Candidacy Examination

  • Two Lit and Crit PhD students in a classroom

    Admission to Candidacy

    You are eligible to sit for the Candidacy Exam after completing 12–18 credits of coursework. Enrollment in coursework beyond the master’s degree alone does not automatically constitute admission to the PhD program or to candidacy.

    Candidacy Examination

    The candidacy examination assesses your knowledge of major authors and movements in British and American literature that will determine your preparation for specialized and specific studies at the doctoral level.

    The Candidacy Exam consists of four exams scheduled over two days. Each two-hour exam will focus on one of the following four periods:

      Each exam is based, respectively, on one of four master lists.

      Each of the master lists for Periods A–D contains approximately 35 to 75 authors; some authors are represented by more than one text. The lists have been developed by program faculty whose expertise fits within the given periods.

      For Periods A–D, you will need to select 30 authors from each period. There is an option of substituting five authors (or texts, or combination of authors and texts) of your choice in each of the four periods, with prior approval from the program director. For example, substituting Anne Brontë for Emily Brontë; or Bleak House for Great Expectations.

      The selection of the 30 authors from each period should be done with considerable care. Some basic principles of balance and inclusion will be expected. For example, authors selected should:

      • Be representative in some way of the full range of the historical period (i.e., not all just from, say, the last few decades).
      • Reflect, wherever appropriate, an inclusion of various genres, geographies, genders, races, classes, ethnicities, and other factors depending on the particular period.
      • Be theoretically informed rather than randomly drawn based on what has already read.

      You will have access to both print and electronic versions of the lists, and it is expected that you will bring to each exam a copy of the respective period list with the 30 selections checked off (approval for any substitutions must be received from the program director prior to the exam).

      Theory Requirement

      In addition to the period lists, there is also a Theory List which is comprised of a representative sample list of potential authors, each listed under the appropriate theoretical area. This theory list is intended primarily as a suggested or representative list. You are not obliged to refer only to those theorists listed, and you should use the list as an aid to prepare for the exam. The key theory requirement for the exam is to engage at least three different theories (or combinations of theories) of your choice, and these should be distributed through at least three of the four exams (not several theories on one exam).

      Possible Results of the Examination

      Each Candidacy Exam is graded by three graduate literature faculty members who assigns grades of (3) High Pass, (2) Pass, or (1) Fail. For each exam, you will receive the average of the three grades assigned. The results are reported as follows:

      • Pass all four exams: Candidacy is awarded as approved by the director of Graduate Studies in Literature so long as any other candidacy requirements as specified by the School of Graduate Studies and Research are met. If you should receive grades of (3) High Pass on all four exams, you will be awarded a “Pass with Distinction.”
      • Partial Pass: You may pass one or more exams, but fail one or more exams. In these incidences, you will be required to retake the failed exams, preferably at the next exam sitting. Candidacy status will not be awarded until all four exams have been successfully passed.
      • Fail: You have two attempts at the candidacy exams. If you fail both, university policy states that you will be dismissed from the program.