General Examination Option

  1. General examination grades will be Pass and Fail.

  2. If a student fails a general examination, he or she may be allowed to repeat the area requirement, provided that his or her work is otherwise of good quality. But a student will not be permitted to attempt any area requirement more than twice, unless his or her performance on other area requirements has been exceptionally good.

  3. If a student fails a general examination, he or she will usually be expected to repeat the examination. In exceptional circumstances, the student's Advisory Committee may allow him or her to follow the course option to attempt to complete the area failed, and substitute an exam in another area.

  4. A list of recommended readings for each area is available from the graduate secretary of the department; however, these are only suggestions -- the examination need not be limited to the readings on the list. Copies of previous examination questions are also available.

  5. Students would be expected to prepare for the exam by studying a wide range of material, guided by reading lists and past exams. The exam itself would be split into two components: a written "take-home" part worth 60% of the total grade, and an oral exam worth 40% of the total grade. The examining committee for the oral exam will be coextensive with the committee that prepares and grades the written component. The only "official" grades are 'Pass' and 'Fail,' although it may be noted in writing and oral communication whether a pass was 'high' or 'low.'

  6. The written component will be conducted as follows. Exam periods shall be in August and January, falling within the week prior to the beginning of Fall and Spring class. During the semester preceding each exam period, the Chair of the Graduate Committee will ask that any student intending to take a general examination in the upcoming period notify the Chair of their intention; the chair will then convene a faculty examining committee to set the written portion of the exam. Students thus registering their intention of taking the exam in the next period are fully expected to take the exam in that period. Requests to be excused from taking the exam in that period must reach the Chair of the Graduate Committee no later than four (4) weeks prior to the start of the exam period. (Except in extraordinary circumstances, failure to be excused earlier than this deadline and/or failure to take the exam during the set period will count as failing the exam). At the beginning of the exam period, all students taking a particular exam will be given a list of questions; each will be asked a specific number (usually 3) on which to write essays, typically 1225-1750 words, with a maximum of 2500 words, each. The essays are due three days from the time the questions are made available. Questions will be designed and graded with the understanding that students are being tested for familiarity with and ability to come to grips with philosophical issues and problems.

    The oral exam shall, except under unusual circumstances, take place one week after the time at which the essays are handed in. Questions should focus on the topics of the essays, but may be broad enough to test the student's understanding of the context in which those topics and issues arise. Upon completion of the exam, the committee will file a written report; the report shall be given to the student, and a copy shall be placed in his or her files.

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