Preliminary Examinations are to be taken after all course work is completed and the student is ready to begin work on the dissertation. However, a faculty adviser should be chosen in consultation with the Graduate Adviser at the beginning of the third year. After successful completion of the preliminary examinations, formal admission to candidacy for the degree is granted.
There are three categories of preliminary examination:
- The special author examinations test the student on two authors, one Roman and one Greek. This is an oral examination.
- The topic of the special field examination is typically chosen by the student from areas pertinent to classics: archaeology, metrics, history, philosophy, papyrology, religion, linguistics, numismatics, epigraphy, law, Medieval Latin, or literary theory. By agreement of the student and the examiner, this requirement is fulfilled by either a written or oral examination, or by a substantial research paper.
- Greek and Roman literature: The grades in the four required courses in the history of the literatures are used to fulfill this requirement. The lowest grade considered to be passing in a graduate course or examination is B-.
Ordinarily a student will do one examination as a written exam or a paper (special field examination), and two as orals (authors). Both orals should take place on the same day and at the same time; the two orals should not last more than an hour to an hour-and-a-half. If, through circumstances beyond the student's control (or because only one prelim is being done as an oral) the two orals cannot be conducted on the same day, the graduate advisor should be informed. At least two faculty members should be present at the exam to forestall disputes over the results. In so far as it is possible, the graduate advisor will be a "silent partner" at all orals.