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October 17, 1966

The Comprehensive Examination

JAMA. 1966;198(3):291-292. doi:10.1001/jama.1966.03110160119035

An examination is an expression of policy. For better or worse, whether it is a course examination or a comprehensive, whether it is extramural or intramural, it exemplifies the philosophy of those who give it. It sets standards and establishes orientation, and therefore becomes a guide to the true expectations of the examining body, quite apart from its examining function, that is, it becomes a guide to learning as well as a test of learning. It is these two functions that demand either reconciliation or clear-cut separation. I have often explained this dichotomy to anxious students by the story of the man who entered a restaurant and ordered and ate, in sequence, two complete meals, the first of high calories and low cost, and the second a superbly expensive meal of more modest calories. When questioned about this performance, he stated that the first meal was for his tapeworm, the