Download M.A. comprehensive exam requirements as a printable PDF.

Scheduling and Exam Structure

Exams take place during the final semester of coursework, which is usually the fourth semester for a full-time student (unless the final semester is in the summer, in which case the exams will take place in the preceding spring).

  • In fall semester, exams are given shortly before Mid-Semester Break.
  • In spring semester, exams are given shortly before Spring Break.
  • Exams are scheduled on 2-3 different days, with 1-2 areas covered per day.
  • Five of the following six fields constitute the written exams:
    • Medieval and Renaissance
    • Early Modern (17th and 18th centuries)
    • 19th Century
    • 20th and 21st centuries
    • Francophone and French studies
    • French linguistics
  • For the written portion of the comprehensive exam, candidates may be exempted from examination in a maximum of two of the fields: by writing a thesis in a field; by presenting a research paper in a field at a professional conference; or by earning a grade of “A” or “B” in two courses in the same field.
  • An oral exam will take place at the end of the written exam process, and can be based either on coursework completed, or may be drawn from the reading list. This is to be determined in consultation with the graduate literature adviser. The topic is assigned 48 hours in advance of the oral exam.

General Structure

Each question submitted by an examiner must be answerable by the candidate in one hour. In the event that an examiner submits multiple questions from which the candidate must choose one to answer, the length of the exam session will be appropriately extended to allow the candidate ample time for careful selection of the question. The candidate will write no more than two answers per session. It is generally assumed that the candidate will be receiving at least one question from each professor with whom the candidate took classes. However, there may be exceptions, for example, if a professor is on sabbatical or has left the University, or if some courses were transferred from another institution. It is also conceivable that the same professor supplies questions for two different fields.

A laptop computer without Wi-Fi access and a USB storage device are supplied by the department. For the oral exam, the candidate has 48 hours to prepare a 20-minute exposé. All members of the examination committee participate in the oral exam, and the last 20 minutes are for questions and answers.

Important Things to Remember

All candidates must consult the French literature graduate adviser, Dr. Carmen Mayer, about the specific organization and scheduling of the written and oral exams. She will contact the appropriate professors to obtain questions, and proctor the exams.

A candidate completing and defending a thesis in the literature track must schedule the defense in such a way that it does not conflict with the comprehensive exams and so that submission of results to the Graduate School can occur by the deadline. Graduate School deadlines for exam and thesis results are generally end of October during the fall semester, and mid-March during the spring semester.