General Examination for Ph.D. Students
Literary and Cultural Studies and Composition/Rhetoric/Literacy
The General Examination is the culmination of the student's coursework and his or
her general preparation for doctoral work, before admission to doctoral
candidacy. It should therefore test:
(a) the overall knowledge of his or her chosen Primary and Secondary Fields which the
student has acquired through coursework and independent preparation; and
(b) his or her skills as a researcher, scholar, and critic in Literary and Cultural
Studies or Composition/Rhetoric/Literacy.
The student's overall knowledge of his or her chosen Primary and Secondary Fields should
be tested for its historical, generic, thematic, and critical depth and breadth.
The General Examination should be designed, administered, and evaluated by the student's
committee. The fifth (outside) member may or may not be involved, along with the first
four members, in setting and reading the written component; but all five members must
be present for theoral component. The General Examination will have a written component
and an oral component. The Examination should preferably be taken in the semester
immediately after the one in which coursework is completed, and no later than the third
semester after completion of coursework. The written and oral components must be taken
in the same semester.
Students must file their Advisory Conference Report (ACR) with the Graduate College in
the semester before they sit for the General Exams; they must also file the General
Exam Application for the Doctoral Dissertation at least ten days before the written
portion of the exams. The forms and deadlines can be found
the Graduate College’s website.
The written component will have two parts: (a) Part One based on a reading list of at
least 50 items in the Primary Field; (b) Part Two based on a reading list of at least 30
items in the Secondary Field. Both parts may also call for at least 25 items in
Literary Criticism and Theory.
Specifically, doctoral candidates draft three exam questions for the Primary Field and
two questions for the Secondary Field and submit them to their Committee. These
questions should exhaust the materials on the reading lists, but they need not necessarily
"cover" the whole list. Students will still be responsible for books not discussed in
the written exams during their orals.
When the Committee approves final versions of the questions, the exam must be taken no
more than 30 days later. The Committee will choose one question from each set of exam
questions (Primary and Secondary) for the exam. The two parts of the written component
will be presented to the student at 8am on a workday morning and the written answers
to their questions shall be returned to the Graduate Office at or before 5pm on a
workday four consecutive days following the day the exam was received (for a total of
5 consecutive days).
Ph.D. General Exam Schedule
Receive exam at 8:00 AM on:
Turn in exam by 5:00 PM on:
The oral component should be about 2 hours long and should focus on the reading lists
for the Primary and Secondary Fields. The oral component will provide an opportunity
for both the student and the Committee to review, analyze, contextualize, and supplement
the written component. Students should expect to be questioned on items from their
reading lists not alluded to in the written component of the exam. Ability to demonstrate
to the Committee familiarity and comprehension of the works on the reading lists is
expected for the successful completion of the oral component.
While a student is preparing for the General Examination, he or she should register for
Directed Readings credit with the Chair of his or her Committee (maximum 6 credit hours
allowed for this purpose). The General Examination should be graded Fail, Pass, or Pass
with Distinction. Only two attempts will be allowed, with a maximum interval of two
semesters between them.
Literary and Cultural Studies
Composition, Rhetoric and Literacy
Area of Concentration |
Ph.D. Advisement |
Foreign Language Requirement |
General Examination |