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Comprehensive Exams

Comprehensive Examination (oral and written) Students entering the Ph.D. program should develop, as soon as possible but no later than the third term of course work beyond the M.A., a field of interest that will form the basis of their research for the Ph.D. comprehensive examination and ideally for the dissertation. This special field of interest usually emerges from the selected courses and shapes the areas of concentration represented on their comprehensive examination.

The comprehensive examination consists of three exams (two written and one oral). Each written examination covers a subfield that pertains to the student’s special field of interest. The subfields should be defined and prepared with three members of the RL faculty who will constitute the Ph.D. exam committee. (One of these three faculty members should represent the student’s second Romance language. A fourth member may be added from another department.)

In consultation with the members of the examination committee, students create a reading list for each of the defined subfields. The reading list must be approved by the exam committee no later than 4 weeks before the exam date. Students are responsible for distributing the reading list to the committee members as soon as the list is approved. Each written exam will take the form of an essay that responds to one of two questions formulated by a members of the Ph.D. exam committee. Each written exam will cover one of the subfields and will be a maximum of 20 double-spaced, typed pages. The student will have two weeks to write each of the essays. Two weeks after the successful completion of the written essays, the student will take an oral examination. The oral exam will attempt to integrate the areas addressed in the written exams with the other facets of the student’s declared field of interest. In a two-hour conversation, the candidate and the committee members examine and elaborate on ways in which the written essays help to define a project within the student’s special field.

Typically undertaken during the fifth term of study following the M.A., the comprehensive examination should result in clarification of both the subject matter of the dissertation and possible approaches to it. The exam should, in other words, yield at least a tentative dissertation topic. Students who fail the Ph.D. examination in whole or in part will be allowed to take it over (in whole or in part) once. They are encouraged to do so no later than 6 months after failing. If they fail again they are disqualified. It is the responsibility of the student to schedule both the written and the oral portions of the comprehensive examination. With the successful completion of the Ph.D. comprehensive exam, the student will advance to candidacy and begin preparing the dissertation prospectus.

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