A. General Information
A comprehensive examination is required of all candidates for the Master of Arts
in Anthropology. The exams may be taken by students in good standing (minimum GPA
3.0) after completing all required core and track courses or in the term when the
last required courses are taken. Comprehensives may be taken before, during, or after
completion of the practicum. The exam consists of three portions: general (core) writtens,
concentration (track specific) writtens, and orals. Each written exam normally contains
four questions. Candidates are expected to demonstrate excellence in performance throughout
all portions of the exam.
Each candidate must finalize his/her final committee by the beginning of the semester
in which comprehensives are taken. The committee consists of at least three individuals,
including a chair. Candidates should select a committee in consultation with their
chair, and must directly request each member’s participation and obtain their written
consent to serve. Committee members should have Graduate Faculty status or its equivalent
(e.g., comparable professional experience). MA candidates must inform the advising
committee chair of his/her intention to take comprehensives at the start of the semester.
The committee chair will compile the written exam, in consultation with the candidate.
Normally, exam topics emerge from the candidate’s core and tracks.
Comprehensives are held twice during each academic year: once in the fall and once
in the spring. The Department faculty sets exam schedules at the beginning of each
semester. Written examinations are held over a two-day period. The oral examination
takes place on the third day.
B. Written Examination
Written exam topics are to be planned out in consultation with the committee chair
at the start of the semester. As soon as topics are selected, candidates should meet
with each person who will pose a written exam question to request study questions
and advice on preparing for the exam. However, faculty is not required to provide
The examination on general (core) material is administered on day one. Questions on
the concentration(s) are administered on day two. Exams are four hours in length each
day. Normally, exams are held from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. and are typically held on consecutive
days. Candidates who arrive late will not receive additional time to complete the
Candidates are expected to prepare typed exam essays on computers, although select
answers or portions of answers (e.g., statistical calculations, maps or illustrations)
may be written in longhand. Requests to complete essays in longhand must be approved
in advance by the committee chair. Candidates must secure an active Tigerlan account
in advance of exams. Computers will be screened and randomly assigned for exams.
The Manning computer lab will be reserved for writtens. Unauthorized individuals may
not enter the lab during exams. Academic misconduct of any form is not tolerated.
Candidates may bring a wristwatch to keep track during the exam and should bring any
required and permitted aids (e.g., formula sheets, calculator, tables). Books, articles,
practice essays and similar materials are forbidden. Cell phones, pagers, and similar
items must remain off. No food or beverages can be consumed in the lab, though students
may bring essential items (e.g., prescription medication, food) and take breaks as
needed. However, candidates must remain near the lab at all times; all conversation
Each candidate will be provided with a blank computer disk for saving exam answers
and blank paper for composing handwritten answers to portions of the exam, if necessary.
Before composing essays, candidates should create and save a file on the disk under
their surname and should print their name and identify the course/topic on all handwritten
work. It is advisable to begin each essay on a new page with the title of the course/topic.
It is acceptable, but not necessary, to save each answer under a different file heading.
It is also helpful to paginate and to create a running header by surname, but neither
is required. It is advisable to correct spelling and grammar only after all questions
have been completed if time permits. Candidates are urged to save files regularly.
A faculty supervisor will assign candidates to computers, distribute exam packets,
and proctor the exam. The proctor will announce when the exam period has ended. All
candidates must stop writing when informed that the exam period has expired. Should
a problem arise, contact the main office (x2080) or exam proctor.
All written exam essays are graded by each of the advisory committee members and by
the person who posed the question (if not a committee member); results are tabulated,
and each essay receives an overall grade. Overall performance on the whole of the
written exams must be acceptable to the advisory committee (not more than one dissenting
vote is allowed).
C. Oral Examination
The oral exam is used to address any apparent deficiencies in the candidate’s writtens
and to discuss and evaluate their practicum. Orals are scheduled by the faculty to
follow soon after completion of the written exams. Typically, orals are one hour in
length and do not include a break. Candidates may bring support materials (e.g., a
draft practicum report). Any faculty member may read any written exam or attend any
oral. Unauthorized individuals may not attend the exam.
Normally, orals are moderated by the candidate’s committee chair. During the oral,
committee members may ask any question deemed appropriate. Typically, questions focus
on the candidate’s written exam responses and practicum. Overall performance on the
whole of the oral exam must be acceptable to the advisory committee (not more than
one dissenting vote is allowed). Upon conclusion of the oral, the committee will inform
the candidate of their grade on all three portions of the comprehensives (Days 1 and
2 of the writtens and the oral exam). This will conclude the comprehensive examination.
All comprehensive exam results (pass or fail) are reported immediately and in writing
to the Graduate School. Students who fail the examination may retake comprehensive
exams the following semester, at the discretion of the advising committee.