Comprehensive Exam FAQ

For guidelines and related information about the Department of English Interdisciplinary Ph.D., see the following website:
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Are the exams given on specific dates? How often (once or twice a year)?

Exams are not given on specific dates. Dates for exams are determined by each student and his or her committee.

Do you have exam questions on file for student practice?

We do not have an official file with former exam questions. However, past exam questions are passed around informally among students preparing to take exams. Usually, a dissertation director will refer students to other students in the program who have completed their exams. In the past, ABD students have willingly shared their exam questions and have discussed the exam process with students preparing to take exams. The department is currently working to compile a binder of past exam lists and questions to be housed in the main office.

How does the supervisory committee function to generate the exam?

Generally, students are asked to draft their own questions based on their reading and important issues in their fields. We believe this process helps students learn how to identify the significant topics, questions, controversies, and methods of investigation in their specific fields of study. We encourage the chair of an exam committee to work individually with a student to develop his or her questions. The student then submits the final pool of questions to the entire committee for review and approval. Sometimes the committee will revise or refine the sample questions. For the exam itself, the committee chooses two of the five or so questions that the student has prepared. The student, however, does not know which particular questions will be on the actual exam. This process is for the two written exams only. The oral exam process is described below.

How do you handle the interdisciplinary requirement for the exam?

Generally, it has been done two ways. Here’s the first way: students have a separate oral for their other discipline, as well as an interdisciplinary oral that includes all committee members but is based only on the English focus list (a list of mostly critical works that support the dissertation subject). Here’s the second way: The oral is divided into part co-discipline and part coordinating discipline questions. In this case, the (usually) history faculty ask their own questions based on their exam process; then we open the examination up to the entire committee to engage the English-focus list oral. Because the oral, according to this model, is intended to be a discussion of what the student will do for the dissertation and research related to it, both disciplines can participate easily and fully. This procedure seems to have worked quite well, although other models are possible as well.

At the level of comps, do you think it is necessary that there be an interdisciplinary component or is proficiency in the respective disciplines sufficient?

Please see the answer to the previous question. We feel that proficiency in the respective disciplines has been sufficient.

What opportunities does your department offer for students to participate in an interdisciplinary graduate culture? For example, do you offer seminars or workshops for students/faculty?

The department offers a range of opportunities to its students through the English Graduate Student Association (EGSA), annual graduate student conferences (one sponsored by the English Department; another co-sponsored with the Department of History), workshops, graduate receptions, graduate listservs, periodic social events with faculty (e.g. coffee klatch with the I.Ph.D coordinator, bowling night or dinner with participating faculty), specialized doctoral social events and workshops and/or reading groups. The department also has an official course on “Graduate Study in English” (5500). We have conducted mock interviews for students on the job market, funded graduate travel to conferences when possible, and the graduate committee is now working on an exit presentation for students completing the Ph.D. In addition to department-related organizations for doctoral students, there is the Interdisciplinary Doctoral Student Council (IDSC), which is comprised of I.Ph.D. students across campus and hosts several events during the year. The IDSC is also affiliated with the publication of the Journal of Interdisciplinary Research (JIDR), which publishes outstanding papers written by UMKC doctoral students. UMKC doctoral students serve on the journal’s editorial board and peer review papers submitted to the journal.