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Instructions For English MA Examination Committee Chairs

English Master of Arts Program

Instructions For English MA Examination Committee Chairs

1. Confirm that the Candidate has Completed the Necessary Milestones

At the beginning of the student's final (fourth) semester, review the Degree Checklist for Semesters Three and Four to confirm that the MA student is on schedule to complete the steps and milestones necessary for scheduling and conducting the Comprehensive Exam. Major milestones include 

  1. The certification of fulfilling the language requirement (if applicable to the student's program emphasis) must be on file with the DGS, who submits it to the Graduate School.    Certification of language proficiency is to be completed by the middle of the semester before the term in which the examination is taken.  See the page Language Requirement for details;
  2. Both Plan B projects must be officially accepted and filed in the English office before the exam can be scheduled by the fifth week of the semester in which the exam is taken; the chair should inform the other committee members that the Plan Bs are available in the English office or their information;
  3. Graduate Degree Plan: An up-to-date, signed Graduate Degree Plan has been filed with the DGS, who submits it to the Graduate School
  4. Master Reading List: The Master Reading List Document (comprising all the reading lists worked out with each committee member for each section of the Written Portion) list must be approved by the Committee Chair and distributed to all committee members at least four weeks before the examination.

2. Make Sure the Candidate has Downloaded the Graduation Packet and Submitted the Forms for Graduation 

Make sure that the MA candidate downloads the Graduation Packet from the UMD Graduate Office, which contains both the “Application for Degree” form and the Examination Report that the committee will sign at the end of the Oral Portion of the Exam.  Ensure that the candidate has completed and submitted the Application for Degree form by the deadline listed on the Degree Checklist.

If the candidate plans to participate in the spring graduate commencement ceremony, the relevant commencement forms must be filed by the deadline listed on the Degree Checklist. If the candidate has deviated from his or her “Degree Program Form” the candidate should petition to have the changes officially approved. 

Ask the candidate to print and give you a copy of the Examination Report that is included in the downloaded Graduation PacketSave this form for the committee members to sign at the end of the Oral Portion of the Exam. 

3. Schedule the Written and Oral Portions of the Comprehensive Exam

Contact the candidate's committee members about scheduling the written and oral portions of the exam in consultation with the candidate. Because things get so hectic toward the end of the semester, work on scheduling early in the term. The Oral component is obviously the most important, because the candidate and all committee members must have at least an hour and a half free at the same time (one hour for the exam proper and a half hour for committee deliberations).

Have the English secretary reserve a room for the oral exam (e.g., a seminar room, CLA conference room [Kirby Plaza 302]). Customarily, the candidate uses the office and computer of the committee chair when taking the written exams. If this is impossible, consult the English MA Program's Administrative Specialist for an alternative arrangement.

The timing of the Written and Oral Portions of the Comprehensive Exam must follow these guidelines:

The written portions of the exam will be taken on two consecutive working days beginning on Monday of the twelfth week and concluding by Friday on the thirteenth week of the semester. (Note that Spring Break is not counted as a week)

All written portions of the exam must be completed no later than Friday of the thirteenth week.

The oral component of the exam is given on the fourth working day after completion of the written portion. This means that no oral will be taken before Monday of the thirteenth week or later than Thursday of the fourteenth week.

When the Written and Oral portions of the exam are scheduled, notify the DGS of the schedule and to confirm the committee members. 

4. Ask the Committee Members for Exam Questions

Solicit examination questions from the committee members. There should be “some choice of questions” for each section of the Written portion (based on each reading list). That is, a committee member might submit two or three questions from which the candidate will select one to answer during that hour-long section. Remind committee members how much time the candidate will be spending on their part of the exam: two hours for the primary/secondary text portion, one hour for the related field, and three hours for the three reading list. 

5. Arrange for a Place and a Computer for the Candidate to Take the Written Portion

Make arrangements for where the candidate will write the exam over 2 three-hour blocks on two consecutive working days, and what computer will be used.  If using your own office is problematic because of timing, consult with the MA Program's Administrative Specialist to arrange for a different room: perhaps an vacant faculty office (with permission) or a conference room.  You can also consider reserving a study room at the UMD Library. 

