Past exams

Here you can find reading lists for the past five years, along with a sample exam from a previous year.

Click here.

Reading List

These are the readings for the current exam. Remember that you MUST purchase the precise edition given here. These are the only books you will be allowed to bring with you on the day of the exam.


Graduate School Forms

Forms for international students, certification, registration and requests for travel and other activities.

Click here for the complete list.

Independent study

The link here will open a pdf form to apply for a Graduate/Independent Study opportunity.

Click here.

Graduation Information for graduate students

Find out details of applying to graduate, along with a checklist and dates and deadlines.

Click here.


The following contains the information graduate students should look over if they are looking to be reimbursed for travel.

MA Comprehensive Exam

Format Revision

In Spring 2010, the graduate faculty revised both the format and process for administering our MA comprehensive exam in order to help the exam to meet programmatic goals and bolster the integrity of the process. Below are the goals for the exam and the information that you need to know regarding the reading list and the exam format.

Goals for the MA comprehensive exam

Our exam is designed to allow students to demonstrate that they can do the following:

  • Place and examine texts within theoretical, critical, historical, and/or biographical contexts
  • Connect ideas gleaned from multiple courses
  • Write clearly and insightfully in response to questions about texts from various genres

The reading list, when it is posted, and who grades it

Faculty who are scheduled to teach a graduate course in the subsequent year will submit a text for consideration to the Graduate Committee by January 31. This will help us to connect the texts on the exam to the courses that are being taught in the same academic year.

ENG 561 students discuss "Mad Men" for Dr. Tiffany Gilbert's class. - Photo by Rory LavertyThe Graduate Committee will select five texts for inclusion on the reading list, and the Graduate Coordinator will post the list during the third week of February.

For each of the two administrations of the exam during the academic year, the Graduate Coordinator will select three of the five texts at random. A committee of three graduate faculty will write questions for the exam and will serve on the grading committee.


Students should elect to take the exam in either the Fall or Spring semester. The exam will be four hours given in a computer classroom on campus and proctored by the Graduate Coordinator. In the Fall semester, the exam will be given on the third Friday afternoon in September. In the Spring semester, the exam will be administered on the first Friday afternoon in February.

Students must answer all three questions; therefore, students should study all five books on the reading list. Students will sign an honor code pledge prior to taking the exam. They will be allowed to bring the editions of the texts recommended on the reading list with them to the exam. The texts can be annotated, but no external notes or papers will be allowed. Students will be expected to include appropriate but brief direct quotations from the texts in their answers and cite those quotations in the text correctly according to MLA guidelines.


Students should read and study all five books on the reading list. The exam questions will prompt students to contextualize the texts by demonstrating an awareness of their historical, theoretical, critical, and/or biographical contexts.

Students should prepare to answer the questions on the exam by reading casebooks, critical editions, and/or scholarship about the texts. In addition, doing some reading about the period in which the text is written will also be useful. Students might consult the historical introductions in standard anthologies for this purpose

Final Results

The three essays are graded Pass/Fail by the examination committee, with a consensus of two members needed for a decision. Grading is done anonymously, with student names removed from papers. Students will be informed in writing by the Graduate Coordinator about whether or not they have passed the examination. In accordance with Graduate School policy, a student who does not pass must wait until the next semester before retaking the examination. No student may take the exam a third time without permission of the Graduate Coordinator, the Department Chair, and the Dean of the Graduate School.

Unless there are charges of racial, sexual, or other forms of discrimination, or charges of improper procedures, which allegedly have led to a failed examination, students may not appeal until they have retaken the exam. Appeals made after a second failure of the examination will be handled in keeping with policies established by the Graduate Council and approved by the Dean of the Graduate School and the Provost

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