History and Art History
College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Comprehensive Exam

A Guide to Comprehensive Exams

What:  The exam consists of three parts. 

Part One is a slide exam taken during the final exam period for ARTH 601, Colloquium in Art History.  You receive 24 images representing major works/monuments of world art.  You identify them as fully as possible (Artist’s name, date, medium, location) and then write a paragraph on the work’s significance in the History of Art, as if you were teaching it in a survey course.

Part Two is a research question based on your overall coursework and interests.  The research question is developed in consultation with professors and through a bibliography of secondary sources on the area.   

Part Three is a Practicum Question.  This is tailored to your interests and coursework, so it might be a museum-based question, a curriculum/teaching question, an arts administration question, etc.

When:  MA Students typically take Parts Two and Three of their comprehensive exams in their last semester of graduate study, following completion of ARTH 601 and all other coursework.  Typically, these written questions take into consideration your range of coursework, and/or a particular area of interest related to study with the professor who will write the exam questions.  As such they will demonstrate a historiographic knowledge in a chosen field, based upon areas of the professor’s expertise.  (See below for a list of these “Faculty Areas of Specialization for MA Art History Comprehensive Exams”)

How:  The slide exam is given at the conclusion of ARTH 601 and is an in-class exam for the entire 3-hour period.  The Research/Practicum portions are scheduled during finals week at the conclusion of classes for the semester.  Students have one week (7 days) to complete this portion of the exam—usually from 9 AM on a Friday to noon the following Saturday.

Exam questions are emailed to students in a .doc or .docx format with appropriate directions for formatting and submission.  Students return the exams by email to their committee which consists of the primary reader who wrote the exam, a secondary faculty reader, and the graduate director. Students receive a pass, a high pass, or a fail for the comprehensive exam grade.  If they fail any or all sections of the exam they may retake them one time.

ARTH 601, Colloquium in Art history is offered each Spring semester. This course has one professor of record but will be team taught by all faculty as a way to prepare you for your slide exam (Part One of Comprehensives) and more broadly for your comprehensive exams.

Faculty Areas of Specialization for MA Art History Comprehensive Exams

Dr. Lawrence Butler:

Byzantine art and architecture
Islamic art and architecture
Medieval Western Europe

Medieval and Islamic luxury trade routes

Dr. Robert DeCaroli:

South Asia (India)
Southeast Asia
Dynastic China

Dr. Michele Greet:

20th-century Latin American art 1900-present
20th-century European art 1900-1950
19th-century European art 1850-1900

Dr. Angela Ho:

Renaissance and Baroque Northern Europe, 1400-1700
Renaissance and Baroque Northern Italy, 1400-1700

Dr. Jennifer Van Horn

U.S. Art and Visual Culture: The Colonial Era to the Civil War
U.S. Art and Visual Culture: 1865-1914
U.S. Material Culture: The Colonial Era to 1950

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