Consider reserving from ITSS a laptop for the candidate to write on to ensure privacy for you and a clutter-free work space for the candidate.  Disable the computer's WIFI to discourage online searches.

6. Compose the Written Exam

When you receive the questions from the committee members, put the examination together and print it.

In consultation with the candidate, decide which portions will be done on what days. Usually the primary/secondary text (2 hours) and one of the reading lists (1 hour) are done on Day One.  The other 2 one-hour reading-list sections are usually done on Day Two with the final hour spent on the related field, minor, or synthetic section (depending on the emphasis and student).  The order of parts does not matter, however.

7. Conduct the Written Portion of the Exam (2 Days)

On the days of the written exams, get the candidate settled at a computer and give her/him the portion for that day.

For the primary/secondary text section, the candidate may use the text itself and notes on the secondary materials.

Unless the committee has decided otherwise, the candidate should not use books or notes during the reading list(s) or related-field/minor/synthetic portions.

Give the candidate a printed copy of the the questions and the candidate’s own responses immediately after he or she finishes these portions of the exam. Remind the candidate to bring these materials to the oral examination.

8. Oversee the Committee's Evaluation of the Written Portion (2 Working Days)

As soon as the written examination is completed, give each committee member (by email or on paper) a copy of all questions and responses, along with the FileEvaluation Form. (Ensure privacy by putting any hard copy materials in an envelope before placing them in faculty mailboxes.)  Be sure to email the Evaluation Form to members to fill out. 

Within two working days of the completion of the written examination, each examiner will read the examination and file a brief written report to the committee chair using the FileEvaluation Form. If two or more examiners provide reasons why the student should not proceed to the Oral Portion, the examining committee must decide whether to approve the student's taking the Oral Portion; if this approval is denied, the student is judged to have failed the exam.

Candidates who are not approved to go forward to the Oral Portion of the Exam must be notified by the committee chair as soon as possible. In giving notification of failure of the Written Portion, the committee chair will offer to discuss the exam with the student, taking into account the committee members' explanatory comments.

The committee has the option to offer the student an opportunity to retake the Written Portion of the Comprehensive Exam during a later semester. 

9. Conduct the Oral Portion of the Exam (4 Working Days after Completion of the Written Portion)

The Oral Portion of the Exam will take place on the fourth working day after completion of the Written Exam portion. The four faculty members who prepared and graded the student's written examination will conduct the oral examination.

Oral examinations will normally last for one hour, during which each examiner will have an opportunity to question the candidate. At the beginning of the Oral Portion, candidates will be allowed approximately five minutes to comment upon their own written examinations.

The chair of the committee, in consultation with the candidate, will determine the sequence in which examiners ask their questions in the Oral Portion. Examiners will restrict their questions during the Oral largely to the fields, subjects, and readings on which they contributed questions for the written examination.

At the conclusion of the oral examination, the candidate will be asked to leave the room so that the examiners can deliberate briefly and in private about its outcome and their recommendations. Each committee member will report his/her evaluation (Pass or Fail) of the overall exam (i.e., the combined Written and Oral Portions). Candidates must earn passing evaluations from a majority of the committee members with the committee chair breaking any ties.  The candidate must be informed immediately thereafter about the results of the examination. 

At its discretion, a committee may designate an exceptionally strong exam as a "High Pass." A student who receives a "High Pass" on the exam will be notified in writing by the Director of Graduate Studies.

When the Oral Portion of the examination is completed, have all committee members sign the “Examination Report” (which the candidate downloaded  make copies for yourself and the DGS, then submit the original to the UMD Graduate Office.

Give one copy of the written examination and the candidate’s responses to the English MA Administrative Specialist for official filing.

In the case of a candidate failing the Exam after the Oral Portion, the committee chair will offer to discuss the exam with a student, taking into account the explanatory comments made by committee members on the report form and in deliberations immediately following the Oral.

Please see the DGS with any questions or concerns about these procedures.