Skip to main content

ANTH 686 Preliminary Examination

The preliminary exam consists of questions pertaining to the subject matter of ANTH 501, ANTH 502, and ANTH 503 and is intended to assess the depth and breadth of student knowledge. A file of sample questions is available to students in the department. These questions will give you an idea of what kind of questions to expect on the preliminary exam.

The ANTH 686 Preliminary Exam is taken the week before classes start.

Preliminary Exam Guidelines

The preliminary examination will be administered as a take-home exam. Students will be given four days to complete the examination. The examination is to be typed and turned in through the SafeAssign mechanism on the course site for ANTH 686.

  • The exam questions will be given to students on Monday at 8:00 am. The exam will be submitted to the department by the end of the fourth day (Thursday) no later than 4:00 pm.
  • Students are to answer four questions, one each from ANTH 501, ANTH 502, and ANTH 503, and one additional question from one of the three classes. Make sure you type out the question you are going to answer.
  • The examination is to be typed, double spaced, in 13 point font.
  • The product of the exam should be a scholarly document referenced in a consistent format with the AAA style guide.

In addition, on or before the examination period, students are required to submit a 3-5 page prospectus/summary of their proposed thesis/project to their advisor.

Oral Defense

Within a week of the submission of the preliminary examination, the student’s advisor will schedule an oral defense of the examination and of the student’s thesis/project proposal. The defense will be conducted by the student’s advisory committee and chaired by the student’s advisor, although all anthropology faculty members may attend.


Examinations will be read by an examination committee of three faculty members. An additional reader may be selected if deemed appropriate by the committee. The committee will evaluate the student’s examination using a rubric. When the members of the examination committee have reviewed the preliminary exam, they will meet, discuss, and grade the student’s performance. The student will be notified of the result of the exam by the Graduate Program Coordinator within one week following the exam.

Grading of the exam will be Failure, Pass, and High Pass. Failure means the student has not demonstrated depth and breadth by their performance. Pass indicates admission to candidacy having satisfactorily completed the exam, but maybe the basis upon which the department may recommend the thesis or project track to individual candidates. High Pass recognizes a high level of performance on the preliminary exam and permission to begin the MA thesis or MAA project.

A student failing the exam may request in writing of the academic unit head (Graduate Program Coordinator) a repeat of the exam. This request must be submitted within five days of the notification of the student’s failure. If approved, the student must retake the exam within 12 months after the first attempt. If the department does not approve a retake of the exam, the student is withdrawn from the program by the Graduate College.

PDF printable copy of the ANTH 686 Preliminary Examination Guidelines.