The Qualifying Examination

In order to be admitted into the PhD program students must pass a Qualifying Examination that demonstrates their capability to do outstanding work leading to candidacy for the doctorate.

The Qualifying Examination for students who enter the program with MA or an equivalent in hand:

  1. The candidate’s admissions file serves also as a Qualifying file; the writing sample functions as the Qualifying paper.
  2. A decision to admit the candidate to our program shall be regarded as tantamount to a Pass on the Qualifying Exam.
  3.  In keeping with the Graduate College policy mandating a Qualifying Examination, the Program Director will hold an interview with the new student early in the student’s first semester in residence and will communicate to the student, as appropriate, the Admissions Committee’s evaluation of the student’s Writing Sample/Qualifying Paper.

Students who complete the MA degree in our Literature Program should plan to take the Qualifying Examination within six weeks of the MA exam, but in no case later than the semester following the term in which they pass the MA exam. Students will not be permitted to register for classes as degree candidates if they have not passed the examination within this designated time period, though with the permission of the Program Director they may subsequently take the examination and, if they pass, may return to active status in the program. The examination may be attempted only once. 

For the Qualifying Examination in the Literature Program, four members of the literature faculty meet to review the student’s performance in the program and prospects for successfully completing the PhD The student does not attend this decision meeting.

  1. The student selects two members of the literature faculty to serve on the committee. The Director of the Graduate Literature Program and a member of the Graduate Literature Committee (GLC), appointed by the Director, serve as the other two members of the   committee. The Graduate Director appoints the committee chair--normally the advisor/mentor of the student under review.
  2.  The committee reviews an article-length paper submitted by the student. In addition, the committee takes into consideration the student’s admission file, performance in course work in the Literature Program, and any other evidence the committee may wish to solicit (e.g. opinions of professors with whom the student has done course work).
  3. The chair of the committee will call the candidate immediately after the examination to report the outcome. A positive vote of the committee (4-0 or 3-1) qualifies the student to proceed in the PhD program. A negative vote (2-2, 1-3, or 0-4) disqualifies the student from the PhD program.

Within one week of the exam, the chair of the examination committee will hold a conference with the candidate to discuss the committee’s judgment of the paper and the student’s progress, regardless of the outcome of the examination.

Requesting the Examination:   Filing Deadlines 

A student requests the Qualifying Examination by filing the Qualifying Examination Request Form, available on the website and with the Graduate Program Assistant. This form must be filed before the end of the eighth week of the semester in which the student intends to take the examination. At that time the student also submits a current unofficial transcript (available on UAccess), and four copies of the article-length paper.

The Qualifying Examination committee will normally meet within a month after the form is filed if the request is made during the academic year (August to May). Note that Qualifying Examinations will not normally be scheduled during the winter holidays or the summer recess.

The Qualifying Paper 

You should discuss the paper with your mentors and with the Director of the Graduate Literature Program before requesting the examination. In general, you should plan to submit work that demonstrates the sustained development of a critical argument supporting an interpretation. The committee will look at the paper for evidence that the you are capable of conducting advanced research and of writing at a level sufficient to complete a successful  dissertation. Before submitting a seminar paper for the examination, you should review your instructor’s comments and  revise accordingly.

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College of Social and Behavioral Sciences