Senior Comprehensive Exam

Outline of Comprehensive Examination Process

For the comprehensive examination a student will be responsible for preparing to take a two part examination and writing a 15-page paper:

  1. The General Exam treats five authors (a combination of British and American) from three periods. Students will be asked to select from a list of topics provided by the department and then write an essay on that topic as it applies to the work of five authors from three literary periods. Students may discuss any genre and should include works studied in the courses taken in the English major. At least one author should be British and at least one author should be American.
  2. The Poetry Exam asks for an analysis of a poem.
  3. The Period/Special Topics Paper requires knowledge of a particular literary period, major literary figure, or other specific topic that is selected with the adviser’s discretion.

In the final semester of a student’s undergraduate career, he or she should register for ENG SCE for academic credit and plan to take the comprehensive exam at the end of the semester.

  • A faculty member selected by the student guides the preparatory work for the comprehensive examination. The faculty member’s qualifications with regard to a particular literary period should be the basis of the student’s selection.
  • Students must contact a member of the English department to ask the faculty member if he or she would be willing to serve as the comprehensive exam adviser.
  • Each member of the English faculty has a limit of six Senior Capstone Experience students to advise, thus students who elect to take the comprehensive exam may not have their choice of advisers. If their first choice of adviser is not possible, students will select an alternative period to study.

Comprehensive Exam Preparation Guidelines

During the last semester of a student’s undergraduate career the student will meet regularly with the comprehensive exam adviser. Active inquiry and integration of acquired knowledge and skills will be at the heart of the preparatory tutorial sessions.

In preparation for the General Exam, students should compile a reading list of literary works and selected critical texts they have studied in their English courses. Additionally, students are required to develop an annotated bibliography that shows familiarity with the critical literature related to the specific period that they have selected. Students are expected to use both the general reading list and the books on their period-specific bibliography to focus their preparation.

Successful completion of the comprehensive examination serves notice to the college community that a particular student has been recognized by the members of the English department as having acquired depth and range in English and American literary studies.

Upon completion, the comprehensive exam adviser will evaluate the exam to receive honors, pass or fail. If it appears that the exam deserves honors or a failure, then all members of the department will read the exam.

Important Note: Plagiarism is a serious academic and professional offense. Any comprehensive exam found to contain plagiarized material will be considered in violation of the Honor Code and will be reported to the Dean’s office. The consequences for plagiarizing may include expulsion from Washington College. Washington College has contracted with Turnitin.com, a web-based plagiarism prevention service. Comprehensive exams submitted for the Senior Capstone Experience may be submitted electronically to Turnitin.com.