1. What is the purpose of the oral examination?
The exam is designed to be an educated conversation about the fields where students can demonstrate a mastery of important concepts and historiographical trends and a facility in speaking about them. Different examiners, however, approach the exam differently, so you are encouraged to speak with your examiners about their approach and philosophy.
2. Logistically, what do I need to do the semester before I take my exams?
You must submit a statement of intent (available on the History Department website) to the department (Marcy Kaufman) notifying your intent to take your exams by the end of the semester before you take your exams. This requires signatures from all of your examiners. In those cases where your examiner is out of the country or on sabbatical during that semester, they may provide an electronic signature through email (copying Marcy Kaufman), but this is discouraged.
You should also have nearly final lists, have discussed the historiographical essay with your major field examiner (because a theme is required on the form) and have confirmed with your examiners an approximate date for the exam. If you will be taking your exams at the beginning of the semester, you should also schedule the exam date and room (see below).
3. How do I schedule an exam date?
You are responsible for scheduling your examination date and reserving the room for it. You should schedule the meeting as far in advance as feasible, ideally several months in advance of the meeting. Remember that you must submit a statement of intent (available on the History Department website) to the department (Marcy Kaufman) notifying your intent to take your exams by the end of the semester before you take your exams.
Finding a date requires coordinating several people’s schedules in the following manner:
Identify a roughly two-week period during the semester when you might like to meet for your qualifying examinations.
Using a Doodle poll (or other online scheduling software), propose a broad range of two-hour meeting times during that period.
You may wish to consult with your primary advisor and other committee members prior to creating the scheduling poll in order to narrow the list of dates when they are available, particularly if they have specific schedule constraints. It also may be necessary to circulate a second scheduling poll if none of the first proposed dates work.
Remember that at least two of your committee members must be present in the room during your qualifying examinations, while the others can participate virtually, if necessary. Ideally, all of your committee will be present.
4. What happens if one or more of my examiners will be out of town/out of the country on my exam date?
Your examiners still need to conduct the exam, but one or more examiners can conduct the exam via Zoom. However, you must have at least two faculty members in the exam room with you during the exam — at least one of them must be an examiner. The second physically-present faculty member can be a non-examiner.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you have the necessary examiners or faculty present at the time of the exam, so you should confirm with your examiners in the days before the exam.
5. How do I set up Zoom for the exam?
If you know that you will be having one or more examiners join by Zoom you can schedule a room for the exam with a screen and camera. Pre-circulate Zoom invitation, even to faculty members who will be present in the room. Arrive to the exam room early to log-in to the in-room computer and Zoom to set up the call (if you have not used the technology set-up in that room before, it is recommended that you go in early to check the system — Yale has more than one configuration so it is worth testing out in advance). Bring your laptop as an emergency backup should the in-room system not be working correctly.
6. How do I schedule a room for the exam?
Email Marcy Kaufman (email@example.com) to schedule a room within the department. To get a convenient room (for you and your examiners), do this as soon as possible. It is recommended that you request a room as soon as you have chosen your exam date. If no departmental room is available, visit http://classrooms.yale.edu to book a room through 25Live.
7. Can I take a break during my exam?
Yes. It is acceptable to request a short break to use the restroom during the exam.
8. Can/should I bring anything into the exam with me?
Yes. You must bring a copy of the exam form (available on the History Department website) with you for your examiners to complete. You may bring some paper and a pen or pencil if you would like to jot down notes as an examiner is speaking or you are preparing a response. You may also bring in a water bottle or other drink. You should not have notes, copies of your written materials, or copies of your exam list for yourself (but your bag, closed laptop, etc. can be in the room with you — behind you or under the table).
9. What about copies of my exam lists for my examiners?
Your examiners should have copies of the exam list with them on the day of the exam. You should circulate your final exam lists to your examiners by email in the days before the exam. Ideally, they will print their own copies, but some may request that you print them for them.
10. When do I submit my written component?
The written component of the exam is a syllabus for each minor field and an 8,000 word historiographical essay for the major field. These should be submitted to Marcy at least two weeks before the exam date.
