Qualifying Examination

Like the Thesis and Capstone Project options, the Qualifying Examination (QE) is the student's opportunity to demonstrate his or her understanding of the history of the United States, the ideas underlying its government, and how each effected the other. Unlike the Thesis and Capstone Project, in which the student delves deeply into a narrow aspect of history, the exam demands mastery of a broader range of events and ideas. Like the Thesis or Capstone, successful completion of the QE requires that the student demonstrate his or her analytical and interpretive skills, in addition to content knowledge. 

About the Exam

New! Please note format change for Spring 2016 and later.

The exam is composed of two parts. The first part focuses on analysis of a text or excerpt. The second part also requires analytical skills, but requires content knowledge and interpretive skills as well. In the second part, students respond to two out of four questions. Most questions in the second part refer to original documents, which may include speeches, laws, newspapers, editorials, and court decisions, among other possibilities.

Taking the Exam

The exam may be taken once the student has completed all core and elective requirements, a total of 32 semester credit hours. During the fall and spring semesters, the exam may be taken concurrently with the student's final course if that course is already in progress at the time the exam period begins. During the summer semester, the student must have completed his or her final course prior to the start of the examination. In no case may the exam be taken prior to the semester in which all other requirements will be complete.

The exam is offered once per semester, generally about six weeks prior to graduation. The questions are released to the student on a Friday afternoon. The student has three weekends to draft responses. Responses must be submitted by the third Monday at noon Eastern time. Exam dates for upcoming semesters may be found on the schedule webpage.

The exam may be completed from home and it is not necessary to travel to campus. There is no charge to take the exam.

Students who wish to take the exam should register to do so early in the semester during which they wish to graduate. The student will be provided with that semester's exam dates and will be provided with general expectations. The student will also be informed of where he or she may download the exam and also how the exam will be submitted. Students should also register for graduation with the university's registrar at this time.

The downloaded exam will provide additional information about how to prepare your responses. Each student will also be assigned a member of the program faculty who will serve as his or her exam advisor. The exam advisor is available to address concerns about the exam questions, strategies for responding to the questions, advice on proper citation and avoiding plagiarism, or other curricular concerns. The exam advisor will not proofread draft responses nor will the advisor provide detailed feedback about the quality of your writing or argument. Questions related to registration, graduation, and exam submission should be referred to the program director.

The Exam Grade

Each of the three essay responses is scored using the following scale:

  • High-Pass
  • Pass
  • Fail

The MAHG Assessment Rubric, which will guide evaluation of student responses, explains what is meant by content knowledgeanalysis, and interpretation.

Content

High Pass Thorough knowledge of the source (or sources), who produced it, and where, when, and why it was produced; thorough knowledge of the historical and political facts relevant to the source or sources
Pass Detailed but incomplete knowledge of the source (or sources), who produced it, and where, when, and why it was produced; detailed but incomplete knowledge of the historical and political facts relevant to the source or sources
Fail Little or no knowledge of the source (or sources), who produced it, and where, when, and why it was produced; little or no knowledge of the historical and political facts relevant to the source

Analysis

High Pass Thorough identification of arguments, assumptions and relevant facts; thorough assessment of the validity of inferences and deductions; thorough comparison or contrast of arguments in two or more sources
Pass Significant but incomplete identification of arguments, assumptions and relevant facts; significant but incomplete assessment of the validity of inferences and deductions; significant but incomplete comparison or contrast of arguments in two or more sources
Fail Little or no identification of arguments, assumptions and relevant facts; little or no assessment of the validity of inferences and deductions; little or no comparison or contrast of arguments in two or more sources

Interpretation

High Pass Sensitive and sophisticated understanding of the meaning of the source in its historical and political context; appreciation of the complexity or subtlety of the source; thorough understanding of the effect or importance of the source in history
Pass Significant but incomplete understanding of the meaning of the source in its historical and political context; significant but incomplete understanding of the effect or importance of the source (or sources) in history
Fail Little or no understanding of the meaning of the source (or sources) in its historical and political context; little or no understanding of the effect or importance of the source or sources in history

Exam grades will be posted to WebAdvisor about two weeks after submission. A grade of S (Satisfactory) indicates passing; a grade of U (Unsatisfactory) indicates failure.

A student must receive a score of Pass or High Pass on each of the three responses to pass the exam. A student whose exam is judged a High Pass in its entirety may be nominated for the Chairman's Award. Students selected for this honor will be notified by the program office.

In the event that a student does not pass the exam, the student must retake the exam in its entirety. This may be done as soon as the next regularly scheduled administration. In the event that the student does not receive a grade of Pass or High Pass after the second attempt, the student may face dismissal from the program.