Literature Program

Comprehensive Examination

The MA Comprehensive Examination is a written exam of three hours in duration which is designed to assess graduating MA-Literature students’ broad knowledge of literary form, literary history, and literary criticism and theory. Rather than undertaking an encyclopedic survey divorced from the community of the graduate classroom, students demonstrate their comprehensive grasp of literary study by building upon the content of the courses they have taken.

Each examinee constructs a personalized description of his/her UA English graduate coursework and graduate papers, both completed and in-process.  Under the oversight of the MA Comps Committee, composed of three members of the department’s graduate faculty, the candidate then proposes a set of four examination questions based upon this individualized set of graduate experiences.  Each question should build upon the set of readings and critical approaches featured in a course, while at the same time advertising the student’s mastery of the broader literary-historical, generic, and/or theoretical subfield(s) under which that course falls.

Students will have three hours to answer two of their original four questions. Exams will be closed book and closed note.

Once the exam is completed, the MA Comps Committee will read the responses, talk collectively about them, and then, on the basis of consensus whenever possible, and on the basis of a majority if consensus is unreachable, assign the examinee a final grade of Distinction, Pass, or Fail.

The following pages provide much more detailed information about the Comps: