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Exam Preparation

Graduate students in the History Department generally follow one of two degree tracks: the MA/PhD track or PhD track. Students on the MA/PhD track can expect to take the MA Exam during the last semester of course work and the Portfolio Exam approximately six months later. Students on the PhD track who either already have an MA or wish to skip the MA can expect to take the Portfolio Exam the semester following the completion of course work. Note these are general timelines. Students should always consult with their primary advisor regarding graduate exams.

Below you will find the basics of the MA Exam and Portfolio Exam along with some helpful tips for studying. Students should always begin their exam preparation by reading the appropriate sections and reviewing the exam rubrics in the Graduate Student Handbook.

Basics of the MA Exam

  • Oral exam lasting approximately 90 minutes;
  • Covers major field, minor fields, and research papers;
  • Committee consists of at least three graduate faculty members, one of which must be your primary advisor, and one other must be a History Department professor;
  • Student sets date and time in coordination with committee members;
  • Student notifies Graduate Administrator at least four weeks before agreed upon date;
  • Graduate Administrator files "Progress to Degree" form with Office of Graduate Studies and schedules an exam room;
  • Graduate Administrator confirms exam date and location with student and committee members.

Tips for the MA Exam

  • Students begin coordinating their MA exam with their advisor at least six months before the expected exam date;
  • Students contact potential committee members at least two months prior to expected exam date;
  • Students meet individually with committee members at least one month prior to exam date to discuss expectations, reading lists, etc.;
  • Students discuss exam expectations and perform practice exam sessions with older peers about two weeks prior to exam;
  • Students confirm exam date with committee members one week prior to scheduled exam.

Basics of the Portfolio Exam

  • Committee consists of five members: four department faculty (two in major field, one in each minor field), and a faculty member from another department, who serves as the Graduate Studies' designee;
  • Student sets date and time in coordination with committee members;
  • Student notifies Graduate Administrator at least four weeks before agreed upon date;
  • Graduate Administrator files "Progress to Degree" form with Office of Graduate Studies and schedules an exam room;
  • Graduate Administrator confirms exam date and location with student and committee members;
  • Student submits Portfolio at least four weeks prior to exam;
  • The Portfolio consists of the following items (refer to Graduate Student Handbook for detailed instructions):
    • Table of Contents
    • C.V.
    • All research seminar papers
    • Major written work from all colloquia and readings courses, with professors' comments, including:
      • historiographical essays
      • synthetic essays
      • annotated bibliographies
    • Any published historical works
    • Professional Essay (15-20 pages)
    • Dissertation Prospectus (10 pages, plus bibliography, and 150-word abstract)
  • The Portfolio may contain the following:
    • Any committee mandated materials
    • Syllabi of courses taught or proposed
    • Book reviews
    • Conference papers
    • Grant proposals
    • Op-ed pieces
    • Public history activities
    • Website designs 

Tips for the Portfolio Exam

  • First & Second year:
    • Read the Graduate Student Handbook 
    • Beginning collecting and storing all original copies of written course work with written or electronic comments. All written work must be submitted at the time of the Portfolio Exam
  • One year prior to exam:
    • Read the Graduate Student Handbook to stay apprised of updates and requirements
    • Create a calendar of tasks and due dates to insure you stay on schedule and meet all university deadlines
    • Coordinate with your advisor about a prospective exam date and potential committee members
  • Six months prior to exam:
    • Contact potential committee members and ask them to serve on your committee
    • Contact current graduate students for sample copies of the professional essay and prospectus
    • Begin organizing your thoughts and ideas through preliminary drafts of your prospectus and professional essay
    • Review Graduate Student Handbook and accompanying exam rubric
  • Three months prior to exam:
    • Meet individually with committee members to discuss expectations, special instructions, reading lists, etc.
    • Begin reviewing all course work, historiographies, and notes
    • Submit drafts of your professional essay and prospectus to your advisor and at least one other committee member
    • Schedule exam date in coordination with committee members
    • Contact Graduate Administrator with exam date
  • ​One month prior to exam:
    • ​​Submit completed portfolio (you are required to submit a paper copy to the Graduate Administrator, but note that many faculty members request electronic copies)
    • Schedule mock portfolio exams conducted by advanced peers
  • One week prior to exam:
    • Remind committee members of exam date and location
    • Relax

 
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