GUIDELINES FOR THE COMPREHENSIVE
EXAM OPTION IN ANTHROPOLOGY
|Selection of Areas| |Administration
of the Exam| |Grading Criteria|
The comprehensive examination is one of two options
available for those seeking an M.A. degree in anthropology, the
other being the thesis. Proper preparation for the exams is essential.
In planning when to take the comprehensive examination,
either for the first or a subsequent time, students must keep in
mind that comprehensive exams are not offered during the summer
quarter in Anthropology. In addition, since regular faculty are
usually not on duty during the summer, individual faculty may or
may not be able to interact with students; if they do so, it is
on a volunteer basis.
There are five areas in which students may be examined:
Anthropological Theory, Cultural Anthropology, Physical Anthropology,
Archaeology, and Linguistics. All students who elect to take the
comprehensive exam option will be examined in three of these areas.
The exam in Anthropological Theory is required of all students.
The student selects two additional fields from the remaining four.
The exam in each area generally consists of three questions. There
is almost always a choice provided for each of the three questions.
Two areas are selected by the student. These two
areas are determined by the student and appropriate faculty through
consultation. Students are encouraged to meet regularly with faculty
who specialize in their areas of interest. This facilitates learning
and preparation for the exams. In selecting the additional areas
for examination, the student should choose areas in which they have
either passed a graduate seminar (e.g. Anth 560, Anth 520, Anth
570) or for which they have written instructor approval.
The Cultural Anthropology area exam is configured
in the following way:
- Students will be expected to answer a broad question concerning
the peoples, cultures and environments that characterize and have
characterized the world region selected by the student (North
and Middle America, South America and Caribbean, Africa...).
- Within that world region, the student, in consultation with
appropriate faculty, will choose one sub-area (e.g. Indonesia,
Amazonia, Japan, West Africa, Melanesia...).
- The student will also select, in consultation with appropriate
faculty, one cultural group on which there is a substantial body
of descriptive/analytic literature (ethnographic or historical/archaeological);
for example, the Aztec, the Ashanti, the Trobriand Islanders,
The Archaeology area exam will include a section on archaeological
theory, a section on archaeological method, and a section based
on a specific area of archaeology for which the student has prepared
or has stated a special interest.
The Physical Anthropology area exam will include a section
on human evolution, a section on modern human variation, and a section
based on a specific area of physical anthropology for which the
student has prepared or has stated a special interest and with which
the Physical Anthropology faculty are familiar.
The Linguistics area exam is configured on an individual
basis in consultation with appropriate faculty members.
of the Exam
- The examinations are administered during the
eight week of the fall, winter and spring termsl.
- Students must enroll for the exam no later than
the second week of the quarter in which they plan to take the
exam. If a student enrolls for the exam and fails to either complete
the exam or properly drop enrollment in the exam, the student
will be regarded as having failed the exam.
- All areas of the exam are graded by at least
two faculty members.
- After faculty have individually read and evaluated
the exams, the entire Department meets to discuss the results.
The final decision is reached by consensus.
- If the student fails two or more of the three
examinations he or she may elect to retake the exam in a subsequent
term. The student must retake the entire exam.
- If the student fails only one of the three examinations
he or she need only retake the failed exam.
- Students are allowed two retakes. Failing a third
time will constitute grounds for that student's termination from
- The examination process must be completed within
the seven years allowed for completion of all the requirements
for a master's degree.
- The Department maintains copies of the examination
questions and student exams in the student's file.
- Is the student addressing the question
that is being asked (rather than some other question)?
If, for example, a question is asked about the weaknesses
of the functionalist approach, and the student writes mostly
about the history of functionalism and the life histories
of particular functionalists, it is unlikely that they are
successfully answering the question no matter how much or
how accurate or how detailed the information they produce
- Is the student citing the most significant
evidence and sources in their response? While we cannot
anticipate what novel ideas and perspectives a student might
bring to a question, certain references and acknowledgements
can reasonably be expected. For example, a question on the
role of energy production in anthropological theorizing
cannot entirely ignore the contribution of Leslie White.
- Is there an argument being made and
is it supported by appropriate evidence?
What is the thesis that the student is articulating? Is
it coherent, consistent and making sense? Is it supported
by appropriate evidence?
- Is the information cited in the answer
correct? Is the student getting
the information right?
- Is the writing coherent and communicative?
Communication is part of what the student needs to achieve,
and it should not be left to the grader to assume that students
know what they are talking about when they do not make it
clear in their writing.
- While there are certain questions that
do not call for arguments (e.g. those that ask for identifications
of concepts or the listing of books or theorists), most
do. Those that do should be evaluated
according to the above criteria.
- Students will be evaluated on the basis
of performance on these exams.
The exams are an independent assessment (as is the thesis).
Evaluation will not include or be based on knowledge of
how the student performed in classes.