Policies and Procedures for Comprehensive Exams and Thesis
New Policies and Procedures for MA Comprehensive Exam and Thesis
Purpose: The comprehensive exam is designed to assure that students leave the MA Theology program with a strong knowledge of foundational texts in some of the different areas of theological study. The DTS has two major tracks in its MA Theology program (i.e., Research and Religious Education) and offers courses in four major areas of theological study (i.e., scripture, historical theology, constructive theology, and theological ethics). Students may concentrate in historical theology, constructive theology, and theological ethics. All students take the comprehensive exam.
Structure: The comprehensive exam includes a written part and an oral part. The five-hour written exam requires students to answer four questions. It is taken in two segments either on the same day or two different days within a one-week period. Students prepare for exams in three of four areas, including the one in which they are concentrating. On the day of the exam, students are given two questions in their area of concentration and one question each in two different minor areas. Students have three hours to complete their two questions from their area of concentration, and one hour for each of the two minor areas of concentration, for a total of five hours. In the one-hour oral exam, students are to defend all of their written answers and be prepared to make connections among them.
Questions: The department maintains a standard list of questions for each area. These questions are developed by faculty in each area and are re-evaluated at least every five years. The questions draw from common readings lists of approximately 10 books per area that have been drawn up by the appropriate faculty. Each member of the student's three-person committee chooses a question in the relevant area. The chair of the student's committee collects and approves the questions.
Committee: The MA director, with input from the student and other faculty, chooses three committee members for the exam, so that an expert in each area in which the student is to be examined sits on the committee. The chair of the committee should be from the student's area. The MA director informs the department secretary of the three members of the student's committee. The department secretary sends this information to the Associate Vice President for Graduate Education.
Grading: The student submits the exam to the department secretary, who makes copies for each member of the committee. Each faculty member on the committee evaluates each section of the exam. Exams may be graded High Pass, Pass, or Fail. If two of the three faculty members fail the student in any given section, the student fails the written exam. If two of the three pass the student in each section, the student passes and proceeds to the oral exam. At the oral exam, each faculty member submits his or her own evaluation of the entire exam. If at least two committee members pass the student, he or she passes the oral examination.
Re-takes: If the written component of the examination is not passed, the student may not proceed to the oral examination. In that case, the student may, upon recommendation of the examination committee, retake the written examination, or portions thereof. In the event of failure of the oral comprehensive, the oral examination may, upon recommendation of the examination committee, be retaken in its entirety. In either case, students are allowed only one re-take and it must take place within six months of the initial exam. The MA Director communicates to the student about the re-take process.
Scheduling Exams/Advancing to Candidacy: Comprehensive exams are generally not scheduled in December, May, June, July, or August. Once the student decides to take exams, she or he must:
1. Register for Theo 595, "Special Study Exams."
2. Fill out an "Application for Degree Form" for the Graduate Education Division of the College of Arts & Sciences, normally due at the end of January of the year of spring graduation (link).
3. Complete and return candidacy papers, which will subsequently be sent to the student from the Graduate Education Division.
4. If writing a thesis, submit a proposal (see Student Responsibilities for the Thesis, below).
1. Follow the steps for scheduling exams (above).
2. One semester before the exam, consult with the MA Director about the formation of a three-member examination committee.
3. Schedule one meeting with each member of the committee at least two months prior to the written examination.
4. Contact the department secretary to schedule the written and oral examinations.
Faculty committee member responsibilities
1. Meet with the student once prior to the exam.
2. Submit one exam question for the student to the Committee Chair.
3. Complete the grading of the written component within five days, according to the department's criteria, and submit to department secretary.
4. Prepare to lead 20 minutes of the oral exam.
5. Grade the oral exam using the appropriate form and submit to Committee Chair.
Committee Chair additional responsibilities
1. Collect questions for exam, approve them, and send them to the department secretary at least three days prior to the exam.
2. Communicate to the student and the MA Director the results of the written exam prior to the oral exam.
3. Facilitate the oral exam.
4. Collect the oral exam evaluations, fill out the final evaluation, and submit to the MA Director.
5. Communicate the results of the oral exam to the student. The student receives an official letter about the outcome of the exam from Graduate Education.
Students in the Research Track must write a 50-70 paged thesis. The thesis counts for two full courses and is taken in the final semester in residence. A three-five paged proposal is due to the MA Director by Dec. 15 for a spring thesis and April 15 for a fall thesis. The thesis is due by April 15 in the spring or Nov. 15 in the fall.
1. Follow the steps for scheduling exams (above).
2. When spring registration opens, request registration for Theo 599: MA Thesis (six credits) along with your one remaining regular course.
3. By November 15, consult with the MA Director about the formation of a thesis committee.
4. Prepare a three to five paged thesis proposal and submit electronically to Committee Chair for approval by Dec. 1.
5. When approved, submit proposal electronically to MA Director for approval by the MA Committee by Dec. 15. If the proposal is not approved, it will be returned within one week with suggestions for revision. The proposal may be resubmitted to the committee within three weeks.
6. Submit thesis proposal for approval to Master's Candidacy Advisor Cherell Johnson at email@example.com using the Master's Thesis Proposal, Prospectus form, available here.
7. Submit the thesis by April 15 to Thesis Committee Chair.
8. Email Master's Candidacy Advisor Cherell Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org to make a one hour appointment for format review of the thesis. The appointment must take place after the defense and final approval of the thesis by the committee. Appointments generally run through mid-May, but consult the list of deadlines for the current semester available here.
9. After the thesis has been approved by the Advisor, submit it to ProQuest at (www.etdadmin.com/slu). The formatting guide can be found here.
10. Follow Graduate Education Procedures for completing your degree. Further information available here.
MA Thesis Committee Chair Responsibilities
1. Advise student on the formation of a proposal.
2. Inform the MA Director via email that the student's proposal is approved for consideration by the MA committee.
3. Meet with the student periodically during the semester and set appropriate deadlines to ensure progress is being made.
4. Alert the MA Director if the student is not making progress.
5. Read the thesis. If the thesis is approved, offer written approval and feedback. If the thesis is not approved, offer feedback.
6. Facilitate the oral exam.
7. Collect the oral exam evaluations, grade the exam, fill out the final evaluation, and submit to the MA Director.
8. Communicate the results of the oral exam to the student. The student receives an official letter about the outcome of the exam from Graduate Education.
MA Thesis Committee Member Responsibilities
1. Read the thesis. If the thesis is approved, offer written approval and feedback. If the thesis is not approved, offer feedback.
2. Prepare to lead 20 minutes of the oral exam. Grade the exam according to the department rubric.