Qualifying Examination for the Ph.D. Degree

Candidates for the Ph.D. degree must take a qualifying oral examination no later than the end of the sixth term. The exam will cover three fields distinguished by period and/or genre in one or more East Asian national literatures or in other fields closely related to the student’s developing specialization. These fields and accompanying reading lists will be selected in consultation with the examiners and the director of graduate studies in order to allow the student to demonstrate knowledge and command of a range of topics.

Attendance at Exams

Those in attendance will be the three faculty members supervising the three respective exam questions, the DGS, and the student. Other members of the faculty who wish to attend may do so but will not participate in the questioning; the student will be notified by the DGS if such observers plan to attend. Students may also invite other faculty members to attend as observers, and should notify the DGS if they have done so.

Scheduling of the Exam

Selection of the date and time of the exam will focus on the availability of the examiners, the DGS, and the student. In most cases, exams will take place in April and May of each academic year. Dates should be set through consultation with the DGS and the department registrar shortly after the beginning of the spring term. Other schedules are possible; please consult the DGS about these details.

Preparation of Questions/Lists

Students preparing to take their exams in the spring term should complete the preparation of the three initial lists of proposed readings and/or topics by October 1. Each list (for each question) should include a paragraph-long statement of the list’s rationale, or the problem(s) addressed by the question, which should also clarify what objectives are or will be pursued in composing the list and reading the items on it. In addition, the student should also present a one-paragraph statement about the three questions as a group, again indicating the rationale of the composition of this trio of questions, their relationship to one another and distinctions among them, and their relationship to the projected topic of dissertation research, where applicable. In other words, the documents to be submitted for approval of exam plans will include a total of four such explanatory paragraphs as well as the three lists of titles of works as such, each of which constitutes a “question.”

Conception and preparation of these lists, as well as the questions about them that will be asked at the exam, should focus on a specific problem or problems for literary study, but should also demonstrate chronological or typological range and breadth. One useful measure might be to think of each reading list as the equivalent of 2 semesters’ or 2 seminar courses’ assigned readings in terms of depth, range, and volume. After obtaining the signature of approval of the individual examining faculty member on each of these three lists, copies should be submitted to the department office. They will also be signed by the DGS and kept in the student’s file.

Submission and Distribution of Final Lists Prior to Exam

When each examining faculty member has approved and signed the final list of readings to be completed for his or her question, the student will submit that final list to the department office as above. These lists will be distributed to all three examiners and the DGS, with copies on file for other faculty members who may wish to inspect them. If the student and an examiner subsequently agree to changes in any one of the three lists, a revised list may be submitted, but no such revisions shall be accepted less than two months (eight weeks) prior to the scheduled date of the exam.

The Exam

The examination will last for two hours, with time allotted proportionally to each of the three prepared questions. Students should not only be prepared to demonstrate specialized knowledge of their examination subjects, but also a capacity for conveying this knowledge in terms accessible to the entire East Asian literatures faculty as represented by those present at the examination.


The Graduate School provides departments with the opportunity to indicate that a student has passed the qualifying exam “with distinction” when it deems this to be the case. This commendation is only very rarely extended. The faculty must recommend “distinction” unanimously, and will consider this designation only at its own discretion.