Masters Degree: Exam Format?

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Masters Degree: Exam Format?

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1brlb21
Nov 17, 2007, 8:15pm

I am taking my Qualifying Exams (Quals for short) in my department in January to recieve my Masters. We (my fellow grad students and me) have to come back to the university over Winter Break early so that we can get our test at the beginning of January. We then have 2 weeks to write two 10 page papers.

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?

2xmaystarx
Nov 17, 2007, 10:01pm

I'm at Boston University Med school getting my PhD in biochemistry. We have 2 qualifying exams. At the end of your first year you have a written exam, which is your basic all day exam with questions covering any and all things you should have learned your first year. Then at the end of your second year there is the oral qualifying exam. In this one, the committee selects 2-3 journal articles that the student is given 3 weeks before the exam. The exam is sitting at a table with 5 faculty members grilling you on the papers. They can ask anything about techniques, background, results, it can really go anywhere. After you pass these 2 exams you have you masters degree but still go on for about 4 more years doing research before getting a PhD, unless you decide to leave before that and then you leave with the masters.

3daschaich
Nov 17, 2007, 11:07pm

I'm at BU as well, and the Physics Department exam format is similar. We have a written exam (offered just before the beginning of every semester) that you have to take by the start of your second year, and an oral exam (scheduled with your committee) that you have to take by the middle of your third year, but no more than one year after passing the written exam. Subtract one year from each of those deadlines if you got a Master's degree elsewhere before joining the Ph.D. program at BU.

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.

4StarGazer72
Nov 18, 2007, 1:23pm

:-D At the risk of annoying any and all people in other programs ... I don't have quals. :)

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.

5fyrefly98
Nov 18, 2007, 1:41pm

In Biology we have two hoops to jump through that both fall under the category of what other departments call "qualifying exams".

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.

6jlane
Editado: Nov 18, 2007, 4:36pm

For a library science master degree years ago, I had to pass comprehensives after courses were finished. The exam could be taken either orally or written. Since I wasn't on campus, I chose written. The exam consisted of about seven questions, I was required to write on about four. Questions had been submitted by a committe I had selected plus one person from the department. I had four hours and the proctor did lock the door.

7Madcow299
Editado: Nov 25, 2007, 7:42pm

For Seminary, at least in the Lutheran Church. We have "senior panels", in which we are quizzed in anything over the last 4 years of grad school education. Thats just the professors. Then the synod does something similar, except anything is fair game. Your personal life, beliefs, sexual orientation. what's fun is that sometimes the pastor on the synod committee will just decide to pick on you for something personal.
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

8princessgarnet
Nov 26, 2007, 9:21am

None for my master's program in library science, where I went for school.

9missylc
Nov 27, 2007, 11:50am

None for my MLS program either -- princessgarnet, did you go to U-Md.?

10betterthanchocolate
Nov 30, 2007, 2:34am

For my MA in English, a final written exam at the end of the third semester (in the part-time program), before we can go on to research and write our dissertation in the final semester. Basically it's a supervised writing exercise, assurance for administrators that we haven't been cheating or plagiarising for the duration of the program.

11oldtrustylegs
Jan 28, 2008, 8:10pm

Georgia State's History department does exams at the end of the first year; a combination of written and oral exams, and then after that you spend the following year or two writing your thesis.

12LittleKnife
Fev 9, 2008, 12:19pm

For my masters
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).

13medievalmama
Fev 22, 2008, 10:07pm

Georgia State English Dept for the PhD has specialist (4 hour) and non-specialist (3 hour) exams with IDS (usually 6 out of 11??) + 2 essays for the non-specialist and 3 essays for the specialist. Exams come between coursework and dissertation.
The dissertation is followed by an oral defense.

14brlb21
Fev 24, 2008, 5:46pm

Well, in about 24 hours I will finally find out if I actually passed my exams. I finished them in mid-January, but the faculty doesn't decide until tomorrow. Fingers crossed waiting for a full pass, rather than a M.A. pass, or a fail....

15rebelwriter85
Abr 3, 2008, 7:16pm

Good luck brlb21. I will know at the end of my program in the fall if I passed anything I was assessed on: exams, dissertation, coursework. It's hard waiting for the results!!!

16brlb21
Abr 9, 2008, 8:15pm

I guess I should have mentioned that I did in fact pass.
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.

17medievalmama
Abr 12, 2008, 3:04pm

You are ahead of me! I got an "unofficial" -- you passed from my dissertation director, followed by "now let's get down to work" AND and "this is an unofficial email telling you you passed" from the Department Chair. I still don't have the official report, AND I'm writing, with a committee. It doesn't matter.