Literary and Cultural Studies MA Exam

The MA exam in Literature is a four-hour long, proctored exam given twice a year, once in the Fall and once in the Spring. All students must successfully pass the exam before receiving the MA.
Note: Students admitted directly to the PhD program but who do not hold an MA in Literature are also required to pass the MA exam, typically by the fourth semester of study.

The exam consists of two sections:

1) Students identify and define a set of literary terms (usually about 10-12) and give examples of those terms. These terms come from a list of literary terms provided to students in ENGL 7000.
2) Students must write two essays. Each essay is concerned with a single focus area. The individual student is responsible for informing the Coordinator of the Literature Concentration which two focus areas he or she wants to be tested in at least three weeks before the exam. The students chose two out of the following seven focus areas:

  • British Literature to 1798
  • British Literature from 1798
  • American Literature to 1865
  • American Literature from 1865
  • African-American Literature
  • Theory and Cultural Studies
  • Poetry and Poetics

For each of the essay sections on the exam, students will be given a choice of two questions from which they will select one to answer.

The Coordinator of the Literature Concentration will provide students with lists of texts on each focus area—prepared by specialists of those focus areas— for which students will be responsible. The lists will be composed of approximately 30 texts (25 primary and 5 secondary). Students may choose to discuss other texts on the MA exam, but they will be expected at the very least to have a thorough knowledge and understanding of those on the list.

Exams are scheduled to take place before the middle of each semester (usually around week 6). Within the first two weeks of each semester, the Coordinator of the Literature Concentration will arrange a meeting with all students planning to take the exam that semester. At the meeting the Coordinator will ask each student which two focus areas she wishes to be examined in, describe the details of the exam, answer any questions that students have, and announce the date, time, and place of the exam.