M.A. Exam

All students take a two-hour oral examination. In that exam, students are expected both to defend their Master’s Thesis, Master’s Essay, or Master’s Portfolio and to answer questions regarding their course work. Students should form their examining committee by the end of their third semester of course work. The committee consists of at least two members of the graduate English faculty (including the Master’s Thesis, Master’s Essay, or Master’s Portfolio adviser) and one member of the graduate faculty from outside the department (who generally serves as the representative of the Graduate School). 

To help ensure that you complete your degree program in the semester you plan to finish, check the Graduate School website for all deadlines and requirements. The following is a list of timelines and tasks to keep in mind, but it is subject to change based on the Graduate School:

  • Visit the Graduate School’s “Graduating from NMSU with Your Advanced Degree” pageThere students will find all necessary paperwork and links, including:Make an appointment with the English Department’s Director of Graduate Studies. You want to ensure you have met all programmatic requirements and that you have filed all required paperwork. The earlier you do this in the semester, the better.
  • Select and finalize your committee. Your committee must be composed of two members of the English Department and one member from outside the department known as the Dean’s Representative. Faculty members must have graduate status to serve on an exam committee. A list of graduate faculty is available here. However, the Graduate School can resolve any doubt about whether a faculty member has graduate status.
    • the Application for Degree (Diploma) link via MyNMSU. This process will include a fee and must be filed at the beginning of the semester in which the student wishes to graduate. Late filing entails paying an additional fee. Students who fail to complete all requirements for graduation by the deadline specified on the Application for Degree (Diploma) link may forfeit any fees paid and must reapply and pay all required fees.
    • the Program of Study for Master’s Students form. This form lists courses completed and courses to be completed to meet degree requirements, and it should be submitted to the Graduate School at the end of the semester in which the student completes 12 hours of graduate work. This form should be completed in consultation with the students’ adviser; to be approved, it must include all course requirements for the degree emphasis. Variations from stated requirements in the student’s degree emphasis must be approved by the English Department Graduate Studies Committee. To obtain approval for such a change, the student should complete the Program of Study Change form and submit a memo requesting the change through the adviser to the Chair of the Graduate Studies Committee. Such requests should be submitted as early in the student’s career as possible. The program outlined in the Application for Admission to Candidacy can be amended subsequently by a memorandum initiated by the student and approved by the advisor and the department head.
    • the Masters Final Examination form. To schedule the final oral exam, students must submit this form to the Graduate School at least 10 working days before the date of the final oral exam. The form also is available from our Graduate Secretary. The form, containing the names of the examining committee and the time and place of the examination, must be signed by the student, the adviser, and the department head.
    • It is in your best interest to get a date-stamped copy of any paperwork you submit to the Graduate School.
  • Contact all members of your committee to arrange a date for your oral examination. Students should obtain the consent of faculty members on the examining committee and should coordinate with them the date, time, and place of the exam. Then, students must obtain signatures from each committee member for the Masters Final Examination form. The department’s Graduate Secretary also has a copy of this form, which must reach the Graduate School at least 10 working days before the date of the examination or the exam is subject to cancellation by the Graduate School.Complete your capstone requirement. This may involve researching and writing a Master’s Thesis, revising a Master’s Essay, or compiling a Master’s Portfolio, as well as successfully completing the relevant course credits. Check in regularly with your committee chair to help make timely and productive progress. A final draft of your Master’s Thesis, Master’s Essay, or Master’s Portfolio is generally due to your chair one month before you plan to hold your exam. Your chair will provide additional revision feedback and tell you whether or not you are ready to hold your exam. After revising a last time, you should submit your final capstone project to each of your committee members several weeks before the oral exam. This gives members time to review your work and prepare questions.
    • Check in with each committee member at the beginning of your final semester to let them know your timeline and to see what requests, procedures, or processes they like to use for reviewing your work. If you don’t already have a complete committee, ask your adviser or your classmates for recommendations. Generally, you ask faculty with whom you have already studied and who work in areas related to your interests. 
  • Take the oral examination. The exam is primarily a conversation about your capstone project. Although committee members may ask about your experiences in the program and/or specific courses, the focus is generally on the work submitted as your capstone. The exam is not designed to trip you up, delay your graduation, or quiz you on anything and everything you read and discussed in the program. This does not mean all questions will be easy, but they are intended to facilitate a reflective discussion in which you are asked to talk thoughtfully about your work and its relation to the field(s) making up your program of study. Submit your capstone project appropriately. Students who elect the Master’s Thesis option are responsible for following Graduate School guidelines for writing and submitting the thesis. Following the oral examination, the student is responsible for making appropriate revisions and submitting the thesis to the Graduate School by the deadline published by the Graduate School. Students should be aware of these deadlines. Those students who opt to complete a Master’s Essay or Master’s Portfolio must submit a final copy to the English Department Graduate Secretary for cataloging in the department library.
    • The last date to hold a non-thesis (Master’s Essay or Master’s Portfolio) oral examination is generally the Monday of finals week. The last date to hold a Master’s Thesis oral examination is generally four weeks prior to finals week. However, you should generally plan to hold it at least a few days earlier in case problems occur that require rescheduling. 

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