COMPREHENSIVE EXAM FOR THE MASTER'S DEGREE IN ENGLISH

COMPREHENSIVE EXAM

ELIGIBILITY: Applicants for the examination must be matriculated students who have completed or are currently enrolled in courses that will enable them to complete thirty credits with a 3.0 average.  M.A. candidates must have completed the language requirement.

REGISTERING FOR THE EXAM: Students register for the exam by completing a Comprehensive Exam Registration form in the first three weeks of the semester before the semester in which they plan to take the exam (ie. if you plan to take the exam in May, you register for it the previous September; if you plan to take it in December, you register for it in January or February).

If a student registers for but does not take the exam in a given semester, s/he may register ONCE more, and only once more.  Students must notify the Graduate Coordinator in advance of the scheduled exam from which they plan to withdraw in order to be eligible to reregister.

STRUCTURE OF THE EXAMINATION: The examination is based on a reading list that includes ten primary texts; one is always theoretical and one is always a collection of lyric poems.  Each primary text on the list is accompanied by one required and three recommended secondary texts (generally essays or book chapters, not books).

On-Campus Component
For each part of this three-hour component of the examination, two questions will be given. The student selects one question from each part to answer.  The English Department Comprehensive Exam Committee, in consultation with the English graduate faculty, is responsible for making up questions for the examination.  
Part 1:    an applied theory question (answer one of two questions-one hour)
Part 2:    a close reading of a poem (answer one of two questions-one hour)
Part 3:    a comparative question, addressing three texts from the list.  The focus of this question might be formal, historical, thematic, ideological, or a combination of the above (answer one of two questions-one hour).  None of the three texts discussed in this question may be the one students selected for their literature review (see below), to ensure discussion of more texts on the list.

Take-Home Component-Literature Review
Each student taking the exam in a given semester selects one of the primary texts on the list and reads both the required and the supplementary secondary sources, using these sources as a starting point to prepare an overview of the critical conversations about that primary text. The secondary sources that accompany each primary text serve as a starting point for the literature review, but students are responsible for reading an additional six sources (for a total of ten sources) as they prepare this exam question.  It is due four weeks before the day of the exam (see below for deadlines).

EVALUATION OF THE EXAMINATION: Exams are read by the English Department Comprehensive Exam Committee. Exams may be awarded grades of distinction, high pass, low pass, or failing. 
In evaluating examinations, the committee will be guided by the following considerations: the essays must respond to the specific demands of the exam questions and must reflect sound knowledge of the works and ideas being examined. The entire exam should demonstrate the mastery of standard essay-writing practices. The Committee transmits two copies of the Graduate Program Comprehensive Report to the Dean of the Graduate School, who then sends one to the student and one to the Records Office.

If a student fails the exam once, s/he may ask the English Department Comprehensive Exam committee for the opportunity to retake the exam by writing a letter of petition.  Barring extraordinary circumstances (for instance, plagiarism), such petitions will be granted. Students who fail the exam a second time will be dismissed from the program.