To earn their degrees, all English majors must take senior comprehensive exams. Comps have two portions: a standardized test (the ETS Major Field Test) and an Oral Examination. The Senior Seminar in English (ENG 492) helps students prepare for both qualifying exams, with emphasis on the oral exam.

Major Field Test for Literature in English

Spring of their senior year, students take the standardized ETS Major Field Test for Literature in English. The test consists of one-hundred-and-fifty multiple-choice questions covering all periods of British and American literature and, to a much lesser extent, world literature (including the Bible) and schools of criticism and theory. Questions assess objective knowledge (historical and literary IDs) and interpretive skill (close reading). The English Department assesses students’ MFT test scores and uses these data for purposes of self-evaluation. (Thus, while your score is important to you and us, it does not affect your graduation status: there is no minimum acceptable score; you must simply take the test to qualify for your diploma.)

Oral Examination

Also in the spring of their senior year, students take an oral exam. Students develop a list of about twenty representative works (where “works” can include individual long readings, like novels, and groups of shorter readings) chosen from the Department’s master list to study and (re-)read. Each student chooses an orals partner, and in the spring, the pair of students is tested in a two-hour oral examination by three members of the English Department (including the Chair).  The oral exam covers the following literary-historical periods: Anglo-Saxon, Medieval, Renaissance (including Shakespeare), Restoration and Neo-Classical, Romantic, Victorian, pre-twentieth-century American, and Modern American and British. For more information about content covered, see the core list of texts for the oral exam and the orals FAQ.