Comprehensive Exams (As of Fall 2021)

Comprehensive exams (a.k.a Capstone Plan) are a fundamental step towards the intellectual formation and academic training of the graduate students.

The examination for the first stage of the program consists of submission of two revised papers written for courses taken during the first five quarters and an oral examination on course work and seminar papers completed in our graduate program. With the assistance of the SAO and the Director of Graduate Studies, by the end of the 4th quarter of the program, students must demonstrate that they are on track to complete the course work (11 required courses) and the Spanish and Portuguese language requirement for this first stage of the program. Additionally, by the end of the 4th quarter, students must nominate an ad hoc review committee of three faculty members from the department: the Director of Graduate Studies, the faculty member who will serve as the student’s adviser, and a third faculty member. These requirements must be completed by the 5th quarter of the program for a student to maintain satisfactory degree progress.

In consultation with the ad hoc review committee, students are required to submit two of their strongest seminar papers, 20-25 pages each (with revisions). For literature students, one paper must be written in English and one in Spanish or Portuguese. Students must submit the papers to the ad hoc review committee during their 6th quarter in the program and at least two weeks in advance of the oral exam.

The oral exam is two hours in length and consists of a review of the papers submitted and questions addressed to the student. Questions are aimed at reviewing and synthesizing what the student has learned in graduate seminars, focusing on methodology and research questions, as expressed in their papers.

The outcome of the exams and ensuing recommendation is made by the ad hoc committee as follows: (1) Pass with permission to continue in the Ph.D., (2) Pass with reservations and specific recommendations for improvement, or (3) Fail without permission to continue in the Ph.D. program.

The examinations for the first stage of the program are administered only in spring quarter (6th quarter).

Thesis Plan

Every master’s degree thesis plan requires the completion of an approved thesis that demonstrates the student’s ability to perform original, independent research.

In lieu of taking the examination, students in any of the three major areas/tracks of study may seek permission to present a thesis. Students must first complete five graduate courses. In order to endorse the petition, the Director of Graduate Studies in consultation with the Committee of Graduate Affairs need to find evidence of exceptional ability and promise in term papers and course work.

Students are awarded the Master of Arts (M.A.) degree upon successful completion of the examination or Thesis Plan.

For further information and detailed timeline, please visit the Graduate Division website

The comprehensive exams information for our current enrolled graduate students (cohorts prior to fall 2021) can be found HERE