The Comprehensive Exam is an essay exam which all students must take and pass in the time between the penultimate and ultimate semesters in the program. All students preparing to enter their final semester and hoping to take their ENGL 599 Master’s Thesis Tutorial must pass the Comp Exam in order to do so. The Comp Exam therefore functions as a gateway to the final semester.
So how do you take the exam? Upon completing your penultimate semester, contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and request the Comp Exam. I will then send you the exam instructions as an attachment. You then have ten days in which to open the attachment and respond to its instructions. There’s no big secret here: the exam asks you to write two essay responses to your choice of a list of topic questions. The questions are phrased in a way where you can apply anything you’ve studied in the program to your answer. Students don’t always read the same exact materials over the course of the program and this is taken into account in the phrasing of the questions. The questions don’t exactly “test” you as much as they give you a platform to really show us what you know and how you think.
Though you have a ten day window in which to administer the exam to yourself, the exam itself only allows four hours. This gives you time to write two brief essays that show what you know. The exam is administered on the honor system: we trust students on their honor to adhere to the four hour limit, and to keep the questions confidential. The essay responses must be returned within ten days at which point the Director assesses them.
Anyone getting close to the end of the MA program needs to start thinking about the ENGL 599 Master’s Thesis Tutorial. Let’s look at some basic points about what it is, what you have to do to enroll in it, and what you do once in it:
- The course is a three credit course and is a requirement for the 30 credit MA degree.
- The course is always taken during whatever you intend to be your final semester in the program.
- The course is actually a one-on-one tutorial between one student and one professor, during which the student must write one 25 page thesis paper on a topic of her or his choice operating under the guidance of the mentor.
- To pass your course your thesis paper must receive final approval from your mentor and from a second reader, appointed by your mentor. Both the mentor and second reader might request or require revisions to your thesis paper during the course of the seminar semester.
- You enroll in 599 using a different process than for any other course in the MA program:
- First, during the semester prior to your final semester, think up a general topic or idea for your thesis and write it down. Your thesis topic can be based on a paper written for another course earlier in the program; you can even use that paper as the first draft for your thesis paper.
- Contact any professor in the program and ask the professor if he or she would be your Thesis Tutorial mentor. Include your general topic idea with your request. If s/he says yes, you will then work up a more formal thesis proposal with that mentor; If your selected professor cannot mentor you, you can either ask another professor or can contact me and I will assign you to a mentor.
- In the meantime, be aware that all students must take and pass the program’s Comprehensive Exam in the time between the penultimate and ultimate semester in the program. So while you’re developing your thesis proposal with your mentor, also start thinking about the Comp Exam which you must request from the Director upon completing your penultimate semester. Students must complete their Comp Exam before beginning their 599. Those taking 599 in the summer or fall can request the exam when the spring semester ends; those taking 599 in the spring can request the exam when the fall semester ends. The program director typically keeps track of these things and sends out the comp exams to students about to take 599; but own your education, and be responsible for your timing: it is ultimately your responsibility to request the exam of the Director at the correct time.
- Once you have developed a formal thesis proposal under the mentor’s guidance, and once the mentor deems it acceptable, the mentor will contact me and I will automatically enroll you in a 599 course with the mentor as professor. It is therefore impossible to be “closed out” of a 599 as each is opened on an individual basis. The only way a student who needs to be in 599 Thesis Tutorial might not get into one is if the student doesn’t do these four steps in a timely enough fashion to have this all settled by the start of the final semester. So plan ahead. As always, contact me directly if you have any questions about any of this.