Comprehensive Exams

Students can choose one of three options for satisfying the Comprehensive Exam:
     * Three Essays
     * Portfolio
     * Closed-Book Written Exam

Option #1: Three Essays

Write one essay for each of the three domains. Each essay should be about 30 pages long and must demonstrate a thoughtful and critical understanding of the theory and research in the field of literacy, highlighting key issues and tensions. If you choose this option, you will likely keep notes from your readings both in and outside your coursework, papers from courses, and notes and gatherings from conferences to inform your writing. Then, you will gather your information, synthesize it, and reflect upon it in your essays.

Option #2: Portfolio

The portfolio consists of two kinds of information, which you may organize as you please: (1) a sampling of works suited to each domain and (2) an essay, for each domain, explaining what you learned about these domains and the relevance of the work samples. In the sampling of works, you may include anything you consider relevant for a demonstration of competence in each of the three domains. You might include critical reviews, published papers, reflections on learning from studies in which you have been involved, annotated bibliographies, papers, or reviews of papers, or evidence of cooperative or individual research endeavors. The sampling section of the portfolio is limited to ten items, with no more than four items within any domain. Any course papers included as samples must be clean copies without professor feedback and grades.

The nature of the essays for each domain depends on the items included in the portfolio. For example, if you have several pieces in a particular domain, the essay for that domain will describe how these pieces fit into the field of literacy and how they address critical issues in the domain. If a domain contains a very well developed, publishable paper, the essay will provide the context for that paper, showing how it relates to the broader domain. If you don't have appropriate material to place in the portfolio for a given domain, then you can address the domain with an essay or written exam, as in Exam Option 1, or Option 3.

Option #3: Closed-Book, Written Exam

One week in advance of the exam, the faculty will provide you with nine questions, three in each of three domains. You will have between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. on the day of the examination (with a break for lunch, 12-1 p.m.) to write responses to three questions selected by the faculty, one from each domain. Notes may not be brought into the examination. Legibility of the responses is your responsibility (you may use a computer, provided that access to documents other than the examination response itself is denied). You must notify the faculty of your intention to take this form of the exam by the first day of the semester in which you plan to take it so that faculty can prepare questions.  If you do not pass a domain within the written exam, you must either re-take the closed book exam or select a different option.