Exam Information

Applying to begin your Ph.D. Exams

At least one month before you wish to begin your written preliminary exams, please complete the Application for the Qualifying Exam and bring it to Nancy Masson. Nancy will ask about when you wish to take your written and oral exams and schedule them for you.  Both the preliminary exam and qualifying exam should be completed within two consecutive quarters.

Procedural information regarding the Ph.D. Written Preliminary Exam (Two 24-hour exam periods)

The student may choose to take Part I or Part II first. Each book list (for 250A, 250B, and 250C) must be submitted to and approved by the qualifying exam committee and the Graduate Adviser no later than two weeks before the given examination date.  Please email the approved lists to Nancy for your file.  The preliminary exam is a "closed book" exam. The examinee should not consult materials and books (secondary criticism, scholarship, etc). She/he can paraphrase, summarize those things out of her/his memory. But the examinee should only look up and cite original poems/texts if she/he is asked to analyze them.

Part I of the exam (written, 24-hour take home): Topic - primary literature. The student will usually answer one or two out of three or more questions from the primary area. [questions written by COM 250A/Primary Lit Supervisor]

Part II of the exam (written, 24-hour take home): Topics - 2nd literature AND 3rd literature or special topic. The student will usually answer one of two or more questions from the 2nd literature AND one of two or more questions from the 3rd literature or special topic. [ 2nd literature questions written by 250B/Second Lit Supervisor; 3rd literature or special topic questions written by COM 250C supervisor]

250 Supervisors will email the questions to Nancy and she will email them to the examinee at the designated date & time. Students will email their responses back to Nancy within 24 hours of receiving them. After the written exam, each 250 supervisor will grade and comment on the student's essay response to his or her questions if they have any. The individual written exam grades (pass, no pass (with the option to retake), or fail) and comments will be distributed to the student and committee for review before the oral exam.

For more information on the content of the written exams, please read pages 9-13 of the approved degree requirements.

Procedural information regarding the Ph.D. Oral Qualifying Exam (2 hours)

The student must circulate his or her dissertation prospectus (prepared in COM 250D) to the qualifying exam committee at least two weeks before the oral examination date.  Please also email the prospectus to Nancy for your file.

The following oral exam procedures are not written in stone, but do constitute the usual manner of proceeding on the day of the exam:

The exam committee begins by asking the student to step out of the room for a few minutes so that committee members can discuss briefly the written exams and the prospectus. When the student returns, the committee gives her/him a chance to talk about the prospectus. Then the committee opens up the discussion to questions about the prospectus and advice/suggestions for improvement. The first hour of the exam is generally spent on the prospectus and then there is a short break.

The second half to the exam is usually devoted to the reading lists. Committee members should bring their copies of these. At this time they will also have a chance to ask questions raised by the written exams, if they have any. The committee members often return to the dissertation prospectus in the second hour as well.

The role of the Chair of the exam committee is to help ensure fairness to the candidate and to make sure all members of the committee get time to speak and to pose questions. The Chair may or may not participate in asking questions of the candidate.

For more information on the content of the qualifying exam, please read pages 9-13 of the approved degree requirements.