Department of English

University of Toronto

Departmental Exams (information currently being revised)

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Graduate - Departmental Examinations

2018-2019 Comprehensive Examination Dates:  

Paper I & Paper II January 2019 RETAKE exams:  

Beginning 2018-2019, students sitting the Comprehensive Examination will choose one of two options: either a 3-hour invigilated format (two exams: one for each paper) or a new open book, take-home format that will extend over 72 hours (again, two exams: one for each paper). Note that invigilated exams will take place during the first four hours of the 72-hour window for each paper (for example: if the window extends from 10 a.m. Thursday to 10 a.m. Sunday, the invigilated exam would take place from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Thursday).

Paper I and II Reading Lists
Students are required to complete and pass Papers I and II of The General Examination and both parts of the Special Field Examination (written and oral).

12 April 2019 - Comprehensive & Special Fields Exams - an information session for Year 1 Phds and Year 2 Phd Us with the Director of Graduate Studies, the Associate Director, PhD and the GEA from 2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.; Room 718, Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street. This information session is CANCELLED.

THE GENERAL EXAMINATION (to accommodate recently approved changes to the revised exam schedule and structure, this section is currently being updated and the revised information will be available by August 30, 2019) 

The General Examination (Comprehensive Examination) is designed to give students a broad historical knowledge of the development of English Literature and of the terms, genres, and ideas that define the discipline. This background provides not only an excellent basis for more specialized knowledge, but it also qualifies students to teach the undergraduate survey courses that are typically offered in English departments. Graduates of this program often find that they have an advantage when they apply for academic jobs, because this examination has given them a broad general training in English Literature. The exam consists of two written papers covering the whole range of English Literatures divided at 1700. Students prepare for the exam using Reading Lists that are available on the department website. In addition, sample examinations are available for review, and workshops and study groups are organized to help students prepare. Doctoral students take both parts of the General Examination in September of their second year, or September of their third year for Direct Entry Students. Under normal circumstances, students are given two chances to pass the General Examination before termination from the program is recommended. Under certain circumstances, subject to the determination of a particular student's academic standing and progress, the Department may allow a third attempt.

THE SPECIAL FIELD EXAMINATION (to accommodate recently approved changes to the revised exam schedule and structure, this section is currently being updated and the revised information will be available by August 30, 2019)

The Special Field Examination may be taken until mid-December (for Phd3/Phd U4). While some students may wish to write earlier, in the spring term of second year, exams should not be deferred to the spring of third year except for documented medical (or similar) reasons.

In some ways the exercise of the Special Field Examination positions the student at a threshold, looking back towards engagement with the basic landmarks in the field and looking forwards towards the student’s own future critical interventions. To strike a good balance between these two competing aims, the exam has been re-designed so that it has three basic parts. It requires 1) a written examination, which is focused on a reading list (this is a take-home exam, which the student is given approximately 72 hours to complete, and in which she/he answers two questions from a selection of 6 questions); 2) a short position paper, 3,000 words long, which relays the student's most recent thinking about his/her thesis topic and articulates the argument and stakes of the thesis in light of the student's preparation of the texts on his/her reading list (the student submits, at the latest, one week after the return of the written exam and no later than one week prior to the oral exam); 3) an oral examination (approximately two hours long) which is focused in part on the written examination, in part on the position paper, and in part on the Special Field reading list as a whole, of which the student should demonstrate mastery. This exam will generally be held approximately 14-17 days after the day on which the student picks up the questions for his/her written examination.

In contrast to the list for the General Examination, the reading list that is the basis for the Special Field Examination will be composed by the candidate and supervisor and approved by Associate Director, PhD. The reading list establishes the literary and disciplinary context for the thesis; it should not be a preliminary bibliography for the thesis itself, but rather should prepare the student to join a particular field as a scholar and teacher. (The examination, correspondingly, is something much more than a dry run for the thesis defense.)

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