Toward the end of course work and in consultation with the adviser, the student will select a faculty member to serve as Chair of the Examination Committee, which will consist of four faculty members (including the Chair). Students will prepare a reading list in one comprehensive field and two lists in areas of special inquiry. The comprehensive field will be a broad area a candidate has identified as his or her research and teaching specialty; it will be developed in consultation with two faculty members. The special topic lists should provide for breadth of interest and focused research, while typically intersecting with the comprehensive list in some way. Each special topic list will be developed in consultation with one member of the committee.

Students must schedule a pre-exams conference within the first ten weeks of the spring term of their second year.  Participants in the pre-exams advising conference normally include the student's academic adviser (or the Exams Chair, if one has been selected) and a second faculty member chosen by the student – someone with whom the student would like to work, either on exams or on the dissertation or both. Students will prepare an informal one- to two-page statement that includes a brief review of course work, ideas about research areas, and consideration of possible exams committee personnel. The statement is not binding in any way. It is produced so that students can reflect on past progress and discuss future plans. Copies of the statement will be submitted to the two faculty members at least one week in advance of the meeting. Discussion at the pre-exams conference should include selection of the remaining members of the Examinations Committee (if they are not already in place), composition of the lists, goals and methods of preparing for the exams, and expectations about meetings with committee members during exam preparation.

The reading list for the comprehensive field should include works essential for study within the field and works the candidate has identified for his or her particular research interests. The reading lists for special topic areas are more selective and aim to be representative as well as specialized. The department has no set number of texts for each list. As a guide, however, one might consider the comprehensive field to be equivalent to the reading for three courses and a special topic list to be half that amount; a comprehensive list might have 60-70 texts, and a special topic list 30-40. Individual examiners will approve the list for each field.

Preliminary reading lists must be submitted to the graduate office after the second year of study on May 15th (together with a copy of the Pre-Exams Statement and the Ph.D. Qualifying Committee Form). It is the student's responsibility to circulate reading lists to all four members of the Examinations Committee. Finalized, official reading lists must be submitted to the graduate office by December 1st of the third year.  Official lists cannot be modified after this date except in cases where students request a modification and are granted approval. Again, it is the responsibility of the student to circulate these official lists to all four members of the Committee. Students should negotiate a schedule of pre-examination meetings with each of their committee members.