M.A. Exam

The M.A. in English Comprehensive Examination will be administered on the following dates:

Saturday, July 28, 2018 from 8:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Saturday, November 3, 2018 from 8:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Saturday, April 7, 2018 from 8:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m

Contact the English Department at (479) 968-0256 to register for the examination.

Click here to review the M.A. English Reading List.

M.A. In English Comprehensive Examination

Student Information

All students who are enrolled in Arkansas Tech's M.A. in English and are not completing the TESL option are required to pass the M.A. in English Comprehensive Examination. The examination is administered three times each year in November, April, and August. Specific dates, locations, and times are available from the English Department in Witherspoon Hall Hall 141 or by phone at (479) 968-0256. Students should register for the examination in the English Department by October 15 for the November test date, by March 15 for the April test date, or by July 15 for the August date. There is no registration fee.

The Examination Committee

An examination committee, composed of three English graduate faculty members appointed by the English Department Head, will be responsible for writing, administering, and grading the examinations.

The Examination Reading List

The examination is based on the M.A. In English Examination Reading List. Students are responsible for mastering the works on the List through careful selection of courses and supplementary reading.

The Examination

As of the April 14, 2012 administration, the M.A. In English Comprehensive Examination consists of two parts: a twenty-four-question objective section and an essay section focusing on the M.A. In English Examination Reading List

Objective Section: Students will be given 150 minutes to identify and discuss the twenty-four quotations in this section, one from each of the twenty-four authors/works. Students must identify the author and specific work. When appropriate, students should identify the speaker or situation. The student's discussion should explain the significance of the quotation in the work. Sample objective questions and answers are printed below.

Objective questions are graded on a two-point scale. Successful and specific identification earns one point. An adequate discussion of the quotation's significance can earn a second point. A passing score for the objective section is 30 points of a possible 48.

Essay Section: Students will be given 90 minutes to complete the essay section, selecting one of three topics and discussing three of the works/authors on the M.A. In English Examination Reading List.Two of the three graders will have to assign a passing grade to an essay for a student to pass that particular examination component. Students essays will be judged on effective use of concrete textual knowledge, ability to place individual writers and works in their cultural/historical contexts, and evidence of a mature critical understanding of literature.

Notification: Students will be notified of examination results within two weeks of the examination date.

Retaking Examinations: A student who fails some portion of the examination may retake the failed section(s) on the next regularly scheduled test date. A student who fails one or more parts of the examination on a second or subsequent attempt may petition the Department Head for an additional chance on the next regularly scheduled exam date. A student whose petition is denied may appeal the decision to the Dean of Graduate Studies. If an additional attempt is approved, the Department Head may assign the student a graduate faculty mentor to monitor the student's preparation for the retake.

Preparing for the Examination

Give Yourself Enough Time: The M.A. Examination covers a considerable body of literature, so it is important that you begin to prepare well in advance of the examination date.

Ask For Help: English faculty members are willing to help you in your preparation. For example, after reading one of the authors on the list, a brief discussion about the work with a faculty member could improve your understanding. If you do not know which faculty member might be able to help you with a particular author, ask the Department Head for a suggestion.

Sample Objective Questions and Answers

The following questions and answers are designed to give students an idea of what will be expected of them on the M.A. In English Comprehensive Examination.

Sample 1

"Who knows but that, on the lower frequencies, I speak for you?"

This concluding line from Ellison's Invisible Man is spoken by the unnamed narrator as he "hibernates"in his underground hideout, preparing for a future reentry into aboveground society. The line invites the reader to transcend barriers of race, gender, and history to connect with the narrator's experience. It underscores Ellison's effort to make the novel an examination of human experience rather than merely of Black experience.

Sample 2

"What had that flower to do with being white,The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?What brought the kindred spider to that height,Then steered the white moth thither in the night?What but design of darkness to appall?--;If design govern in a thing so small."

These lines are the concluding sestet of Frost's "Design." In this Petrarchan sonnet, Frost examines a white flower on which a white spider had captured a white moth. The title, "Design," and the poem's concluding lines ask whether the situation was brought about by design, implying the possibility of a malicious deity who has arranged such natural order only to "appall"--a word which means to shock to the point of inducing pallor. The concluding line suggests a perhaps even darker possibility--the idea that there is no order at all governing the natural world.

Sample 3

"Well, she's a blessed angel on earth, and after this one night I'll cling to her skirts and follow her to heaven."

In Hawthorne's story "Young Goodman Brown" this "excellent resolve for the future" is spoken by Young Goodman Brown in reference to his wife Faith. Brown leaves home to undertake some dark purpose in the forest despite his young wife's request that he stay home. His comment reveals two errors in judgment on his part. First, he mistakenly assumes that his wife can determine his salvation. Second, he invests her with an impossible purity that makes it impossible for him to accept her human sinfulness and leads to eventual misanthropy.

