Graduate Exams at UIC

Preparing for Exams
Major field exams are generally based on colloquia readings and topics covered during the past three years. The faculty in each major field construct a standard bibliography of important works in the field organized according to the most important themes in the field—areas of inquiry that any student would be expected to master (e.g. French Revolution in modern Europe; slavery in U.S.). The list includes recommended readings for each theme. Each student prepares an individualized major field list derived largely from this longer bibliography. Each theme should be covered, but not every work in every category need be on each student’s list. Lists will require regularly updating (approximately every three years). Students are responsible for developing their own minor field reading lists in conjunction with their advisors and other faculty in the minor field area. Examination questions are often historiographical and analytical and are not necessarily restricted to topics covered in particular graduate courses. For this reason, it is extremely important for students to consult those members of the graduate faculty who are responsible for examination fields in order to become familiar with expectations. Students are strongly encouraged to consult previous written tests, as well as a range of course syllabi. Previous written tests in most fields, as well as many course syllabi, are available for inspection and photocopying in the Graduate Secretary's office.

Exam readers will be selected within the first two weeks of each semester for that semester’s exam, and the identity of the readers for each field will be made known to the students at that time. Conversely readers will also receive the names and contact information for all exam takers in their fields.

Students are strongly encouraged to meet with the chairs of their exam committees. In large fields (such as U.S. history) committee chairs may prefer to organize one general meeting for all exam takers rather than meeting individually with a relatively large number of students.

It is possible to petition to take the major field examination in an area not included in the History Department's official list. Students who wish to explore this option must consult with the Director of Graduate Studies.

Minor field examinations are based on reading lists compiled by the student in consultation with two faculty members who specialize in that area. Students should develop minor fields in consultation with their advisors.

Students may petition to take minor field exams in areas not included in the History Department's approved list. The petition must be endorsed by at least two faculty members who are competent to administer the exam. In certain circumstances, one or both faculty members may come from outside the Department of History. All petitions for special fields must be submitted for approval to the Graduate Advisory Committee. (This does not apply to MAT students preparing a minor field in the College of Education.) Petitions for special fields must be submitted at least one semester prior to the examination.

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Comprehensive Examinations for the stand-alone MA Degree in History at UIC

  • The purpose of the comprehensive exam is to give students the opportunity to demonstrate mastery in three areas of historical inquiry.
  • Students must take comprehensive exams in one major field and two minor fields. One minor field must be distinct in space or time from the major field.
  • Students generally take their comprehensive exams during the second year of graduate study.
  • Students need not be enrolled during the semester in which they take their exam.
  • The comprehensive exams are offered twice each year, once in the fall and once in the spring.
  • Students must submit to the Graduate Secretary a written application that lists the major and minor fields as well as the members of the graduate faculty with whom the student has worked. The application must be signed by the student's advisor. The application deadline is posted each semester by the Graduate Secretary.
  • Students who plan to take comprehensive exams should meet with the appropriate faculty member in each minor field at least six months prior to the exam.
  • The major field exam takes three hours. Each minor field exam takes two hours. Examinations take place during a single week, with each test scheduled for a different day.
  • Ordinarily the major field exam is graded by three faculty members and the minor fields by two faculty members. Students can score high pass (for performances of superior quality), pass, or fail. If a student fails all or part of any portion of the exam the student may re-take that portion up to two times. Should the student fail a minor field, the student will have two opportunities to re-take the exam. The student may choose to be examined again in a different minor field, in which case the student must re-apply for the exam. The student may exercise this option only once. Students who fail one or more portions of the exam may petition to retake the exam before the next regularly scheduled exam period. Students who fail any part of the comprehensive exam three times will have their status in the program automatically reviewed by the GAC, with dismissal from the program a possible outcome.
  • Exam questions are often historiographic and/or analytical and are not necessarily restricted to topics that are covered in particular courses.
  • Students who pass the comprehensive examination must apply, in writing, to the Graduate Secretary in order to receive their degree.

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Preliminary Examination (for Ph.D. students) in History at UIC

  • The purpose of the Ph.D. preliminary examination is to give students the opportunity to demonstrate a superior understanding of four areas of historical inquiry.
  • Preliminary Exams consist of three written examinations, one in a major field and two in minor fields. The two minor fields must be distinct in time and/or space from the major field. Students wishing to take a minor field offered by another department within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences must petition the Graduate Advisory Committee for approval.
  • The History Department administers preliminary examination twice a year, once in the fall and once in the spring. The major field exam takes five hours; the minor field tests take four hours each. Exams are held during a single week, with each examination scheduled on a different day. Exams are graded in one of three ways: pass with distinction (for performance of outstanding merit), pass, or fail. Preliminary exams are evaluated by committees appointed by the Director of Graduate Studies. Ordinarily, the major field test is evaluated by three faculty members and each of the minor field tests by two faculty members.
  • Students who fail all or part of any portion of the preliminary examination, may take that portion a total of three times. Students will be reexamined only on those portions of the examination that they failed. Should a student fail a minor field, the student may choose to be examined again in a different minor field. The student may exercise this option only once. Students who fail any portion of the exam will not be eligible for teaching assistantships. Students who fail any part of the written exam three times will have their status in the program automatically reviewed by the GAC, with dismissal from the program a possible outcome. Students who fail one or more portions of the exam may petition to retake the exam before the next regularly scheduled exam period.

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