All concentrators take the department's comprehensive exam in May of their senior year, in two parts on the two days immediately following Dean's Date (by college policy).
The first day of the exam consists of passages for comment. There are three sections, each consisting of seven questions. Section A contains passages from texts written before 1700, section B texts between 1700 and 1900, section C texts written between 1900 and the present. You must comment on one passage from each section. The directions read as follows: "Write a close analysis of the ideas and style of each passage. Place the passage historically and geographically as exactly as possible and mention author and title if you can, but identification is NOT essential to your answer, which will be judged on the quality of your analysis and your ability to connect the passage to larger literary developments and characteristics."
The second day of the exam consists of two essay questions, chosen from a list of approximately twelve. The directions read as follows: "The examination focuses on genres, theory, and other approcahes to the study of literature. The questions ask you to demonstrate the depth of your knowledge and your ability to write analytically. Generalizations should be supported with references to specfic texts. In the texts selected for discussion, all students are encouraged to refer to a range of periods, nationalities, and genres. Students with a track may focus on texts related to that track."
Passages are chosen and questions are written to draw upon the preceding two years of course work.