Skip Navigation


Failing a Master's Comprehensive Exam or Capstone Course

Master's End of Program Requirements

For all capstone courses that begin after January 1, 2017, master's students must earn a B- (80%) or better on their capstone thesis/project/paper and a B- (80%) or better in their capstone course to pass the course. This policy aligns with the comprehensive exam, which also requires a B- (80%) or better to pass. Master's students must have at least a 3.0 GPA in order to graduate. Please see the End of Program Assessment Manual for more information.

Consequences of Failing Your First Attempt at Your Comprehensive Exams

If you receive a FAIL grade for your first attempt at your master's comprehensive exam, you will be automatically blocked from registration until the reason for the failure is documented by the Office of the Registrar.

  • Since you have failed the examination the first time, you will not be eligible to earn a grade of “Pass with Distinction” on the second examination. The highest grade possible for your second attempt of your comprehensive exam is a “Pass.”

Also, each of your comprehensive exam attempts will be a separate registration with a separate grade posted on your student transcript.

Your Potential Options

You have the option of forgoing conferral of your degree. Upon request, an official letter will be provided confirming your GPA and semester hours  completed toward the degree. Otherwise, you will have the options as outlined below depending upon the reason for your failing grade:

  • If you failed because you didn’t take the exam on time, you will be allowed to manually register through the Office of the Registrar for another attempt with a different faculty member or may be offered a 30-day extension to complete the course.
  • If you failed due to substandard work, you will be allowed to manually register through the Office of the Registrar for another attempt with a different faculty member or may be given the option of taking the discipline’s capstone course instead.
  • If you failed because you did not adhere to the conventions of standard English grammar and/or formal academic writing expected at the graduate level, you may be required to complete the COLL500 Graduate Writing ClearPath learning apps prior to being allowed to register again for either another comprehensive exam attempt with a different faculty member or for the discipline’s capstone course.
  • If you failed due to any findings of plagiarism, you will need to appeal for another chance to take the comprehensive exam. You may do so by submitting the official Academic Appeal Request form in your campus, located in the Academic Plan & Forms menu, under University Forms. If allowed to retake the comprehensive exam course, it will be with a different faculty member and will need to be taken onsite with an approved APUS staff member physically proctoring the exam. Onsite may be in either the Manassas office, the Charles Town office, or at the office of an Education Coordinator for the student’s region on an APUS laptop computer disconnected from the internet. If your appeal is denied, you may resubmit an official appeal form requesting review by the Provost. All decisions of the Provost will be considered final.

Consequences of Failing Your Second Attempt at Your Comprehensive Exam:

If you have failed the comprehensive exam twice, you are no longer eligible for degree conferral. Upon request, an official letter will be provided confirming your GPA and semester hours completed toward the degree.

You do have the right to appeal for another attempt through the Academic Appeals department. All appeals must be in writing, must include a summary of the factors involved in your previous failed attempts, and must be submitted using the official Academic Appeal Request form in your campus. The Academic Appeals department will research and escalate your appeal and provide a decision within 15 days.

Your appeal for a third attempt may be denied, or you may be given one of the options listed above (including a proctored on-site retake, registration in the discipline’s capstone course, or a requirement for the successful completion of COLL500 Graduate Writing ClearPath Learning Apps) before you’re allowed to register again for the comp exam course with a different faculty member.

If your appeal is denied, you may resubmit an official appeal form requesting review by the Provost. All decisions of the Provost will be considered final.

Consequences of a Failing Your First Attempt at Your Capstone Course

If you receive a failing grade for your first attempt at your master's capstone course, you will be automatically blocked from registration until the reason for the failure is documented by the Office of the Registrar. A second attempt at your capstone course is not automatically approved.

Your Potential Options

You have the option of forgoing conferral of your degree. Upon request, an official letter will be provided confirming your GPA and semester hours completed toward the degree. Otherwise, you will have the options as outlined below depending upon the reason for your failing grade:

  • If you failed due to substandard work, you will be allowed to manually register through the Office of the Registrar for another attempt with a different faculty member or may be given the option of taking the discipline’s capstone course instead.
  • If you failed because you did not adhere to the conventions of standard English grammar and/or formal academic writing expected at the graduate level, you may be required to complete the COLL500 Graduate Writing ClearPath learning apps prior to being allowed to register again for either another comprehensive exam attempt with a different faculty member or for the discipline’s capstone course.
  • If you failed due to any findings of plagiarism, you will need to submit an official appeal request in your campus for another chance to take the comprehensive exam. You may do so by submitting the Academic Appeal Request form in the University Forms section of your campus. If allowed to retake the comprehensive exam course, it will be with a different faculty member and will need to be taken onsite with an approved APUS staff member physically proctoring the exam. Onsite may be in either the Manassas office, the Charles Town office, or at the office of an Education Coordinator for the student’s region on an APUS laptop computer disconnected from the internet. If your appeal is denied, you may resubmit an official appeal form requesting review by the Provost. All decisions of the Provost will be considered final.

Students who had at least a 3.0000 GPA before failing their Capstone course may be approved for a manual registration to retake the Capstone without the need to take another course to increase the GPA.  As the retaken Capstone will replace the failing grade, students do not need to take an additional course to raise the GPA if failing the Capstone was the cause for the GPA falling below 3.0000.

Consequences of Failing Your Second Attempt of your Capstone Course:

If you have failed your capstone course, or a combination of a comprehensive exam and a capstone course attempt, you are no longer eligible for degree conferral. Upon request, an official letter will be provided confirming your GPA and semester hours completed toward the degree.

You do have the right to appeal for another attempt through the Academic Appeals department. All appeals must be in writing, must include a summary of the factors involved in your previous failed attempts, and the official Academic Appeal Request form must be submitted to do so. The Academic Appeals department will research and escalate your appeal and will provide a decision within 15 days.

Your appeal for a third attempt may be denied, or you may be given the option of another registration in the capstone course, or a requirement for the successful completion of the COLL500 Graduate Writing ClearPath learning apps before you’re allowed to register again for your capstone course with a different faculty member.

If your appeal is denied, you may resubmit an official appeal form requesting review by the Provost. All decisions of the Provost will be considered final.

 Back to Top