Oral Examinations

The senior oral examination takes place during the month of April after the student has received two written evaluations of the senior thesis. The exam lasts approximately 1½ hours and is divided into two 45-minute parts: the thesis defense and the general exam.

Each student is required to submit a 1000-word intellectual autobiography shortly before the exam. The intellectual autobiography will serve as a basis for the student’s general exam and should cover the student’s coursework in Social Studies with special emphasis on key texts and questions covered in the focus field. A successful intellectual autobiography will describe the path the student has taken, starting with the themes covered in Social Studies 10 and making reference to courses from the student’s focus field.

In the thesis defense, the student is expected to discuss, defend, and elaborate on the substantive themes developed in his or her thesis. In addition to careful consideration of the strengths and shortcomings of the thesis, the defense requires an understanding of and an oral response to the written comments and criticisms of the evaluators.

The general examination is a test of the student’s ability to demonstrate command of the social theoretical concerns of Social Studies 10 and also the larger substantive issues within the focus field. Because Social Studies is an interdisciplinary program in which students pursue different paths of study, the general examination is tailored to the focus field developed by the student. A successful exam is one in which the student can explicitly link, when relevant, the substantive and empirical foci of his/her course work to that of the classical theorists considered in sophomore tutorial. In addition, the student should be able to elaborate on the theoretical and empirical issues that have framed his or her education in Social Studies.

Students should discuss the exam, and their preparation for it, with their senior thesis supervisor and/or Social Studies academic advisor. The Director of Studies is responsible for overseeing the senior oral examinations, and questions may also be addressed to her.