Exams

First-Year Exam

All incoming graduate students will be provided with a reading list at the start of the summer before the beginning of the academic year. This reading list is comprised of texts that the department believes to be significant in forming modern anthropological thought. We request that the students begin reading over the summer and throughout the first year.

A three-hour sit-down exam will be administered in March after Spring Break. For this exam, students will write essays in response to the questions. The essays will identify and discuss relevant themes of interest from the readings.

A faculty committee will evaluate the essays. If the committee deems it necessary, the student may have to retake the exam in early May. If the second effort is unsatisfactory, the committee will evaluate the student’s overall progress before making a final decision as to whether the student can continue in the program.

Comprehensive Examination

Students will typically take their comprehensive examinations in the spring semester of the third year after completion of coursework. The major requirement for this is the preparation of two synthetic essays: the first on a conceptual issue, and the second on a region.

Students should begin to conduct bibliographic searches for these essays in the first year and hold consultations with all members of the faculty as they develop these essays. The final essays should be between 25 and 30 pages in length, and should demonstrate the student’s mastery over the major debates in their chosen fields.

Papers published in the Annual Review of Anthropology provide an example of the kind of essays students are expected to write.

Students are also required to defend their dissertation research proposals at the time of the comprehensive exam.

Each student is responsible for establishing a three-member committee of the faculty (one of whom should be requested to act as chair) who will examine the student on the essays and conduct a viva voce examination. In some cases, this committee could include one member of the faculty from outside the Department of Anthropology. The names of the committee members should be communicated to the graduate program coordinator by the end of the second year.

While the committee will conduct the examination, the essays must be read and approved by all members of the faculty. Students must circulate their essays to all faculty members at least four weeks before the date of examination, and incorporate or otherwise address the faculty’s suggestions in making revisions.

The final essays must be submitted to the examination committee two weeks before the scheduled exam. Students will be awarded the MA degree on passing the comprehensive examination.

Most students will receive ABD (All But Dissertation) status upon successful completion of the comprehensive examination, and may proceed to their dissertation research. In exceptional circumstances, the department may decide that the student cannot proceed to dissertation research, or there may be personal circumstances in which a student may wish to discontinue after receipt of the MA degree.