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

Skip to Main Content

MPH and MS Requirements

Coursework, Curricula, and Competencies

Coursework, competencies, and additional academic requirements for SPH graduate programs are outlined in in degree-specific program guides (2019 and after), and the appendices of student handbooks (2018 and earlier).  Students will be held to the curricula in place for the year they matriculate (i.e., their “catalog year”).

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, if only one section is passed, only the second section must be retaken. 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.

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.  

Certified in Public Health Exam (MPH programs only)

All MPH students who began their studies in or after Fall 2015 are required to pass the Certified in Public Health (CPH) exam, which is offered through the National Board of Public Health Examiners (NBPHE). Students are strongly encouraged to complete all core courses early in their program of study, preferably within the first year, and to take the exam as soon as they are eligible to do so.

CPH exam information sessions are offered several times a year. 

  • CPH Exam Information Session presentation


The Certified in Public Health (CPH) credential endorses the competency of the credential holder on a national level with competitive advantage. It consists of 200 multiple-choice questions, and follows a content outline that tests knowledge in ten domains tied to key public health competencies, each comprising 10% of the total exam:

  1. Evidence–based Approaches to Public Health
    2. Communication
    3. Leadership
    4. Law and Ethics
    5. Public Health Biology and Human Disease Risk
    6. Collaboration and Partnership
    7. Program Planning and Evaluation
    8. Program Management
    9. Policy in Public Health
    10. Health Equity and Social Justice

Since its inception as a requirement in Fall 2015, our MPH students have averaged a passing rate of over 95%, exceeding the 73% national average passing rate.

Preparing for the Exam

The School of Public Health recommends students review materials from their core courses, as well as materials published by the NBPHE and the Association for Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH), to prepare for the exam. Recommended study resources include the following:

Additional ways to prepare for the exam:

  • Form a study group
  • Create a study plan
  • Consult an expert in learning and study strategies. Staff at OHSU’s Teaching and Learning Center (TLC), are available to assist students with study skills, test-taking skills, test anxiety, time management, goal setting and motivation, and more.

Exam Eligibility, Registration, and Payment

  • MPH students are eligible to take the CPH exam upon completion of all core courses, and may register upon successful completion of four of the core courses, with the final course in-progress. 
  • MPH students who began in or after Fall 2015 have already paid for the CPH exam via a one-time fee assessed at matriculation, and are entitled to a payment voucher. Contact sphregistration@ohsu.edu for the voucher code when ready to schedule the exam, then submit it with your registration to avoid being charged an exam fee.
  • MPH students who began prior to Fall 2015 may elect to take the CPH Exam voluntarily. Should they do so, they will pay the exam fee directly to NBPHE. Note: SPH students and alumni who are not eligible for vouchers are eligible for the SPH discounted rate of $250.

Scheduling the Exam

  • Apply to take the exam on the NBPHE’s website, by creating an account with NBPHE.
  • Once your account is created, the SPH will receive an automatic notification, and will verify your eligibility to sit for the exam, usually within 48 business hours. You will then be able to complete registration and schedule your exam.
  • The CPH exam can be scheduled at any time of the year.
  • Testing centers are located across the U.S. This is a timed, 4-hour exam, so plan accordingly. Please note when scheduling the exam that SPH students take the Computer Based Test (CBT) exam version.


Students who require disability accommodations should contact the Disabilities Resource Center at PSU or the Office of Student Access Services at OHSU to complete the process outlined in the CPH Candidate Handbook.

CPH Policies

  • Passing the CPH Exam became a core degree requirement for all students entering an MPH program in or after Fall 2015. This academic requirement cannot be waived.
  • The student is financially responsible for any cost associated with rescheduling or retaking or the CPH Exam ($150 in 2019).
  • Students who do not pass the CPH exam on their first attempt are required to retake the exam. A student who does not pass the exam on the first attempt must also
    • Notify their faculty advisor and program director, and meet to discuss detailed exam results, identify areas needing improvement, and develop a plan to prepare for retaking the exam. 
    • Wait a minimum of three months before retaking the exam in order to plan for targeted study.
  • Students may only attempt the CPH Exam twice.
  • Students who fail the exam on both attempts will be recommended for dismissal from the School.
  • Students are expected to adhere to SPH academic integrity standards while studying for and taking this off-site exam.

Field and Culminating Experiences (MPH programs only)

Page already exists: https://ohsu-psu-sph.org/graduate-fieldandculminating-experience/

IPE, PE, IP (MPH programs only)

Page already exists: https://ohsu-psu-sph.org/ipe_pe_ip/