American Studies home page

MA Exams (Plan B)

Plan B students culminate their studies with written and oral exams in two specialized fields of the student’s choice. Each field should be focused enough to have depth and coherence and broad enough to cover a subfield of American Studies. The two fields should not overlap too closely. The student should define the fields by working closely with two advisors, one for each field. Examples of fields might include: U.S. Women’s History, Sexuality Studies, Asian American Studies, Historic Preservation, U.S.-Native American Relations, African American Literature, Hawai’i History, American Arts, American Cinema, American Environmental History, Life Writing and Comparative Diasporas.

For each field, the student must prepare a reading list in consultation with the field advisor. Each reading list should include no fewer than twenty books. Once the two field advisors have approved the reading lists, the Graduate Chair must approve the fields. Students should work closely with the field advisors in the course of reading for the exam. Once the field advisors have agreed that the student is ready for the exam, the student must schedule the written and oral exams with the Graduate Program Coordinator.

The student is examined in the two fields simultaneously. For the written portion, each field advisor will prepare one question for the student. At the designated starting time, the student will receive the questions electronically or pick them up at the department office. A typed, double-spaced copy of the completed exam is due electronically or in the Department office forty-eight hours (2 days) later.  No extensions can be permitted.

The student’s answers should be clearly written, analytically sophisticated, organizationally cohesive, and carefully edited. There is no minimum or maximum length for the written exams, but successful students generally write approximately 1,750 words per question. The submission package should be delivered in hard copy or in PDF format (unless otherwise instructed) and should include three components:

  • Final version of the reading lists
  • Questions posed by the field advisors
  • Student’s answers to the questions

Each faculty advisor assesses whether the student has passed the written exam. If the student has passed, the oral exam will take place on the designated date, usually within two weeks of the submission of the written exam. During the oral exam, the student may be asked to clarify or elaborate on their written exam and/or asked to discuss other issues covered by the reading lists. The oral exam typically lasts 90-120 minutes. The two field advisors determine the student’s performance on the basis of “Fail,” “Low Pass,” “Pass,” or “Pass with Distinction.”