Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) and Portland State University (PSU) School of Public Health

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Biostatistics Comprehensive Exam

Biostatistics Comprehensive Exam (MPH Biostatistics and MS Biostatistics only)

The biostatistics comprehensive exam is a degree requirement for students in the MPH Biostatistics and MS Biostatistics programs. The exam is graded Pass or No Pass, based on specific criteria set by the comprehensive exam committee, and is offered twice a year: on the Wednesday and Thursday of the second week of May, and the Wednesday and Thursday of last week of August.

The exam has two parts: a written part and a laboratory part, which are administered on separate days. Students may take each part of the exam only after completion of the relevant coursework. The MS written exam is further divided into two sections. MS students must take both sections of the written part the first time they take the written exam; however, it is possible for a student to pass one section and only need to retake the other section on their second try. Each student is permitted two opportunities to pass the exam.

The exam is closed-book. Scratch paper and all necessary formulas and tables will be supplied. Use of calculators is permitted. The lab part will require students to conduct data analyses using a statistical package.  The format of the exam may be modified as necessitated by the circumstances.

MPH Comprehensive Exam
The MPH Biostatistics comprehensive exam assesses students’ ability to integrate statistical knowledge and skills covered in their biostatistics coursework. Students must demonstrate mastery of the subject matter, skills of critical thinking and independent problem solving, and interpretation of results in the context of a research question. The comprehensive examination comprises questions reflective of five required courses:

  • BSTA 511 Estimation and Hypothesis Testing for Applied Biostatistics
  • BSTA 512 Linear Models
  • BSTA 513 Categorical Data Analysis
  • BSTA 516 Design and Analysis of Surveys
  • BSTA 519 Applied Longitudinal Data Analysis

Specifically, the examination evaluates the following program learning competencies:

  • Apply appropriate descriptive and inferential statistical methods to analyze social and other determinants of health.
  • Apply descriptive and inferential statistical methods that are appropriate to the different study designs used in public health research.
  • Identify strengths and weaknesses of alternative designs and analytic methods, and critically review and assess statistical analyses presented in public health literature.

The written part of the MPH exam takes two and a half hours, with three applied questions covering materials from the course sequence BSTA 511, 512, and 513.  The lab part takes three hours and covers materials from BSTA 516 and 519, with two data analysis questions and one question to assess the appropriateness of the statistical methods used in a published journal article.

MS Comprehensive Exam
The MS Biostatistics comprehensive exam assesses students’ achievement of program-level competencies, including assessment of the student’s ability to integrate statistical knowledge and skills acquired in their biostatistical coursework. Students must demonstrate mastery of the subject matter, skills of critical thinking and independent problem solving, and interpretation of results in the context of research question.  The MS comprehensive exam evaluates students’ knowledge of both biostatistics theories and applied methods.

The MS biostatistics comprehensive examination comprises questions reflective of nine required courses:

  • BSTA 511 Estimation and Hypothesis Testing for Applied Biostatistics
  • BSTA 512 Linear Models
  • BSTA 513 Categorical Data Analysis
  • BSTA 514 Survival Analysis
  • BSTA 517 Statistical Methods in Clinical Trials
  • BSTA 519 Applied Longitudinal Data Analysis
  • BSTA 550 Introduction to Probability
  • BSTA 551 Mathematical Statistics I
  • BSTA 552 Mathematical Statistics II

The MS written exam has a total of six questions. It is divided into two, two-and-a-half hour sections, with a one-hour break in between. The first section covers applied statistical questions from BSTA 511, 512, and 513. The second section covers theoretical statistical questions from BSTA 550, 551, and 552.

The lab part of the MS comprehensive exam covers materials from BSTA 514, 517 and 519, and takes four hours. It contains four questions: three data analysis questions, and an additional question to assess the appropriateness of the statistical methods used in a published journal article.