M.A. In English Comprehensive ExaminationAdministered November 17, 2001

1. "Big Daddy dotes on you, honey. And he can't stand Brother Man and Brother Man's wife, that monster of fertility, Mae. Know, how I know? By little expressions that flicker over his face when that woman is holding fo'th on one of her choice topics such as--how she refused twilight sleep!--when the twins were delivered."
2. "I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,And mourners to and froKept treading--treading--till it seemedThat Sense was breaking through--"
3. "Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance. If the dispositions of the parties are ever so well known to each other, or ever so similar beforehand, it does not advance their felicity in the least. They always contrive to grow sufficiently unlike afterwards to have their share of vexation; and it is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life."
4. "All my life I had been looking for something, and everywhere I turned someone tried to tell me what it was. I accepted their answers too, though they were often in contradiction and even self-contradictory. I was naive. I was looking for myself, and asking everyone except myself questions which I, and only I, could answer."
5. "Unhappy creature, he lived for a time in the home of the monsters' race, after God had condemned them as kin of Cain."
6. "You ought to be ashamed, I said, to look so antique.(And her only thirty-one.)I can't help it she said, pulling a long face,It's them pills I took, to bring it off, she said.(She's had five already, and nearly died of young George.)The chemist said it would be alright, but I've never been the same.You are a proper fool, I said.Well, if Albert won't leave you alone, there it is, I said,"
7. "But I was filled with excitement, a strange exuberant sense of taking wing. I didn't know where I was going, but I knew what I needed. I needed a new land, a new race, a new language; and, although I couldn't have put it into words then, I needed a new mystery."
8. "We will walk on our own feet; we will work with our own hands; we will speak our own minds."
9. "His soul had arisen from the grave of boyhood, spurning her grave clothes. Yes! Yes! He would create proudly out of the freedom and power of his soul, as the great artificer whose name he bore, a living thing, new and soaring and beautiful, impalpable, imperishable."
10. "'Ah,' Mr. Compson said. 'Years ago we in the South made our women into ladies. Then the War came and made the ladies into ghosts. So what else can we do, being gentlemen, but listen to them being ghosts?'"
11. "'Tis better to rule in Hell than serve in Heaven."
12. "The redeemed Captive had not altogether so much of the human-angelic Species: She seemed to be, at least, of the middle Age, nor had her Face much Appearance of Beauty; but her Clothes being torn from the upper Part of her Body, her Breasts, which were well formed, and extremely white, attracted the Eyes of her Deliverer, and for a few Moments they stood silent, and gazing at each other . . ."
13. "O, my offense is rank, it smells to heaven.It hath the primal eldest curse upon't,A brother's murther. . . ."
14. "Why should I wish to see God better than this day?I see something of God each hour of the twenty-four, and each moment then,In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in the glass,I find letters from God dropt in the street, and every one is sign'd by God's name,And I leave them where they are, for I know that whereso'er I go,Others will punctually come for ever and ever."
15. "But how could she swallow all that stuff about poetry? How could she let him hold forth about Shakespeare? Seriously and solemnly Richard Dalloway got on his hind legs and said that no decent man ought to read Shakespeare's sonnets because it was like listening at keyholes (besides the relationship was not one that he approved)."
16. "After all the evil he done I know you wonder why I don't hate him. I don't hate him for two reasons. One, he love Shug. And two, Shug use to love him. Plus, look like he trying to make something out of himself. I don't mean just that he works and he clean up after himself and he appreciate some of the things God was playful enough to make. I mean when you talk to him now he really listen."
17. "O happy living things! no tongueTheir beauty might declare:A spring of love gushed from my heart,And I blessed them unaware:Sure my kind saint took pity on me,And I blessed them unaware."
18. "Who ain't a slave? Tell me that. . . however they may thump and punch me about, I have the satisfaction of knowing that it is all right; that everybody else is one way or other served in much the same way--either in a physical or metaphysical point of view, that is; and so the universal thump is passed around, and all hands should rub each other's shoulder blades, and be content."
19. "Bald heads forgetful of their sins,Old, learned, respectable bald headsEdit and annotate the linesThat young men, tossing on their beds,Rhymed out in love's despairTo flatter beauty's ignorant ear."
20. "There had been a time when Dr. Flint's wife came to take tea with us and when her children were also sent to have a feast of 'Aunt Marthy's' nice cooking. But after I became an object of her jealousy and spite, she was angry with grandmother for giving a shelter to me and my children. She would not even speak to her in the street. This wounded my grandmother's feelings, for she could not retain ill will against the woman whom she had nourished with her milk when a babe."
21. "Miss Brooke had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into relief by poor dress. Her hand and wrist were so finely formed that she could wear sleeves not less bare of style than those in which the Blessed Virgin appeared to Italian painters; and her profile as well as her stature and bearing seemed to gain the more dignity from her plain garments, which by the side of provincial fashion gave her the impressiveness of a fine quotation from the Bible,--or from one of our elder poets,--in a paragraph of today's newspaper."
22. "His sin was expiated--;the curse was gone from him; and in the hour when he had shed blood dearer to him than his own, a prayer, the first for years, went up to Heaven from the lips of Reuben Bourne."
23. "Gat-toothed was she, smoothly for to seye.Upon an amblere esily she sat...And on hir feet a paire of spores sharpe....Of remedies of love she knew per chaunceFor she koude of that art the oulde daunce."
24. "I can repeat the very words you were saying:'Three foggy mornings and one rainy dayWill rot the best birch fence a man can build.'Think of it, talk like that at such a time!What had how long it takes a birch to rotTo do with what was in the darkened parlor?"

Literature Essay Questions

November 17, 2001

1. Discuss the role of violence in three works from the reading list.
2. Examine the ways in which social restraints affect the characters' choices in three works on the reading list.
3. Trace the theme of isolation and alienation in three works from the reading list.