English majors begin preparing for their senior comprehensive examination as soon as they enter the program. Although that preparation involves reviewing coursework, it is essentially a process not of review but of synthesis. To do well on the comprehensive exam, a student must have a grasp of the study of English as a whole. This will require some supplementing of coursework, and students are encouraged to use the Routledge History of Literature: Britain and Ireland and Meyer Abrams’ Glossary of Literary Terms, as well as the introductory materials in The Norton Anthology of English Literature and The Norton Anthology of American Literature.

The exam itself consists of two parts: I) General Knowledge (3 hours) and II) Application and Analysis (2 hours). The department provides a Sample Comprehensive Exam. Although the format of questions varies from year to year, the Sample Exam nevertheless offers a good indication of the knowledge and skills students will be expected to demonstrate.

Students preparing for the exam should study the list of works provided in particular depth. Examinees do not have to confine their discussion to works on the list, but should be prepared to discuss those works in detail.

Sample Exam
NB: The works mentioned on the Sample Exam may or may not be on the reading list for the current year. Please refer to the Reading List to determine whether works on the Sample Exam are part of this year's reading list.

Reading List for Exam