MFA candidates take comprehensive exams toward the beginning of their fourth semester (typically early- or mid-February for second-year students). The exams consist of two three-hour sessions, in which students write short essays assessing the craft, forms and techniques of certain literary texts. In the exams, students should demonstrate a solid base of knowledge in their chosen genre. MFA faculty update the reading lists every two to three years.
Students are encouraged to begin reading for their exams when they first begin the MFA program. In some cases, literature and forms courses will assign books from the reading list as part of the curriculum. Thesis advisors will also provide students with additional support about their individualized reading lists (the five blank slots toward the end of the each document below). The reading lists linked below are for examinations to be taken in Spring 2021 and 2022. For instance, if you entered the program in Fall 2019, you will take your exams in Spring 2021.
Reading lists for 2021–22 examination periods: