"Comps" is a term that refers to both comprehensive exams and integrative exercises, required by all majors. It can also be used as a verb, as in "Leave me alone, I'm comps-ing." Although the specifics vary by major, comps are generally regarded as extremely time-intensive, generally culminating in a larger project or paper than in any normal class in the major.
In each major, comps count as a class, normally designated with the course number 400. In most majors, this class is worth a normal 6 credits. Comps are normally taken during either winter or spring of senior year, although those pursuing a double major sometimes take one of their two comps during their junior year. Part of the reason comps are so stressful is that failing to pass them results in failure to graduate.
In the mid-'60s. comps for all departments consisted of two three-hour written exams administered on the same day early in spring term of senior year. The first exam, given in the morning consisted of questions about courses required for the major. The second exam consisted of questions about other courses offered in the department and allowed students to choose from among a number of questions.
Within a few weeks of the written exams, students met with a number of department faculty for an oral examination period during which they were asked questions about the discipline and about what they wrote on the questions answered earlier.
Some students who did not meet departmental expectations on comps, were allowed to submit supplementary work in order to graduate. Others were required to return during the following spring term to sit for comps a second time.
No academic credit was earned for comps, although spring term seniors usually took only two classes instead of the usual three.