As part of the M.A. degree, students are required to successfully pass a written comprehensive exam. This is a one week, take-home exam. Students who intend to take the examination should be sure that they are (or can be) adequately prepared by the examination date, which includes having completed the core seminars as well as having the time necessary to study for the exam.
The Structure of the Examination
Over the years, the faculty have developed a set of questions (these change periodically) within the major subfields of anthropology. These questions are derived from the content of the core courses, though they may ask you to synthesize and integrate information across courses. The questions are made available to all students in the form of a "Question Bank" which is available in the Department.
Each semester the graduate director will announce the specific week designated for comprehensive exams, and will request that all those intending to take the exam notify him/her in writing.
Each student’s faculty advisor will construct the exam from questions submitted by the faculty. The questions will be along the lines of those in the "Effective Fall 2004 Comprehensive Examination Question Bank” and hence, review of these questions will be one useful way of studying for the exam. For each student, the exam will consist of two (2) questions from each of two (2) subdisciplinary areas and two (2) questions from one (1) specialty track for a total of 6 questions.
Studying for the Examination
There is no right or wrong way to study for the exam, though we have found that students enjoy working together in study groups. In the past, many students have formed one or more informal study groups to prepare for the "comps". Students are encouraged to do this as study groups have proved to be an effective means of reviewing material covered in core courses. Study groups also allow students to learn from one another. Students studying for the exam have prepared answers to the questions appearing in the Question Bank. Students may still do this but they should be aware that the questions on the exam are likely not to be identical to those in the Question Bank (since they will be tailored to each student).
Students will be asked to commit to taking the exam by a designated date approximately one-month before the scheduled examination date (generally November 15 and April 15). Such a commitment involves filling out a form that requests a list of the core and elective courses and the name of the instructor. It also asks the student to designate the subdisciplinary areas and specialty track in which they wish to be tested, The exam will evaluate three (3) subdisciplinary areas - Archaeology, Biological, and Cultural Anthropology – and four (4) specialty tracks – Medical Anthropology, Archaeological Studies, Biological Anthropology, and Political Ecology.
The faculty, as outlined above, will prepare questions for each student for him/her to pick up in the departmental office on Monday. The exam is due at 5 pm the following Monday. The completed exam should be returned to the departmental office in both electronic and paper form. Any exam not received in electronic and paper forms by the due date/time will be considered late and will not be graded.
The exams will be graded on a 4.0 scale with 3.0 being the lowest passing grade. You must pass all questions and all sections to pass the exam
Students should give serious consideration to the requirement that completing the core courses is necessary and that they may not graduate until they pass the exam. For that reason, students may wish to try to take the exam in their third semester to ensure they meet program requirements well before graduation deadlines. Students should also note that the Graduate School only allows students to try to pass the exam twice. Students who fail one or more questions or sections of the comprehensive examination on the second try will not be allowed to take the examination a third time, under any circumstances.