Advice from Students for the MA Program

It is most important to confer with the Director of Graduate Studies early in your program about developing a plan of study.  The Director will assist you in charting a course of study, selecting a chairperson for your exam committee, and developing strategies for successfully completing the program. The Director is also available for problem solving,  general advice about maneuvering through the program and the profession, and other kinds of guidance.  Your mentor is another vital resource.  Try to establish a strong relationship with both professors during your first semester at Arizona.   

  • Decide early which plan of study you want to pursue. This sets up clear goals and maximizes your time in seminars and in preparing for exams.
  • Rely on professors to help you focus in your plan of study.  Make a point of getting to know and of conferring early and often with professors in fields related to your interests.
  • Be prompt. Stick to goals and time limits. 
  • Complete and file the necessary paperwork for exams as early as possible. Keep a careful eye on Graduate College and department deadlines.  If in doubt, check with the Program Assistant and consult the Graduate College deadlines and your GradPath forms, online at UAccess.
  •  When assembling a committee of faculty for the MA Exam, choose professors with whom you have worked in seminars and with whom you feel comfortable.  Consider various models for the “ideal” committee—for example, one in which the professors specialize in different periods yet whose scholarly interests intersect in theme or critical focus, or one in which professors work in closely related fields but have differing critical or theoretical takes on them.  
  • When drafting a reading list for the MA Exam under Plan II, consider a broad range of authors and texts – “Everything in my field everyone has read but me,” as one student says – rather than a narrow focus. This type of broad reading provides an excellent basis for further specificity in prelim study for students who go on to the Doctorate. For a good overview –or to fill in gaps in your own undergraduate program--consider sitting in on one or more of the British and American literature surveys or period courses offered for undergraduate English majors.
  •  Studying for exams demands a regular, routine reading schedule. Begin studying your list at least six months before the exam, devoting a minimum of three hours a day to reading and note taking. If possible, reduce or take off from classes altogether when reading your list, using Preceptorship and Colloquium registration units or Independent Study (599) with a member of your committee.


College of Social and Behavioral Sciences