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Exam Format

The exam consists of three components:

  • two written examinations based on reading lists in two different subject areas;
  • a research paper of approximately 30-35 pages in a third subject area;
  • a two-hour oral examination covering both the written examinations and the research paper.

The written examination. The written exam will take place on two days, normally with a day off in between. The first exam day concentrates on list one, the second on list two. The written examination should be completed a month prior to the oral examination.

Each day's exam consists of one four-hour essay. Students and committee members will consult about possible questions for the examination, but faculty are not obligated to inform the student of a question's final configuration. The committee chair has the final responsibility to prepare the exam questions by soliciting questions from the committee members. From the suggested list of questions, the committee chair will choose two for each examination; the student will then write on one of these questions for each exam.

Students may bring books and notes to the examination. If the examination is to be written in a language other than English, it must be specified in writing prior to the exam.

Students will either be assigned a room on campus in which to write the exams, or given the option to write them at home. If students choose to write the exam off-campus, they may receive the questions by e-mail. They then have five hours to write the exam and return it to campus. The completed exam must be emailed to the Literature graduate office and printed or typewritten and delivered in person to the Literature graduate office. When exams are completed, they will be date-stamped by the Department. The student is responsible for emailing and/or delivering copies of the exams to each member of their committee.

All members of the committee will read all written components of the exam (the two questions and the paper) within a period of two weeks following the exam. Committee members must unanimously agree that the student has passed the written portion of the exam (two written questions and paper). It is the chair's responsibility to poll the committee members for their responses.

The oral examination. If the student passes the written portion of the exam, the oral examination follows in two weeks. The oral examination will last for two hours and will cover materials on the reading lists and the topic of the research paper. Again, the committee must agree unanimously that the student has passed the examinations.

The oral examination is a private meeting. Students may invite no more than four observers, who usually attend to take notes on the examination.

The C. Phil Degree

Upon passing the qualifying examination, the doctoral candidate may apply for the C. Phil. (Candidate in Philosophy) degree, a more advanced degree than the M.A. degree. To apply, the candidate needs to obtain two forms from the Department: the completed Report of the Qualifying Examination form, and the completed Degree and Diploma Application form. The student takes these two approved forms, with the candidacy fee, to the Cashier's Office for payment and then to OGS for approval.

Graduate Coordinator
Kristin Carnohan
115 Literature Building
(858) 534-3217

Application Open:
9/1 - 12/1 (deadline)