What purpose do comprehensive exams at the MS level serve?

I am a graduate student in a biostatistics department that requires a written comprehensive exam in statistical theory and applied statistics of all MS program students. Without passing this exam, we cannot write a thesis or graduate. We are given two attempts to pass both portions. If we fail on the second attempt, we must leave the department.

I am curious if your department has a similar practice, and if so, what the justification for it is. I understand why qualifying exams exist at the doctoral level, but I personally think an exam for a non-terminal master’s degree adds little value to degree. I asked my adviser why the exam exists and they said “to make [the MS degree] harder.” I think there are more reasonable explanations, hence my post on this subreddit.

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Nevin Manimala

Nevin Manimala is interested in blogging and finding new blogs https://nevinmanimala.com

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