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Comprehensive/Exit Examination

Students in the MA, MAT, and MSEd. programs complete comprehensive requirement as part of their program, usually in their final semester of study (MAT students take the exam in the semester before they student teach).

The Graduate Director will contact students during advising in the prior semester. Students should notify him or her at that time of their intention that they can be enrolled in ENG599, a non-credit bearing course that confirms registration for the requirement. Students will only be able to sign up for ENG599 when they have received permission to register from the Graduate Director.

The MAT. Exit Exam comprises two parts: an essay question based upon close reading of a lyric poem or excerpt from a another kind of literary work; and an essay question on teaching the lyric poem or other literary work chosen for analysis in the first essay question.

Part I: Close Reading. There will be at least three questions to choose from. One of the questions will always deal with a short lyric poem, and the other questions with an excerpt from a long work (poem, novel, story, play).

Part II: Teaching Sequence. For this question you will explain how you would teach in the secondary classroom the literary work you have analyzed in Part I.

MSEd. students complete portfolio and should consult with their advisor in the School of Education for guidelines and requirements.

MA Students 

As students complete their MA degree in English, they must demonstrate their mastery of the subject through completion of ONE of the following “culminating experiences”:

  1. Students may elect to present at a scholarly conference, convention, or symposium (including the SUNY New Paltz English Graduate Symposium). The event must be sponsored by a recognized college, university, or scholarly organization and should be undertaken only after students have completed at least 15 credits in the graduate program in order to count for the requirement. Students choosing this option should consult with the graduate director before submitting work to the conference to confirm its suitability as a “culminating experience.” Upon completion of the presentation, students must submit their presented essay along with an original copy of the conference program to document their participation in the event.
  2. Students who complete a thesis as a part of their curriculum may choose to give a public presentation of their thesis as a “culminating experience.” This event should be scheduled and planned in consultation with the student’s advisor(s) and director of graduate studies and must take place during the semester in which the student completes the thesis. The event can take various forms, but a typical presentation should be roughly 30 minutes in length, should include a discussion period in which the student answers questions about the thesis, and, finally, should not be treated by the student and committee as a “defense.”
  3. Students may elect to complete a portfolio and oral examination in the final semester of their program of study. Those who select this option will submit a portfolio of work completed for credit in their English MA seminars, using the following guidelines:

Portfolio Contents: 

  1. Introduction (about two double-spaced pages)
  2. One or Two essays from the course of your program that you believe represents your best work       
  3. One substantial new piece of work that you prepared especially for this portfolio.

Your Introduction should provide a discussion of each component in your portfolio. In it you should explain why you chose each of the items you selected (or created) for the portfolio, explain what you did to revise them, and what you think makes them especially good examples of your accomplishments. Your introduction should also include a broader reflection on your work in the program: what did you learn? What do you want to know more about? How have you seen your writing and critical skills develop during your time in the program? Do you see any possibilities for continuing any of these steps?

The One or two Essays that you chose to include can be selected from any of the work that you submitted for a grade in your seminars. It should be the writing that you think best represents your achievements. You may choose to revise these essays in response to the feedback you received from your professors, or after your own review of the material.  

The substantial new piece of writing is your opportunity to build on what you have learned from your program to develop a topic or project from one of your courses that is of interest to you. The essay should demonstrate critical readings of texts and incorporate a theoretical framework. This can take the form of a completely new essay (aim for at least eight double-spaced pages in length), or one that has been revised substantially from a course you took. You might choose, for instance, to engage a significant theoretical discussion in a previously composed essay, incorporate further research, or integrate a new discussion of a text that was not part of the original essay. If you choose to revise, please also include the original essay in order to demonstrate that at least ⅓ of the essay is new work.

The total amount of writing presented in the portfolio should not exceed 30 pages, typed and double-spaced (that does not include the previous version of your essay, if you choose to revise a paper for your new piece of work). As this is a showcase of your graduate work, work in the portfolio should be clean of typographical and grammatical errors and include proper citation.


After members of the Graduate Committee review the portfolio, they will interview the student to further discuss their writing, accomplishments, and opportunities for growth beyond the program.