Comprehensive Examinations

The Department believes that UAF students receiving Master of Arts and Master of Fine Arts degrees should possess a common knowledge of standard works of literature relevant to their areas of specialization,  Therefore, the Department requires a written comprehensive examination based upon a standardized reading list.One reading list applies to all M.A. students.  M.F.A. students are examined on one of three reading list, poetry, fiction, and non-fiction - based on their own specialties.  Upon admission to graduate study, every student receives a copy of the reading list applicable to their program and interest.  The date when the student takes the exam shall determine which reading list applies.  Furthermore, a student who fails a six-hour comprehensive exam based on an expiring list and has to retake the February exam must prepare for the make-up exam using a revised reading list.

  1. The comprehensive examination will be held on the Saturday ending the fourth full week of classes in the spring semester, usually near Valentine Day.  The examination period will be six hours divided into two parts, three hours in the morning (9a-12p) and three hours in the afternoon (2p-5p) with a two hour lunch break from 12p-2p.
  2. Reading Lists are revised every two years by a subcommittee of the Graduate Programs Committee, with any interested graduate students and faculty members invited to participate.  Between ten and twenty-five percent of the list may be changed every two years.
  3. Both M.A. and M.F.A. students should take the comprehensive examination no later than their fourth semester of full-time study.  The Graduate Programs Committee Chair will send out a memo in December reminding graduate students of the date for the upcoming examinations and asking students to notify the department by January 1 if they are planning to take the test.  Any student who will have completed three semesters of full-time study and who wishes to postpone taking the exam must submit to the Department Chair a memo to that effect, signed by all members of the student's thesis committee.
  4. All comprehensive exams taken at the same time  will be written and read by the same two committees of four faculty members (one M.A. committee consisting of three literature faculty and one creative writing faculty, and one M.F.A. committee consisting of three creative writing faculty and one literature faculty). Committees are formed and chairs are selected by the Department Chair no later than the penultimate week of classes in the fall semester.  Chairs of each committee are responsible for soliciting questions for and designing the final versions of the exams.  A reasonable effort should be made to include thesis committee chairs of students taking the exam on the M.A. exam committee.
  5. In the event of a dissenting opinion on any test, the examination committee must meet in person to discuss it and to arrive at consensus on a pass/fail grade.
  6. The "Conditional Pass" shall not be used as a grading option for written comprehensive exams, but may still be used for the oral exam ("thesis defense").  In eliminating the "Conditional Pass" option for the written comprehensive exams,   Instead of a "Conditional Pass" being granted to a student who has barely failed, they may be permitted to take a supplementary written examination.  At the discretion of examiners, any student(s) judged to have narrowly failed the six-hour, spring-semester comprehensive examination may be permitted to take a three-hour supplementary examination to be conducted the second Saturday in April.  This privilege shall not be extended to any student(s) judged to have failed the "Valentine" exam so badly that the three-hour supplement is considered insufficient. In some special cases where failure of the exam has occurred, it has not been extreme enough to warrant forcing any student(s) to wait a full year to take another six-hour exam, which may even involve a different reading list and/or the expense of returning to UAF for the retake.  If a three-hour supplementary exam were excessive, the student(s) should have been passed anyway; if a three-hour supplementary exam were not severe enough, the student(s) should not have passed the "Valentine" exam or been permitted to take the "taxing" supplement.  Graders who permit the student(s) to take the supplement should indicate in no uncertain terms how the original failure occurred and what the student(s) must do to atone.  After guidance from faculty advisors and after an appropriate length of time has elapsed from the "Valentine" exam for the student(s) to study, the student(s) allowed to take the supplementary, three-hour exam, may be able to avoid penalties that outweigh the degree of their lapses on the "Valentine" exam.
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