Guidelines M.A. Exam

Overview of the guidelines and requirements for the M.A. Exam in History.

Exam Eligibility

      • Students should settle on their respective examination fields early in their program and take classes in accordance with their approved major and minor fields.


        Transferring from Thesis to Exam Option

          • During coursework and before entering Masters Candidacy: Students may switch from the Thesis to the Exam option after a consultation with their faculty advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies. Students have to be aware that additional coursework is required for the Exam option. [“coursework” needs to link to Program of Study]
            • After entering Masters Candidacy: Under most circumstances, students cannot be in Masters Candidacy for more than three semesters before taking the exam. Students making the switch should keep in mind that they may need to do additional coursework before being eligible for the Exam option. To have prior Thesis work (HIST 603) counted as Exam preparation, the student has to produce evidence of a body of work completed as part of that Thesis work.


              Examination Fields

                • Students assemble two exam fields and an M.A. Exam committee consisting of three graduate faculty members.
                  • Two members of the M.A. Exam committee come from the History Department and oversee the major and minor fields. The faculty member overseeing the major field also acts as the M.A. Exam advisor. The third committee member may be a faculty member in the History Department but can also come from another unit.
                    • The M.A. Exam committee must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies in the History Department. To that end, the student and Exam advisor/committee members fill out the same form used for the Thesis option.
                      • Students need to demonstrate that they took at least 3 hours of coursework in each of their exam fields. If they did not, they will need to do a separate Directed Readings course.
                        • The major field covers a more specific area. The minor Field covers a more general/broader topic.
                          • With prior approval by the Director of Graduate Studies, an exam field can be co-chaired by no more than two faculty members. Student must present written justification for such requests and obtain the approval of the faculty members in question.


                            Exam Preparation

                              • Students may take the M.A. Exam as soon as they have fulfilled all coursework requirements. During the semester(s) in which they are preparing for their exam, students must enroll in MAST 600.
                                • The major field advisor will provide students with a list of 20-25 books or equivalent articles (three articles are roughly equal to one book).
                                  • The minor field advisor will provide students with a list of 10-15 books or equivalent articles.
                                    • Faculty should construct reading lists that represents the historiography of a particular topic and include recent publications. Some of those books/articles can be materials assigned to the student in a course (or independent study), but faculty should make sure that there are also some materials not covered by the student in a prior course (ideally at least half). If books/articles have been previously assigned to a student for a course, this should be indicated on the reading list.
                                      • M.A. Exam committee members should supervise students closely during their exam preparation.  Faculty may choose to provide sample question(s) ahead of time, but faculty may not provide students with the question(s) in advance of the examination itself.
                                        • No later than two weeks prior to the written exam date, the Exam advisor will provide the Chair of the History Department’s Graduate Committee with a copy of the examination questions and the reading lists for approval. The Graduate Committee will evaluate whether the questions are sufficiently rigorous, are in keeping with the reading list and the previously approved field of study, and are clear and unambiguous as to content and thesis. The questions should clearly state the examination format (answer two questions out of three, answer the following three questions, etc.) and the amount of time allowed to write each portion of the exam. Members of the Graduate Committee can and should ask questions of the examination committee members if they are unsure or concerned about any aspect of the exam. The Graduate committee can ask examination committee members to rewrite questions or submit new questions.
                                          • If members of the Graduate Committee are also members of the Exam committee, they should recuse themselves. If needed, the Vice Chair and/or the Director of Graduate Studies can be brought in to help evaluate the questions.

                                            Location and Time Allotted for Written Examination

                                              • When scheduling the M.A. Exam, faculty and students have to be aware that the deadlines given by the School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies for the submission of M.A. theses also apply to the M.A. Exam.
                                                • As a general rule, written examinations will be administered by UofL Testing Services in Davidson Hall 310. Examination materials must be delivered to Testing Services two days prior to the examination date. Note: the Testing Service closes at 4 pm.
                                                  • At least for now, the History Department will pay all charges related to the administration of these exams.
                                                    • The amount of time students get to write their exams should reflect the general ratio of 2/3 for the major field and 1/3 for the minor field (e.g. 3 hrs. for the major exam and 2 hrs for the minor exam).
                                                      • Students can take both exams in the same day (with at least a one hour break in between), or they can take the exams on two consecutive days.
                                                        • Students will not be allowed to have books or any kind of notes, cell phone, reference works, or any outside materials during the exam.


                                                          After the Written Examination

                                                            • After the written exams, all three committee members will read both fields and determine between themselves whether the student has passed or failed one or both.
                                                              • The committee should make a pass/fail decision within one week and before the scheduled oral examination.


                                                                Oral Examination

                                                                  • The oral exam is usually held a week after the written exam. Students are required to set up a date, time, and room for the oral exam during which all M.A. Exam committee members can be present.
                                                                    • During the oral examination, the committee members will ask follow up questions, provide feedback to the student (and notify them if they have passed the minor as well as the major examination field).
                                                                      • The M.A. Exam committee has the option to cancel the oral examination if they find the written part of the exam too weak for a further continuation of the process. The student is informed about this decision in writing, copied to the Director of Graduate Studies.
                                                                        • Assuming a satisfactory performance in the written and oral examination, the student will then be determined to have completed all necessary requirements to complete their M.A. degree. The committee members sign the approval form. A standard version of this form is available from the Program Assistant and needs to be filled out before the oral exam (major and minor fields, date, committee members). A copy must be provided to the Director of Graduate Studies. The student is responsible for submitting the original approval form to the School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies before the M.A. thesis deadline.


                                                                          Evaluation of Written and Oral Examinations

                                                                          Faculty should not hesitate to fail a student if the student has not met the History Departments standards. Faculty should make reasonable efforts to assess a student’s readiness to sit for the exam, but students should never assume that the simple act of sitting for the exam guarantees a pass. In evaluating the written and oral exams, the following criteria will be applied:

                                                                            • Student demonstrates a thorough coherent understanding of the field.
                                                                              • Student demonstrates a good grasp of historiography of the field and a solid understanding of the processes of historical change.
                                                                                • Student understands the significance of the field for larger historical processes.
                                                                                  • Student demonstrates an ability to formulate a clear and coherent historical argument.
                                                                                    • Student demonstrates an ability to write an organized essay with a clear argument, organizational structure, and free of major spelling and grammatical errors and errors of fact.

                                                                                      Note: Any evidence of plagiarism or cheating on any part of the exam will result in an automatic failure, and students will be subject to automatic dismissal from the program.


                                                                                      If A Student Fails One or Both Fields of the Examination

                                                                                        • Students will have two chances to pass the M.A. Exam, in two consecutive semesters. If a student fails the exam on his/her first attempt, the student will be allowed to retake the exam in the following semester (or Fall, if the first attempt was in Spring). With prior approval student(s) can take the M.A. Exam in the Summer, if the first unsuccessful attempt was in Spring.
                                                                                          • If the student is determined to have passed the major field portion of the exam but failed in the minor field, that student will be allowed to retake just the minor exam portion in the next semester.
                                                                                            • If the student is determined to have failed the major field portion of the exam (regardless of their performance on the minor field exam), the student will have to retake the entire M.A. Exam in the next semester.
                                                                                              • In the event it is determined, after the oral exam, that a student does not pass the M.A. Exam, the committee members will provide the student with a clear and detailed written explanation, copied to the Director of Graduate Studies. These comments should include suggestions for what the student can do to improve the chance of passing the second time.
                                                                                                • A student has a right to appeal committee decision first to the graduate committee, then to the Department Chair and to the A&S Deans office.
                                                                                                  • If a student fails the exam a second time, s/he is subject to dismissal from the program.