M.A. Comprehensive Examination

All M.A. candidates must take an oral comprehensive examination, which normally lasts 1-2 hours, and may include questions about anything that they covered in their course work (for those in the online M.A. program, the examination may be written rather than oral). The scope of the examination includes knowledge of particular courses as well as the larger historiographical issues. Ordinarily the examination takes place in the last few weeks of the student's final semester in the program, and never before the semester in which the student's course work and/or thesis are being completed.

1.  Prepare for the comprehensive exam from the beginning of your studies. In every graduate class, you should prepare a written electronic document or series of documents summarizing and analyzing the important issues, scholarly debates, important books and articles, and other field-specific concerns, which you can later use in studying for your comprehensive exam.

2.  Form an examination committee no later than the beginning of the semester in which you intend to graduate. Consult with the Director of Graduate Studies and other faculty concerning the membership of this committee. The chair of a M.A. Comprehensive Committee must have at least Associate Graduate Faculty status. This committee normally consists of three faculty members, although your advisors may recommend up to five. Not all committee members should be from the same concentration (U.S., European, etc.).

3.  Provide each member of the committee with a complete list of courses taken, books and articles read, and papers written. With each committee member, you should develop a list of questions for which you should specifically prepare. Although the examiners will begin with some of these questions, they will also ask follow-up questions and may ask about other topics that you have studied in your classes. You will be expected to demonstrate not merely factual knowledge but an understanding and an ability to think about the historiography of each field and the major questions animating it.

4.  The committee may judge the student to (1) pass with distinction with a recommendation for Ph.D. work, (2) pass, or (3) fail. Since the official form lists only pass and fail as options, you should remind the committee ahead of time of the third option, especially if you want to continue for the Ph.D., and ask that they note that you passed with distinction in handwriting on the exam form if they support your continuance. A unanimous vote is required to pass or pass with distinction.

In the event of failure, the committee will adopt one of the following: (1) permit the student to take a written or oral examination within the same semester (if the student satisfactorily completes this option, the original failure will not be recorded on the permanent record; if not the student will be able to take the exam again under option 2), or (2) permit the student to take a written or oral examination the following semester. Any student who fails to complete the second examination satisfactorily will be dropped from the department's graduate program. Results of the comprehensive examination must be reported to the Graduate School, with copies to the Department of History and the Director of Graduate Studies. You can get this form at http://www.memphis.edu/gradschool/pdfs/forms/compexamresults.pdf.