11. How do I submit my written components?
Email Marcy Kaufman (firstname.lastname@example.org) with all of your written components in one email, the names of your examiners, and which file goes to which examiner. You may also individually email files to your examiners. However, they must also be submitted through Marcy Kaufman.
12. What kind of syllabus is required for the minor fields?
The syllabus should be prepared for an undergraduate lecture course on the topic of the minor field or something that the minor field encompasses (as agreed on by your examiner). You should plan for the course to run 14 weeks, with two lectures per week, and one section. Readings can be assigned for each lecture or for the week as a whole.
Speak with your examiners about anything specific that they would like you to include, but the syllabus should typically include the following: name of the course, course description, learning objectives, assignments, subjects of lectures, and assigned readings. It is also a good idea to include, and some examiners may require the inclusion of, questions on the readings and a brief description of how you would use the readings in the course.
13. What type of paper is required for the major field?
Your paper should be a historiographical essay of 8,000 words that explores several of the readings from your major list. How many readings and the specific theme is determined by you and your major field examiner.
14. What is the order of examiners?
You may set the order of examiners. Please communicate to your examiners before exam day what the order will be. It is also a good idea to remind examiners of the exam date, time, and location about a week before hand.
15. How is the exam graded?
Students may pass, pass with distinction, or fail the exam (including both the oral and written components). At the end of the oral component, you will be asked to leave the room while the examiners discuss. After being called back in, you will be given your results. If you have passed your exam, your examiners will fill out a form acknowledging that, which must be returned as soon as possible to Marcy Kaufman for recording. One of your examiners will typically take responsibility for delivering the form to Marcy. If you have not passed, your examiners will speak with you about scheduling a second exam.
1. What is the purpose of the exam?
The exam is designed to be an educated conversation about the fields where students can demonstrate a mastery of important concepts and historiographical trends and a facility in speaking about them. Different examiners, however, approach the exam differently, so you are encouraged to speak with your students about your approach and philosophy.
2. What will students submit to me and when?
The written component of the exam is a syllabus for each minor field and an 8,000 word historiographical essay for the major field. Students will submit their final copies to the history department two weeks before the scheduled date of the exam and they will be distributed to you electronically. If you and the student agree, the student can also submit a final copy directly to you. You may request or agree, if you are willing, to review drafts of the written materials before the final due date.
3. Can questions reference lists or written materials?
Of course. However, students will not have copies of the exam lists or written materials in front of them during the exam. So if you will be asking specific questions about either of these, recognize that they should be phrased such that a student does not need to reference a page or passage to understand the question.
4. Can the student request a break during the exam?
Yes, a student may request a short break during the exam (for example, to use the restroom). If they feel they need a break, they are encouraged to keep it short.
5. Where is the exam?
The student will schedule a room for the exam and notify you. For convenience, exams are usually held in the same building as the History Department, but students can arrange for other rooms to accommodate faculty, student, and technology needs.
6. When is the exam?
It is up to the student to schedule the exam at a time that is convenient for their examiners. Students should be in contact with you about availability and the final date.
7. What if I will be on sabbatical?
If you have agreed to act as an examiner for a student but will be on sabbatical or otherwise away from Yale, you may conduct the exam via Zoom. You should exchange Zoom meeting links with the student prior to the day of the exam. The student will arrange to have a room with necessary technology for Zoom and log into their account several minutes before the exam starts to connect with you.
Two examiners or professors must be physically present in the room at the time of the exam, however. Students should confirm with examiners in advance that two will be present, but please try to notify students as soon as possible if your plans change so that they can make necessary arrangements.
8. How is the exam graded?
Students should bring the grading sheet with them to the exam for examiners to fill out. Students may pass, pass with distinction, or fail the exam. The grade should weigh both the written and oral components. After the oral exam is complete, the student should leave the room while the examiners deliberate. Once grades have been agreed upon and the grading sheet completed, the student can be called back in to receive their grade. For students who pass, please complete the form to that effect and deliver it to Marcy Kaufman for recording. Students who fail the first time should reschedule the exam with their examiners.