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MSU Home :: Academics :: English :: MA Exam FAQs

MA Exam FAQs

Who is eligible to sit for the MA exam?

Students who have completed at least 24 hours towards the degree and maintained at least a 3.0 GPA are eligible to sit for the MA exam.  If a student has not completed at least 24 hours or has not maintained a GPA of 3.0 (or higher) in those 24+ hours, s/he will NOT be eligible to take the exam.

When is the exam scheduled?

MA exit exams are regularly scheduled from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on the third Friday of April and the first Friday of November.

Are there alternate examination days and times?

Our program does not routinely offer alternate examination times. If an off-campus student is unable to secure a testing location or proctor for the scheduled date and time, s/he may file a request for a different testing date or time with the graduate coordinator, but this request (a) must be submitted 6 weeks in advance of the scheduled test date and (b) will not be automatically granted. Students must be able to demonstrate that there are no proctors or proctoring locations available/open at the scheduled times. Students may not just request an alternate time because the scheduled test time is inconvenient for the student. When students are able to document a need for an alternate test day or time, the graduate coordinator will work with the proctor to select a mutually agreeable time. No off-campus exam may take place later than the scheduled examination date.

Does the 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. testing time correlate to a specific time zone?

On campus exams take place between 9:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. EST. Off-campus exams in the contiguous United States will take place between 9:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. local time. Students living outside of the Eastern, Central, Mountain or Pacific time zones should contact the graduate coordinator 6 weeks in advance of the examination to set up a mutually agreeable testing time.

When must exams be submitted?

Students who take the exit exam on campus must hand in their bluebooks at 12:00 p.m. EST. Off-campus students must submit their exams to their proctors at the end of their own testing windows (i.e., their local 12:00 p.m.). Please note that off-campus, proctored examinations must be emailed or faxed to the main office within one hour of the test’s completion. If they are not emailed or submitted within one hour of the examination, they will not be considered valid.

Why must off-campus proctored exams be emailed or faxed within one hour of completion?

We need to guarantee both that the examination has been completed in a timely fashion and that there is someone in our main office to receive the exams and make sure that there have been no errors in transmission. If an examination taken in CST is submitted more than one hour after the close of the testing window, and if there are problems with the fax transmission, there may not be anyone in the main office (here in EST) to note the problem and make sure that the examination is properly submitted. In many ways, the one-hour turn-around time is a guarantee for students to make sure that their work is not lost or jumbled in transmission.

What will the examination cover?

The exit exam will cover the works listed on the standard reading list. Please review this list and the general description of the 3-hour test on the main exam webpage.

How should a student prepare for the exam?

Students should prepare for the exam by carefully reading all the works on the list, completing a basic review of the criticism, and making sure that they are able to locate each text in its proper historical, generic and critical/theoretical context(s). Students should be able to:

  • identify the genre of each work and the literary period in which it was written  
  • describe the way the work exemplifies its historical period and/or aesthetic form
  • identify and explain the major themes and standard readings of each text. 

Students may choose to sign up for particular classes to help them prepare for the exam, but they should be aware that these classes will not provide readymade answers for exam questions. The courses in the program are designed to provide students with the necessary skills they will be asked to apply in preparing for and responding to questions on the master’s exam; these courses are not designed to provide all possible answers to potential questions about a particular topic, work or author.  A single author course on Milton, for example, can give students important historical context for the masterpiece that is Paradise Lost, but it will not provide clearly framed answers that can be copied onto the exit exam. Likewise, a course on the American Renaissance may provide students with a working definition of the Romance, but this does not mean that the course will offer students everything they might need to know about one of the exemplars of the Romance, The Scarlet Letter. Students are responsible for independently researching the works on the MA reading list 

Does the department provide sample test questions or responses?

The department does not provide sample test questions or a study guide tailored to the MA reading list. We refrain from doing so for two reasons: (1) we need to reserve all potential questions for the examination itself, and (2) we need to determine what students can independently produce without overt guidance. The exit examination is basically a final check on students’ disciplinary knowledge and writing skills, and we are unable to fully gauge these skills if students are able to pre-draft.

That said we do have a mock-up of potential questions (and strategies for answers) for a work not covered on the permanent reading list.  This mock-up shows students the types of question they may encounter, but it does not purport to be exhaustive.  The faculty reserves the right to ask types of questions that are not specifically identified on this document. To download this mock-up, click here

How will examinations be graded?

 Examinations will be holistically evaluated by members of the graduate faculty. Each test attempt will be reviewed by a minimum of 2 graduate faculty members. When faculty holistically evaluate exit exams, they look to see if each answer (a) clearly addresses and adequately answers the prompt, (b) maintains a clear focus, (c) uses literary terminology properly, (d) is appropriately developed, (e) is free from factual error, and (f) is generally free from syntactical and mechanical problems.  

When will examinations be graded?

Examinations will be prepped for grading by the Monday following the scheduled test date. Depending on the volume of examinations, the grading period will last anywhere from 2 to 3 weeks.

How will students be notified of their examination results?

Official results will be sent to students’ MSU email accounts. Attached to each message will be a formal e-letter that specifies the result of the test. Please note that all correspondence regarding the exam will occur over standard MSU email. Students who wish to receive a physical copy of their examination result should request this copy in a reply email to the initial e-letter. All requests should include a designated mail address.

May the exit exam be retaken?

Students who do not pass the exit examination the first time may take the exam again. No student, though, is able to take the exam more than twice.

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