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Department of English

MA Comprehensive Exams

During the student's final academic year in the program, each Master's candidate is responsible for working with his or her Committee Chair and other committee members to schedule a comprehensive examination.


Exams are given twice a year: during the 12th, 13th, and 14th weeks of the fall and spring semesters.



Each Master's candidate's committee comprises three members of the English Graduate Faculty--which may include faculty from either the Departments of English or Writing Studies--and one observing, "outside" member from another department.


If the candidate's program emphasis of study includes a related field, that outside member will also conduct that portion of the exam.


One of the committee members from English or Writing Studies (usually the student's program advisor) will also serve as the committee chair and coordinate the details of the written and oral portions of the exam.


By of the end of your first year--or during the semester before the term when the exam is to take place, at the latest--each Master's candidate is responsible:

  1. for asking appropriate faculty to serve on the committee,
  2. for asking one member (usually the student's advisor) to serve as committee chair, and
  3. for working with each committee member to develop a reading list for each section of the exam.


Written Portion

The written portion of the exam is divided into multiple sections (given one or two hours in the written portion of the exam). The faculty committee members will be responsible for sections relevant to their specialties.


The written portion of the exam will be taken on two consecutive days beginning on a day between Monday of the twelfth week through Thursday on the thirteenth week of the semester. All written portions of the exam must be completed no later than Friday of the thirteenth week.


Oral Portion

The oral component of the exam is given on the fourth working day following completion of the written portions of the exam. This means that no oral will be taken before Monday of the thirteenth week or later than Thursday of the fourteenth week. For details, see "Principles and Procedures For Conducting the Oral Component of the Comprehensive Exam."


Exam Descriptions According to Emphasis

Guidelines for the composition of the committee and the reading lists vary by emphasis. See the following pages for more details on the substance and format of the exam in each area:



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