MA Exam and Graduation Guidelines

Development Process and Timeline for Completion
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 timelines and tasks to keep in mind, but it is subject to change based on the Graduate School:

  1. Visit the Graduate School's “Graduating from NMSU with Your Advanced Degree” page ( and submit all necessary paperwork. This includes the:

It is in your best interest to get a date-stamped copy of any paperwork you submit to the Graduate School.

  1. Select and finalize your committee by gathering signatures from each member. 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. If you don't already have a complete committee, ask your advisor or your classmates for recommendations. Generally, you ask faculty with whom you have already studied and who work in areas related to your interests.

    The department's Graduate Secretary has a copy of the signature form. 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.

  2. Make an appointment with the English Department's Director of Graduate Studies 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.

  3. Complete your capstone requirement. This may involve compiling, writing and revising a portfolio, researching and writing a thesis OR revising a Master Essay, as well as sucessfully completing the relevant course credits. Check in regularly with your committee chair to help make timely and productive progress. A final draft of your portfolio, thesis or Master Essay 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 no less than two weeks before the oral exam. This gives members time to review your work and prepare questions. 

  4. Contact all members of your committee to arrange a date for your Oral Examination. Once all members have agreed on a date, time, and place, relay this information to the department's Graduate Secretary. The secretary will help you complete your Committee for Non-thesis Examination form which must reach the Graduate School at least ten working days before the date of the examination or the exam is subject to cancellation by the Graduate School.

  5. The last date to hold a non-thesis oral examination is generally the Monday of finals week. The last date to hold a 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.

  6. Meet with your advisor early in the semester to get guidelines and expectations for the portfolio. Although general guidelines are set by the department, individual faculty members will likely ask for inclusion of specific materials. You should get a complete version of your final portfolio to your advisor a minimum of four weeks before you plan to hold your oral exam, though you will likely meet with her or him prior to that to discuss development, progress, and/or drafts.

  7. The oral examination 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 fields making up your program of study.

  8. Submission of the Thesis to the Graduate School
    Students who elect the thesis option are responsible for following Graduate School guidelines for writing and submitting the thesis (see separate thesis guidelines). 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.

  9. Non-Thesis Options
    Those students who opt to complete a portfolio of work or a Master Essay in place of the thesis must submit a final copy to the English Department Graduate Secretary for cataloging in the deparment library.