Modern Language Examinations

All candidates for the Ph.D. must pass examinations in German and either French or Italian.  Each examination will involve translating one page (approximately 200 words) of scholarly prose accurately and into idiomatic English (not translation-ese), and then writing a short summary, not a translation, of a second passage.  The exam is two hours long. Use of a dictionary is permitted. Students are urged to attempt these examinations as early in their careers as possible. The examinations will be given in October and March at dates set by the Graduate Chair; in exceptional circumstances, they may be offered at other times.  A student who has still not passed by October of the third year will be put on probation and required to meet regularly with her advisor until the time of the March exams. Failure to pass the exams at this time may constitute grounds for dismissal from the program.

The Qualifications Evaluation Examination

The Qualifications Evaluation Examination is given at the end of the year, normally in May.  All students are required to take it at the end of the first year.  If they pass one or both of the languages at this time, they do not need to take the exam again in the following year (although they will, of course, still participate in the Greek and Latin survey classes, which provide insights into literary history as well as linguistic training).  Students must demonstrate an appropriately high level of linguistic competence in these exams, even if, as is common, they do not yet quite meet the bar to pass.  Taken in the first year, the exam is a useful diagnostic tool, which allows faculty to give students suitable advice on language work at this stage.  Failure to perform appropriately on the first year Qualifying Exams may constitute grounds for dismissal from the program.

Second year students are required to take the examination if they have not already passed, and must pass it before being allowed to continue in the program.

The exam will consist of two two-hour translation examinations, one in Greek and one in Latin, based largely, but not exclusively, on the Greek and Latin Reading Lists (below). In each examination, the student will be asked to translate 4 passages (two poetry and two prose); there will be an element of choice.  Students will be expected to choose at least one passage that is not drawn from the reading list. The proportion of reading list and non-reading-list texts may vary slightly from year to year.  There may also be brief questions, pertaining to the passages chosen, on basic matters of language, including dialect, grammar, and scansion.

Our main goal in setting these exams is to test whether students are able to read Latin and Greek with near-complete comprehension.

The Preliminary Examination

The Preliminary Examination is taken during the third year, normally in two parts, as follows:

Part one, "Generals", is taken at the beginning of the third year, normally in September. This phase of the Preliminary Exam is intended to test students on the history of Greek and Latin literature and culture. The Reading List will serve as a general guide to the genres and chronological periods for which students will be responsible, although the exam will not be limited to what is on the Reading List.  Students are expected to prepare for the exam primarily by reading Greek and Latin primary texts, as well as up-to-date scholarly work; the Greek and Latin survey courses provide a foundation for this preparation, although students must also work on their own, expanding their knowledge of the field.  General "histories" of Greek and Latin literature may be used, but they should not be the main source of information or preparation.

Examiners will assess not only a student's control of factual or historical information, but also their ability to discuss the material they have studied synthetically and creatively. The exam will consist of two parts, a three-hour written and a ninety-minute oral exam. The written exam will include some translation of passages from Greek and Latin, including texts included in the Reading List and other texts that the student may or may not be expected to have seen previously. A student who does not pass part one of the Preliminary exam at the beginning of the third year will be judged not to be making normal progress towards the degree, and may thus be dismissed from the program or may forfeit funding. A student who fails the third-year exam and who is allowed to remain in the program may request to take a new exam in the following January. A second failure will constitute grounds for dismissal from the program.

Part two of the Preliminary Exam will be taken at the end of the third year, normally in May. This part consists of two exams of two hours each on substantial special subjects (normally one from Greek culture, one from Roman culture, but these are determined in consultation with the Graduate Chair); such special subjects may include a historical period, a major author or genre, or any comparable area within the broad field of Classical Studies. Students should try to decide on their Special Topics before the beginning of the third year, ideally in the summer before the semester begins.  As described above, one or two independent studies may, but need not, be taken in preparation for these topics.  Normally, one of the special subjects is in a field related to the prospective dissertation. At the time of the special topic written exams, students will be asked to submit the complete prospectus for their dissertation. The written exams will be followed by an oral examination, lasting about two hours. The oral examination will include discussion of the two Special Topics, followed by discussion of the dissertation prospectus. At that stage, the committee will decide whether to approve the prospectus or not. Failure to produce a viable prospectus can constitute grounds for dismissal.  After approval of the dissertation prospectus, the student can advance to candidacy, and will work with the Graduate Chair to configure a dissertation committee, consisting of a director and two readers.

Administration of Examinations

The Graduate Chair will ensure that at least three examiners participate in every Ph.D. preliminary oral examination, appointing supplemental examiners as necessary.  Examiners are usually chosen by the Graduate Chair.