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I like this format much better than before when the students were locked in a room for several hours and forced to basically write everything they knew about a certain anthropological topic. That would have caused me waaay to much stress.
I was just curious how other departments and schools structure their exams. Basically what sorts of hoops do you have to jump through to get your degree?
The written exam has four-hour sessions on the Wednesday and Friday before the semester begins, covering the basic first-year material. You get two chances to take it (not counting "free shots" during your first year), and need to receive a "high pass" to be eligible for the Ph.D. program. If you just get a "pass", you can receive a terminal MA after completing the required courses.
The oral exam is actually a short talk on research that you have done (usually but not necessarily with the professor(s) for whom you intend to do your Ph.D. work), followed by a thorough and open-ended grilling by your five-member faculty committee. You need to pass to officially become a Ph.D. candidate, and the usual result is what we call a "conditional pass" -- officially you pass, but the committee demands that you review certain areas to their satisfaction. Very few people are failed on the oral exam, at least in part because they're already working for a professor who doesn't want to see them go. After that, it should take only 2-4 more years of research to complete the Ph.D., depending on your field and work habits.
Since I high passed the written exam on a free shot last January, I need to do some research and complete the oral exam some time this coming spring. This is turning out to be more problematic than I expected, for reasons that are long and boring, and which I won't inflict on y'all.
I just have to write a good, publishable book-length thesis.
I think I also have to give an oral defense of it before my three thesis advisors, but I'll have to ask around on that before I know what it really entails.
In your third semester of grad school, you have to take "Prelims" or "Quals". Each member of your 4-person committee gives you two questions, usually at least tangentially related to something you're interested in, but not necessarily. You spend six weeks preparing answers to those eight questions, and then spend six hours in a room frantically typing answers to four of them that are chosen that morning by your advisor. You send your answers to your committee members, and then within a week you have an oral defense where they grill you on what you wrote, what you would have written if you'd been asked the other questions, and anything else they feel like (one of my roommates got asked if he could identify the genera of all of the veggies he brought in as snacks - and I think the prof was only partially kidding).
Then, by the end of your fifth or sixth semester, you have to write a proposal detailing what you plan to do for the rest of your dissertation. This gets sent around to your committee, and you have a proposal defense where you get grilled on it. Once you pass that, you are officially a Ph.D. candidate and no longer just a grad student.
We spent a lot of time in the middle of prelims joking about how we had to jump through all of these pointless hoops, which were on fire, over tanks of piranas - which were also on fire.
Although I suppose that takes any pressure off of the canidate to remember anything actually theological... Yeah this is what I get to do in two years. I had a mini-version this year and it went fine but still you never know.
And this is all for a master's degree. woot.
edit for spelling
I had a research methods module, an Approaches module and 3 special option modules all of which were essentially coursework (c. 10,000 words + lit review) then I had a language module which was both essay and exam (of the 3 hour sitting in a silent room pure memory variety) and a 20,000 word dissertation.
For my PhD now I have to pass an upgrade through viva (panel interview with scholars in the department) and submission of evidence of my work - typically a chapter or so of my thesis. Then once I have that, the final submission of the thesis and an oral defence of it (viva with external examiner as well).
The dissertation is followed by an oral defense.
I think I was disgusted with the whole process. Obviously I was happy I received my MA, but no one actually called me to tell me the day they decided. One of my professors was congratulating everyone during lecture, so I raised my hand and asked her if that meant that I had passed. She was totally shocked that up until that point no one had told me. I think my department is kind of unorganized --- I just got the official letter in the mail this week.
Hopefully the process is smoother for everyone else! Thanks, and good luck rebelwriter85.