The Junior Qualifying Examination
Each student must pass a junior qualifying examination before beginning the thesis. The qualifying exam is generally taken in the spring semester of the junior year, although the qual is offered also at the beginning of each semester for students returning from leave. The exam usually consists of three parts, involving questions about a piece of fiction, a critical or theoretical essay, and a poem or poems (all of which are generally handed out to be read before taking the exam). Students are given a weekend over which to work on the qualifying exam, although no more than six hours are to be spent writing on the examination questions. After receiving the Junior Qualifying Examination questions, the student must turn in a response. Any student who fails to turn in a response will be officially regarded as having failed the examination, unless compelling evidence is presented of illness, injury, or family emergency. Given the nature of the English Junior Qualifying Examination and students' previous course preparation, most pass on their first try. A student must have passed the Qual before registering for the senior thesis.
The student's performance in the qualifying examination as well as in all previous course work is discussed in full Departmental or Divisional meetings to assess the student's readiness to begin work on a thesis. The review may also identify those who appear to need more time to develop their capabilities for the sustained independent work of the senior thesis. It is possible that a student who does not demonstrate competence in a field may be required to take further work. A second failure will debar the student from candidacy for a degree in the English Department, but the student may be encouraged to transfer to another department or division.