronic Comps Files due (Spring Term)

5/27 - Last day to retake exam

6/1 -   Notification of Comps Distinctions

6/3 -   Notification of Pass/Fail on Comps Paper (Spring Term)