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The Qualifying Exam

Students should plan to take the qualifying examination during the ninth or tenth quarter of study. Under current Department of Literature policies, students must pass their exams by the end of the tenth quarter.

The reading list/research paper format for qualifying examinations applies to all students who enter in September 2001 and later. Some students who began the Ph.D. program before September 2001 may also be eligible to qualify under these guidelines.

In a narrow sense, the exam determines whether or not the student is qualified to produce the sort of original research required for the doctoral dissertation. From a broader perspective, the qualifying exam marks a turning point in a graduate career, as students complete their course work and move closer toward becoming members of the profession.

As future faculty members of research universities, students will be required to teach and publish. Thus, the exams are designed to enable students to demonstrate substantial knowledge in fields that they may draw on for future teaching, and to demonstrate their ability to conduct independent research and to write a paper of publishable length with a sustained argument.

The Department sponsors an annual colloquium, usually held in the winter or spring quarter, devoted to answering student questions about the qualifying examination. At this event, invited faculty members and advanced graduate students answer questions about the exam process.