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Graduate Exams

Qualifying Exams

General Point: Every graduate exam requires faculty time and effort both to prepare and to grade. When a student requests to take a certain exam at a certain time in the coming exam period, this should be regarded as a firm commitment to do so. 

For the Greek and Latin Quals:

I. The exam will consist of two passages of prose and two passages of poetry (no passages that are suspected of major corruption will be set). Three of the passages will be taken from the reading lists and one will be a sight passage. The passages will be roughly 20 lines of poetry or prose depending on the author. The sight passage may be either prose or poetry. The exam is two hours long. 

II. The translations of both seen and sight passages must demonstrate command of grammar, syntax, and common vocabulary of the ancient language in question. Numerous errors in these areas with the result that the passage is substantially misrepresented are a basis for failing the exam.

III. The sight passage need not be as accurate or smooth as the seen passages. One passage, seen or sight, may be weak if the remaining three passages are especially strong. Failure to finish a passage constitutes a serious weakness in that passage. 

IV. The exam is graded in double-blind fashion by two readers. In the case of disagreement a third reader (not the DGS) is to be consulted. The assessments of these graders are considered final and the exam cannot be re-graded by other graders. 

IV. While it is expected that students will be able to produce a smooth English translation, a lack of polish or elegance in the translations will not be a basis for failing the exam. As needed and requested, we will make accomodations for students whose native language is not English, and, for example, might allow the student to use a dictionary in the student's native language, but this will be negotiated on a case-by-case basis with the DGS.  

V. Students will receive a "pass" or a "fail." There is no "low pass," but the DGS can point out areas where continued improvement should occur. The exam will be returned to the student, who will have the opportunity to review the exam with at least one of the graders. 

For the Modern Language Quals:

VII. The modern language quals will consist of a standard page of scholarly prose of average difficulty. It is expected that the student will translate the whole passage without serious misrepresentation. A dictionary is permitted.               

VIII. These exams will normally be set and graded in double-blind fashion by one faculty member, with a second grader (not the DGS) consulted only if the first grader is uncertain about the result.          

IX. Students will receive a "pass" or a "fail."


Preliminary Exams

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:

  1. The special author examinations test the student on two authors, one Roman and one Greek. This is an oral examination.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.



Advancing to Candidacy

Admission to candidacy requires the successful completion of all exams (French or Italian, German, and Greek and Roman history), the fulfillment of the history of literature requirement (by course or examination), and the three preliminary exams (the two author exams and the special field exam). In addition to these examinations, the Rackham cognate requirement (two courses outside of the primary area of study) and the Department's prose composition requirement (by taking the Greek and Latin prose composition courses), seminar and 600-level course requirements must be satisfied. IT IS STRONGLY ADVISED THAT STUDENTS NOT WAIT UNTIL THE END OF THE THIRD YEAR TO SATISFY ALL THESE REQUIREMENTS.

Cognate Courses

Rackham regulations require two cognate courses for candidacy; these are courses outside of the student's major area of study. Under Rackham regulations, courses listed as Classical Archaeology, ancient history and 600-level Greek or Latin can be taken as cognates with the permission of the graduate adviser, though it is very strongly advised that at least one cognate be taken from someone who does not have a direct connection with the Department. The Department will not count introductory courses in French or German as cognates, though instruction in another foreign language (e.g. Arabic, Akkadian, Sanscrit) may be counted if the graduate adviser agrees with decisions made on a case by case basis.

Seminars and 600-level Courses

The Department requires two seminars (courses with 800 numbers) and one course in a discipline (e.g. papyrology, epigraphy, textual criticism, numismatics, linguistics) for candidacy.

Prose Composition 

The Department requires the successful completion of graduate level prose composition courses in Greek and Latin at Michigan. There will be no exemptions from this requirement, though in special, hardship cases, some arrangement might be made to complete the requirement through an independent study arranged by the graduate advisor.

Special Cases

The Department recognizes that all students do not arrive here with the same level of preparation. For that reason we foresee two areas where we will consider changing the examination schedule on a case by case basis.

Delayed Qualifying Exams

If students have a valid reason for postponing the qualifying examinations in Greek and Latin (or one or the other), arrangements can be made on a case by case basis. As the qualifying exams are the prerequisite for the preliminary exams, students must not make arrangements for completing the prelims before they complete the qualifying exams. A student can petition the Department to take these examinations a third time if a reasonable case can be made.

Accelerated Prelims

If students are trying to complete their prelims before the beginning of the third year, they should try to take the Greek and Latin qualifying exams either at the end of their first year, or in the fall of the second year. This course is highly recommended where possible, and the graduate adviser is extremely happy to discuss it with any student who wants to try it. There is no penalty for failure on the qualifying exams if they are taken early (before the winter examination period in the second year). In such cases students may not have been able to fulfill the history of literature requirement by course work; in these cases they may attempt to fulfill this requirement by exam. This will be handled on a case by case basis.