General Examination

The General Examination consists of both written and oral sections and covers three distinct fields of study, one major and two minors. It is designed to test the breadth and depth of the student’s knowledge in her/his major field—the field of specialization—and competence in the minor fields adequate to teach at the undergraduate level. 

Students can take the exam only after they have completed two years of coursework, all language requirements, and the University’s one-year residency requirement. The General Examination can be scheduled in May of the second year, or in October or January of the third year of study. 

In preparation for the exam, students need to decide their three fields and identify the appropriate faculty members to serve on the examination committee in consultation with the student’s advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies. Typically, the examiner of the major field will also serve as the student’s dissertation advisor. In choosing the minors, students must include either a different discipline or a cultural-linguistic area different from the major field. These may include disciplines outside the EAS Department, cultural areas other than East Asia, or methodological/ theoretical fields. One field can be jointly supervised by two faculty members.

It is strongly recommended that students actively keep in regular contact with the supervisors of their exam a year before the examination. These meetings are necessary for the student to obtain a clear idea about the scope of the individual fields and to design a reading list in consultation with each field’s examiner. 

It is normally expected that all three fields are jointly examined during a period of a specified period of consecutive days in the months of October, January, or May. The individual examiner determines whether the written exam is in the sit-down or take-home format. The three separate written exams are then followed by a joint oral exam of about two hours with all three examiners. 

There are four possible outcomes of the General Examination: 1) pass and advance to doctoral candidacy; 2) fail and retake the Examination once; 3) pass, but at a low level and be advised to accept a terminal M.A.; 4) fail a second time and receive the terminal M.A. If in the course of the examination doubts are raised about the student’s ability to pursue doctoral research, the Director of Graduate Studies may seek the approval of the entire Department before a student may advance to candidacy or asked to withdraw from the program. 

The student must pass each of the three field examinations. Should a student fail the examinations, examiners will provide the student with feedback and clear guidelines for improvement before the student re-takes the exam. A student who fails one or more of the examinations must retake those fields within one year. By Graduate School rule, failure a second time automatically results in withdrawal from the University.