M.A. Study Guide

Official MCLL Masters Exam Study Guide

What is a Masters Exam?
How do I write a successful MA exam?
How are MA exams graded?
What does a written MA exam look like?

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What is a Masters Exam?

A Masters Exam is a qualifying exam that covers the MA Reading List materials, supposing that students have used coursework, advising, and individual study to read, interpret, and understand the works, movements and periods represented on the list.

Our MA exam includes 3 written exams and an oral interview with participating graduate faculty.

How do I write a successful MA exam?

The MA exam requires skills that are developed throughout our BA and MA programs in Spanish. In particular, a successful MA exam answers questions specifically and directly. Good answers are factually sound, and take account of the data of the relevant linguistic, cultural, literary, and political contexts. The answer should show control of both general ideas and specific information, especially details of the literary text. Without a clear understanding of the words on the page, no success is possible. That is, an apt student sees the larger relevance of the smaller details. Generalized answers that sound like an encyclopedia entry are not sufficient. Literary analysis requires attention to nuance at the level of the text. Start with plot, character, narrator, figurative language. Move to author, period, social context. End with the work’s relation to other works on the list.

As with all the essays and essay exams MA students write during their program, good answers are well written, establishing a clear thesis and line of argumentation. There should be a clear expository structure (introduction, relevant examples, conclusion), and the answer should show a command of the language consistent with that of a Master of Arts. Some mistakes may find their way into your prose since you don’t have time to edit carefully, but these mistakes should not impede understanding.

In general, a successful exam demonstrates mastery of text and context. Here mastery means the ability to explain and comment on literal and implied meaning of each text and how it relates to other texts and parts of culture.

It is suggested that, as part of exam review, MA students pose themselves questions and answer them in essay form.

How are MA exams graded?

MA exams are graded “pass/fail.”

What does a written MA exam look like?

A written MA exam consists of three to five questions which allow you to demonstrate your knowledge by asking you to compare works of a given literary movement, explain a paradigmatic line of a paradigmatic text, explain a concept across literary periods, and the like.

Following is a limited sampling of questions.

  • Básandose en un análisis de por lo menos un texto por período, defina “epopeya” en la Edad Media, Renacimiento, y época moderna.
  • Compare la representación de la mujer en La casa de Bernarda Alba con El médico de su honra.
  • Comente la relación entre “verdad,” “verosimilitud,” “fantasía,” y “realismo mágico” en Cien años de soledad y en “No oyes ladrar los perros.” ¿En qué sentido es verdad la ficción?
  • ¿Cómo suena “el acento del cisne wagneriano”? Explique texto y contexto del cambio que señala Darío.
  • C/F: el Poema de mio Cid es una obra anti-semítica. Defienda su respuesta.
  • Uno de los grandes temas que domina la literatura latinoamericana es el de la dicotomía “civilización y barbarie.”  Seleccione dos de las obras que se enuncian a continuación, y contrástelas/compárelas a partir del análisis de la dicotomía propuesta anteriormente: Facundo, Doña Bárbara, Los de abajo, “Nuestra América."