Field Exam Policy Graduate Program

Updated November 2021

Exam description

This field exam has two parts. It will examine two fields relevant to the student's areas of research and teaching expertise. Both parts will be written as a take-home exam in essay form, responding to exam questions and requiring original interpretations of the exam material.

Exam Design

Exam reading lists
Each part of the field exam relies on a separate reading list. Students generate these lists in collaboration with their supervisor and committee members. Both lists need to be approved by the supervisor.

Reading items must reflect in approximately equal measure the following areas: theory and history of drama, theatre and performance; plays/scripts/notation; archival materials/objects.

In general, we suggest no more than 40 sources for each field. These include all categories listed above (theory and history of drama, theatre and performance; plays/scripts/notation; archival materials/objects), as they are relevant to a field. We strongly encourage the balance between academic publications and other types of sources. For academic publications (primarily books, chapters, and journal articles), we suggest the range of 20 to 25 sources for each field. We are aware of the different needs for different fields, and we acknowledge the need for flexibility. Students should consult with their supervisors for source selection.

Exam questions
For each exam, students will prepare to respond to a set of five questions. Students will submit to their supervisors two sets of five possible exam questions: one set for one area of their research. The deadline for this submission is April 15 of their second year. Supervisors are likely to revise those questions in order to make them suitable as exam questions. They will return the finalized exam questions to the students at the time of the exam. Only one of the five questions will be chosen for each exam.

Elements of field exam and exam schedule

Field exam #1

  • Facilitated by supervisor
  • One-week (Mon-Fri) take-home exam in the 1st week of May, 2nd year PhD

Field exam #2

  • Facilitated by the supervisor and the committee member
  • One-week (Mon-Fri) take-home exam in the 3rd week of May, 2nd year PhD

Exam Format

  • Written exam, essay form, responding to exam questions
  • Must be submitted to graders in PDF file format by the due date
  • Word count: 2,500–3,000 words (footnotes included; references excluded)

Submission of exam
Finalized exams will be submitted in PDF file as an email attachment, to their graders, cc’d to the Associate Director, Graduate, and the Graduate Administrator.

Exam Grading
The grading is the responsibility of the supervisor and the supervisory committee. There need to be at least three graders. If the student has not yet secured a third committee member by April in their second year, the supervisor will consult with the Associate Director, Graduate to confirm which graduate faculty member might be best suited to serve as the third grader.

Grading Rubrics
(Exams receive Pass/Fail grades. Exams that meet the following criteria will pass.)

  • Exam essays speak thoroughly and critically to exam questions.
  • Through exam essays, students demonstrate solid understanding of an independently defined line of resources oriented around questions directed at their dissertation topic.
  • Based on solid and nuanced understanding of relevant scholarship of a self-articulated field, students are able to intervene with existing research in ways that show potential for future research and teaching expertise in that field.
  • Essay composition is thoughtful and smooth; typographical errors are generally insignificant.
  • Essays are the right length (2,500–3,000 words; footnotes included, references excluded).
  • Content of citations is appropriate for the essay.
  • Essays’ citations and references are mostly properly formatted, in the style approved by the supervisory committee.


1st year PhD

  • May-Sept. of the 1st year - start putting together a foundation for (annotated) bibliography (to be used for thesis proposal, field exam and prospectus)
  • No later than the end of May of the 1st year - declare supervisor

2nd year PhD

  • Sept.- declare second committee member
  • April - declare third committee member
  • NOTE: 3 member committees are required (1 supervisor 2 committee members or 2 co-supervisors and 1 committee member)
  • April 15 – submit a set of five exam questions for each field exam to the supervisor for consideration
  • Students receive exam questions for each exam on the first day of their exam weeks
  • 1st week of May – write field exam #1 (5-business day take-home exam: Mon-Fri, 11.59pm)
  • 3rd week of May – write field exam #2 (5-business day take-home exam: Mon-Fri, 11.59pm)
  • NOTE: If students wish, the exam time can be extended through the weekend until Sunday, 11.59pm.

Download pdf of Field Exam Policy