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Qualifying Master's Exam

Students will take a qualifying examination (Master’s exam) once they have passed or registered for the 30 hours of coursework (typically the fourth semester of the program). The exam assesses the students’ command of the Master’s Degree reading list.


The examination includes a written exam over a two-day period, which evaluates your knowledge and understanding of the Master’s Reading list. Once grades are submitted, the advisor will hold a general conversation with the student on the strengths and weaknesses of the exam, and offers general guidance on students’ professional or academic plans following the M.A. During this conversation, the student also has the opportunity to comment on his/her own answers to the written exam.

The written examinations will be administered over a two-day period. The exams will be divided into four areas with one and a half hours allocated for each category. There are two questions for each area.

-  Medieval/Early Modern Spain

-  19th, 20th and 21st Centuries Spain

-  Colonial Through 19th Century Latin America

-  Contemporary Latin America (20th and 21st Centuries)

Students can opt out of ONE of the four areas by taking two courses in any one category, and passing them with a grade of B or above. In order to opt out, the student must inform the Director of Graduate Studies in writing (via email) anytime in the semester prior to taking the exams.

Procedures and Grading

The department offers the examination once each semester. Exams will be scheduled in the second week of November for the Fall semester, and in March, in the week before Spring Break.  Exams are usually scheduled in the conference or seminar room, and are typed in computers provided by the department. The Graduate Academic Advisor and Director of Graduate Studies will ensure that the exam adheres to any individual accommodations communicated through the AAC. The Graduate Studies Committee oversees the writing, administration and grading of the examination. Students must answer two questions per area as indicated in the exam.

All students will be notified of the written exam results within two weeks following the exam. If the student received a passing grade, the Graduate Director will inform the student of the time, date and location for the oral examination. Students will be notified of their grade within a week following their oral exam. All students will be notified of qualifying exam results, including comments from qualifying examination committee members, via letter sent through the University of Kansas email system no later than two weeks after the conclusion of the exam. The Director of Graduate Studies will send out confirmation of the exam to the committee and will inform the Graduate Academic Advisor who will submit the required forms to the graduate school for approval.

Qualifying Exams can be deemed a pass (satisfactory) or a failure. An outcome of satisfactory indicates that the student demonstrates an understanding of the majority of the texts and concepts in the M.A. reading list. An outcome of unsatisfactory indicates that the student failed to demonstrate an understanding of course texts and concepts. For more information about these three outcomes, students should consult with their faculty advisor or the Director of Graduate Studies.

Those who do not pass one section of the written exam may retake that section, but only if completed before the end of the current semester. Those who do not pass two or more sections will be asked to retake the entire exam. Students who fail the exam may take it a second time. If the student fails that section a second time, the Graduate Studies Committee will discuss if the student will be offered an alternative exam. At least 90 days must elapse between exams and a second attempt must be completed within six months of the failure.

After a failed exam, a student must meet with all members of the exam committee before retaking the exam. Failure of the exam for the second time will not result in an M.A. Students who fail the qualifying exams once retain their initial funding package. After the completion of a second exam, the student must meet with the Director of Graduate Studies to discuss their future in the program; those who fail the exam twice must either voluntarily leave the program or will be dismissed from the program.

Students who commence the exam but are unable to finish it for highly unusual or extenuating circumstances, such as documented medical issues or death in the family, should retake the exam within 90 days and will be given new questions. Students should inform the Director of Graduate Studies at the earliest possible time if an exam must be rescheduled.

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