PhD Exam

Graduate

Examinations for the PhD Degree in French Language and Literature

Candidates must take written comprehensive examinations. These examinations normally should be passed at least eight months (two terms) before the degree is to be awarded. Students may present themselves for the examinations only after passing all preliminary examinations and language and other requirements, except for courses that are currently being taken.
The University has established a statute of limitations of ten years from the student’s initial registration for graduate study or eight years from the initial registration for students holding an M.A. degree.

Preliminary Examination/Evaluation

In accordance with Graduate School policy, students in the PhD program will undergo a preliminary evaluation by the end of the first year of full residence. The purpose of this evaluation is to identify those students who may be expected to complete a doctoral program successfully, and also to identify deficiencies in the students' preparation. To satisfy this requirement, graduate students in French will meet with their adviser early in the second term of residence for an evaluation of the record of performance in their first term on the basis of grades and reports from the students' instructors.

Explication De Texte

Before taking their comprehensive examinations, PhD students must present an oral explication de texte in French before a jury comprised of members of the faculty. The student and the chair of the comprehensive examination committee (see “c” below) will agree on a work, or on a series of works, from which the texte will be taken. The student will receive the text 48 hours before the presentation is to take place. The student will be allowed to bring to the presentation the book from which the passage is excerpted as well as his/her notes, but will not be allowed to read his/her presentation. This presentation should be done in French and should last about 30 minutes after which questions will be asked. If the explication is not satisfactory, the student may repeat the exercise once.

Please consult the edited volume Explication de texte (ed. Jean Sareil) while preparing for this exam. The text is available in the department.

Comprehensive Examinations for the PhD in French Language and Literature.

The PhD comprehensive examinations ensure that the candidate is able to develop a scholarly and original approach to the study of French or Francophone literature and culture in a given period. The exams are also designed to help students acquire the knowledge and skills necessary for teaching in a college or university environment by addressing periods outside the area of specialization and by creating a balance between general and specialized topics. They are meant to serve as a bridge between the more general MA examination and the research project, which will result in the dissertation. After completing these exams, students write a dissertation prospectus.

The PhD exam sequence consists of two different exams, one of which is written in French and the other in English. (It is recommended that the second exam be written in the language of the dissertation.) The exam structure allows the student to articulate and explore a series of related topics or questions 1) across relevant historical periods and 2) in a more closely defined period related to the dissertation. In this way, the sequencing of the exams enables the student to progress through research and reflection necessary to the preparation of the dissertation prospectus and to receive formative feedback from faculty at different moments in the process.

Exam 1             Problem with Historical Coverage
This exam consists of a question, topic, or genre studied across at least three periods of French and Francophone literature and film. Students will define their topic and historical periods in consultation with the exam advisor and committee. Historical periods need not be contiguous or of equal scope, but should be determined in accordance with the topic. The focus of this exam should not be on the area of specialization, although texts from the period of specialization may be included if appropriate.

Students will take Exam 1 at the end of their third year of the PhD program, in May (end of year 2 for students entering the program with an MA). A reading list of 30-40 titles (including at least 5 critical or theoretical sources) and a 1-2-page description of the question to be studied must be submitted to the exam committee by the first week of spring semester of Year 3. (Students may have until the week after spring break to submit a revised exam description, if necessary.) This statement presents the topic, genre, or question explored in this exam and explains the choice of historical coverage. It also informs the composition of the exam essay questions.
The exam consists of a 48-hour take-home (open-book) exam; students will have a choice of one out of two essay questions and should write between 10 and 20 typed, double-spaced pages. Students must take the exam during the first two weeks in May and must schedule the exam with the exam committee and grad secretary no later than one full month before the date of the exam.

Exam 2             Problem in Period of Specialization
In this exam, the student will develop, refine, or explore a new aspect of the topic defined in the first exam in the context of the projected area of specialization of the dissertation. After the historical coverage of the first exam, the second exam allows students to deepen their engagement with a particular question or problem and expand their knowledge of key titles in their chosen area of specialization.

Students will take Exam 2 at the beginning of their fourth year in the PhD program, in September (beginning of year 3, for students entering the program with an MA). The exam consists of a 48-hour take-home (open-book) exam; students will have a choice of one out of two essay questions and should write between 10 and 20 typed, double-spaced pages. A final version of the exam reading list (25-30 titles, including 5 critical or theoretical sources) and 1-2-page description of the question to be studied must be submitted to the exam committee by June 30. (If a revised exam statement is necessary, it should be submitted by July 20.)

