M.A. in Spanish (Graduate Study Checklist)

Checklist for completing the graduate program

  1. All new graduate students should meet with the graduate advisor upon beginning the MA program at SFSU, or before entering the program. The MA degree requires 30 units of postgraduate coursework.  Up to 9 of those units may be upper division courses (500-level and above), but at least 21 of those units must be seminars.  With careful planning you should be able to complete all of your necessary coursework within two years (four semesters).
  2. Graduates are admitted to the program as “classified” or “conditional” students.  If you have been conditionally admitted to the program, you need to discuss with the graduate advisor the classes you will need to take to advance to “classified” status.  Depending on your preparation, you may end up taking 15 units of conditional work in addition to the 30 units you need for your degree.  You will advance to classified status when you have completed the conditional coursework.  Conditional coursework may not be used to meet degree requirements.  In other words, conditional coursework does not count toward the 30 units you need to complete the MA.
  3. The semester before you plan to graduate you should file the ATC (Advancement to Candidacy) form with the graduate advisor/department chair. The ATC should show at least 6 units yet to be completed for the degree. The ATC form and more information about filing the ATC is available online.
  4. Complete the Culminating Experience requirement. We offer in our program two options for the culminating experience. The first one consists of a series of comprehensive written and oral exams covering Spanish Peninsular and Latin American literature. The oral exam is given one week after the written exams. The second option consists of a thesis in Spanish and a master thesis defense two weeks after the submission of the thesis.

Procedures for completing the Culminating Experience requirement:

  1. The semester prior to taking the exams or submitting the thesis, students must have a pre-qualifying screening interview. This interview helps you assess your preparation.  If necessary, the committee will advise you to delay taking your exams until you are ready. The committee is made up of three professor, at least two of whom must be members of the Spanish Program.
  2. There are two options for the screening interview: OPTION A) After the screening interview the candidate can request a copy of the questions for the written exam. Exam questions will be drawn from the list given to the candidate. The candidate will have a semester to to prepare for the comprehensive exams. OPTION B), the candidate submits a three-page proposal, an exhaustive bibliography (around 30 books and journal articles), and a brief outline. The candidate will then have six months to complete the thesis. 
  3. Comprehensive written exams are given twice annually over a two-day period, generally at the end of November/April or the first week of May/December.  If you take OPTION A, the exam is given over two days and takes a total of five hours: three hours the first day and two hours the next. Students who pass the written exams will sit for their oral exam the following week. The oral exam takes one hour. If you take OPTION B the master thesis defense takes one hour. 
  4. Receive the Graduate Coordinator's signature on "Report of Completion of Specified Graduate Program Requirements" and file it with the Foreign Language Department Office (which submits the report to the Graduate Studies).

Submitting an Application for Graduation

  • Submit an "Application for Graduation" form. Information about where, when, and how to submit this form can be found at the Graduate Studies website. Submit the "Application for Graduation" form to the Graduate Division typically before the third week of instruction of the term you expect to graduate. Check for the deadline in the Class Schedule. Submission of this form is the responsibility of the student; without it you cannot receive your diploma.


The M.A. Comprehensive Examinations

Before taking the M.A. examinations students must first satisfy the following requirements:
  1. Successful completion of all required units and courses.
  2. Fulfillment of both levels of the written English requirement, and
  3. Have a Screening Interview.
The M.A. examinations are given twice a year, in the Fall and Spring semesters. (See the Graduate Adviser for specific dates.) The exam has both a written and an oral element, both of which are taken in the same semester. Oral examinations are given only if the student passes the written examination. There are two option for the M.A. Comprehensive Examinations


The Written Examination

  1. The semester prior to the day of the written examination, students are given ten essay questions, four covering Spanish literature of all periods and six covering Latin American literature of all periods. On the days of the exam students answer five of the ten questions. The written examination is five hours long and is given in two sessions -- three hours the first day and two the second.
  2. Each participating professor will read the entire written exam, but grades only his or her own question with a number from 1 through 5, according to the following standards
  • 0 = no response
  • 2 = lowest passing grade for each question
  • 5 = highest grade possible for any question.
  1. In order for a candidate to advance to the oral exam, he or she must score at least 15 points for the entire exam (the maximum possible is 25). In addition to this total of 15, one must score at least two points on each of the five sections of the examination.
  2. If a candidate scores fewer than two points on one section, and only one section, of the written exam, and still scores a total of 15 points for the entire exam, he or she may take another exam on the section not passed; if this make-up exam is passed successfully the candidate may then proceed to the oral exam. Should a candidate score fewer than two points on more than one section, regardless of the total points scored, the entire written exam must be repeated. Any repeated exams, partial or otherwise, may be taken no sooner than the semester following the original written examination. The written examination may not be attempted more than twice.

