Graduate Program

Ph.D. Qualifying Examination

In the spring semester of their third year, students will register for 3 credits of Independent Study (nominally, with the Director of Graduate Studies). Students should devote the time these Independent Study credits provide to reading from their lists and meetings with faculty members in preparation for the examinations.  If the adviser approves, students may register for one course in the fall of the third year and one course in addition to the independent study credit in the spring of the third year, rather than registering for two courses in the fall and none in the spring of that year.

The Qualifying Examination is taken during the study and exam days period immediately following the spring semester of the third year.

Written Exam

Each examiner will compose one question. These will probe for breadth and synthesis and may indicate specific texts or a number of texts that the student must consider, although there is no set format prescribed. The student will choose two of these questions and write a 10-pp. double-spaced essay responding to each; at least one question must be taken from the two submitted by examiners in the comprehensive field, but the other can be selected from those submitted by special topic examiners. The exam will be an open-book take-home, completed within 72 hours. The two essays will then be circulated to all four examiners. There will be no formal evaluation of the written until the conclusion of the oral. All students will proceed to the oral.

Oral Exam

The exam will consist of four modules: a 45-minute discussion of the comprehensive field, with both examiners in open discussion with the student; two 30-minute discussions, one conducted by each examiner of the special topic lists; and a 15-minute concluding conversation involving the student and all members of the committee, which should aspire to make connections between and among the exam topics and lists. The sequencing of the first three modules will be at the discretion of the student. The written essays may serve as points of departure for appropriate sections of the oral exam, although the amount of time devoted to discussion of the essays is at the discretion of the examiners. The oral should not be conceived narrowly as a defense of the written.

The student's performance on the examination as a whole will be judged on a pass/fail basis. In the event of failure, the student may petition the Graduate Director for permission to take the relevant part(s) of the examination a second time, but approval is not automatic and this may not be done more than once.

Qualifying Examination Workshop

All students are urged to join a Qualifying Examination workshop in the semester of the completion of their required course work or in the following semester. These workshops provide a loose structure within which students may come together to form small, self-directed study groups to help in preparing for the Qualifying Examination. Groups may be formed according to shared areas of concentration.