The written portion of the exam, to be taken no later than the first week of September, will be followed by an oral exam in French or English scheduled within two weeks of the written exam and conducted by the student’s examination committee. During the oral exam, the student will answer questions on the written exam and reading list, discuss the development of the problematic across the exams, and present plans for the dissertation prospectus. Students will receive feedback on their exams and on the conception and planning of the dissertation prospectus.

PhD Comprehensive Exam Timetable (PhD w/ MA en route)
(For PhD only: timeline begins at Year 1)

Year 2/Summer
(PhD only: Year 1/Summer)    

  • Determine Exam 1 committee (3-4 faculty members including exam advisor) and choose exam advisor. The Exam 1 advisor does not have to be your dissertation advisor. Exam advisor and committee must be agreed upon and reported to the DGS and grad secretary by May 31.
  • Begin work on reading list for Exam 1.

Year 3/Fall
(PhD only: Year 2/Fall)            

  • Finalize reading list for Exam 1; work on exam problematic

Year 3/Spring
(PhD only: Year 2/Spring)       

  • Submit final version of reading list and exam statement to exam committee and grad secretary by end of first week of spring semester [students may have until the week after spring break  to submit a revised exam description, if necessary].       
  • Prepare for Exam 1 (register for PhD comp credits).
  • Schedule Exam 1 with exam committee and grad secretary no later than one month before projected exam date.
  • Make contact with Exam 2 advisor (in most cases, this person will become your dissertation advisor); discuss make-up of Exam 2 committee (3 faculty members, including exam advisor) and topic.      

Year 3/Summer                      

  • Take Exam 1 during the first two weeks of May.       

(PhD only: Year 2/Summer)    

  • Submit final version of Exam 2 reading list and statement of problematic to Exam 2 committee and grad secretary by June 30 [students may have until July 20 to submit a revised exam description, if necessary].
  • Prepare for Exam 2.
  • Schedule written section of Exam 2 with exam committee and grad secretary no later than one month before exam date.

Year 4/Fall
(PhD only: Year 3/Fall)            

  • Take written part of Exam 2 during the first week of September, at the latest.
  • Take oral part of Exam 2, to be scheduled within two weeks of written exam.
  • Write dissertation prospectus (prospectus defense at the end of fall semester).

Makeup of PhD Comprehensive Exam Committees

Exam 1: The student will ask a faculty member in a specialization pertaining to the field of their exam to chair the Exam 1 committee. The exam committee chair must be a member of the French graduate faculty; he/she may be, but is not required to be, the student’s prospective dissertation advisor. The student, with the approval of the committee chair, will ask at least two other members of the faculty to serve on the exam committee. This committee, composed of at least three members, will guide the student in the preparation of a reading list and problematic and will also supervise the administration of the written examinations. This committee will evaluate the examinations along with other specialists who will be called upon as deemed appropriate by the faculty member chairing the committee.

Exam 2: The student will ask a faculty member in their intended field of specialization to chair the Exam 2 committee and to serve as their dissertation director. The exam committee chair must be a member of the French graduate faculty. The student, with the approval of the committee chair, will ask at least two other members of the faculty to serve on the exam committee. This committee, composed of at least three members, will guide the student in the preparation of a reading list and problematic and will also supervise the administration of the written examinations. This committee will evaluate the examinations along with other specialists who will be called upon as deemed appropriate by the faculty member chairing the committee.

Evaluation of PhD Comprehensive Exams

Exam 1: Students will receive individual written comments and a common exam grade from the exam committee within 2 weeks of the exam date. The exam is graded as Fail, Pass, or Honors, with +/- grades possible.
                    
Exam 2: Students will receive a common exam grade for the written and oral sections of the exam (same grading rubric as Exam 1). Feedback on both parts of the exam will be given at the time of the oral examination.

Students must pass both parts (Exams 1 and 2) of the PhD comprehensive exams in order to proceed to the prospectus. A student who fails an exam may be permitted to retake the exam once according to a schedule determined by the exam advisor and committee, but no later than 3 months after the original examination.