The Oral Examination

  1. Oral exam committees consist of three voting members from the Spanish faculty: a chair plus two other members, all of whom are appointed by the Graduate Advisor. Any other interested Spanish faculty member may attend and participate as a non-voting member.
  2. Unlike the written questions that concentrate on only a few topics, the questions during the oral exam are wide-ranging and cover all aspects and periods of Spanish and Latin American literature.
  3. The oral exam may not be attempted more than twice.
  4. The second attempt may not take place until the semester following the original exam.
  1. The oral examination, taken only after a student passes the written exam, is conducted by three members of the Spanish faculty chosen by the Graduate Coordinator.  The exam lasts about an hour and is based on two lists of literary works: one, an “Obligatory List,” which is the same for all students, and an “Individual List,” created by each student.
  2. The Obligatory List, required of all students, contains works of acknowledged importance from Spain and Latin America.  All students are expected to have read and analyzed all the works on the Obligatory List; the list appears below.
  3. In addition to and distinct from the works on the “Obligatory List,” each student will prepare an “Individual List” consisting of 20 works that reflect his or her particular interests in Spanish and/or Latin American literature.  
  4. The following rules govern the creation and submission of one’s Individual List:
  5. Individual Lists may not contain works from the Obligatory List, though other works by the same author may be submitted; the Quijote may not appear on an Individual List, for example, but a student with a special interest in Cervantes could include his Novelas Ejemplares or Entremeses.
  6. Works chosen for Individual Lists may be poetry, drama, fiction or essay.
  7. In choosing the 20 works of an Individual list, a novel, short story, drama or essay will count as a single work, and five poems by the same poet will count as a single work.
  8. Regardless of their genre, all works on an Individual List must be judged by the Spanish faculty to be significant for their originality, historical importance or the stature of their author.
  9. For their Individual Lists, students may choose works from the list below, “Suggested Works for Individual Lists,” or works studied in classes or seminars.  If works by a certain author appear on the “Suggested Works …” list, any other work by that author, though not listed, may normally be included on an Individual List.
  10. Individual Lists shall be submitted to the Graduate Coordinator at least two weeks prior to the screening interview, where the list shall be amended as necessary and approved by the committee members.  All works on an Individual List must be formally approved at the screening interview.
  11. Once approved, an Individual List becomes part of the basis for the oral exam and the student should expect questions regarding the works he or she has chosen. We encourage students to start planning Individual Lists early in their coursework and consult with faculty members as they do so.


The M.A. Thesis

  1. The semester prior to delivery of the M.A. Thesis, the student must find a first advisor from the Spanish Program, a second advisor from the Spanish Program and a third advisor who may be from an other program or department, but who has to be able to read and understand Spanish. The candidate then submits this form with the signatures of the three advisors.
  2. The thesis must be a carefully argued scholarly paper of approximately 12,000 words (roughly 50 pages).
  3. Each participating professor will read the entire thesis, and grade it with a number from 1 through 5, with 1 as the lowest grade possible and 5 as the highest grade possible.
  4. In order for a candidate to advance to the Master Thesis Defense, he or she must score at least 12 points for the entire thesis (the maximum possible is 15). 
  5. Should a candidate score fewer than 12 points, the entire thesis must be resubmitted.

M.A. Thesis Defense

  1. The M.A. Thesis Defense committee consist of three voting members, at least two from the Spanish faculty: a chair plus two other members, all of whom are appointed by the Graduate Advisor. Any other interested Spanish faculty member, students or public may attend, but not participate.
  2. The questions during the defense cover related topics.
  3. The M.A. Thesis defense may not be attempted more than twice.
  4. The second attempt may not take place until the semester following the original exam.