Diagnostic Sight Exams

Students are required to take diagnostic sight exams—in Greek poetry, Greek prose, Latin poetry, and Latin prose—immediately upon entering the program. These exams allow the faculty to identify strengths and weaknesses so that appropriate courses can be selected from the first semester onward.

Reading List Examinations in Greek and Latin

Students take the reading list translation examinations in Greek and Latin language, offered in alternate Octobers, so that one is completed in October of their second year and the other in October of their third year. These three-hour written examinations involve translating passages selected from the Greek and Latin reading lists. The examination to be offered in any given October is in the language for which the survey course was offered the previous year. In addition to their work in survey courses, students are expected to devote the summers following the first and second years to continued preparation for the upcoming October exam. At the discretion of the examiners and the department, a candidate who has failed the exam may be allowed to take a second exam, usually in the following February. Serious failure of a first exam or failure of a second exam usually will constitute grounds for dismissal from the program.

Foreign Language Exams in French and German

These exams evaluate students’ competence in reading scholarly French and German. One must be taken by the start of the second year and the other by the start of the third year. These exams last one hour, and involve translating a selection from classical scholarship in the examined language.

Comprehensive Oral Examination

Students take a 1.5-hour comprehensive oral exam at the end of their third year. This exam covers three areas, which the student selects from major categories. The selection of areas must be approved by the director of graduate studies. Each area is prepared in consultation with a member of the faculty whose expertise is relevant to that area. A panel of Department of Classics faculty attends and participates in the oral exam, which constitutes the last formal pre-dissertation requirement of the program. At the discretion of the examiners and the department, a student who has performed insufficiently may be asked to retake the exam fully or in part. Failure at the second attempt (and possibly at the first) will usually constitute grounds for dismissal from the program.



Students will normally take three graduate courses or seminars per semester through their first two years, then one seminar per semester in the third year. NOTE: Third-year students taking only one seminar must also enroll in Exam Preparation (AS.040.809-810) each semester, in order to maintain the full-time course load required for graduate students. Beyond the third year it is not expected that students will enroll in seminars for credit, though they may audit as interest and time allow.

Surveys of Greek and Latin

Students are required to take reading-list-based intensive survey courses in Greek and Latin (offered in alternate years) in their first and second years in the program.

If you would like to see the department’s current course offerings, please refer to the listing in Student Information System website.

To view more detailed course descriptions, please consult the KSAS/WSE academic catalog. NOTE: Courses listed in the Academic Catalog may not be offered every semester.


Seminar Research Papers

Students will write a total of six seminar papers: three are to be completed over the course of the first year; and three, or at least two, in the second year; the last paper must be completed at the latest in the fall of the third year, such that all six papers are complete by December of the third year.

Dissertation Prospectus and First Chapter

At the end of the fourth year, students present a large and detailed prospectus of the dissertation, with substantial bibliography, together with a relatively polished first chapter. The aim of this “midpoint” dissertation checkup is to keep the student and adviser on track, so that the student is in a position to apply for grants or jobs in the following fall (i.e., during the fifth year of guaranteed funding) and to complete the dissertation in the course of the fifth year if needed. This prospectus and chapter are presented to at least two members of the faculty, one of whom is the dissertation adviser.


As a further and central element of training in our PhD program, every graduate student will teach four to six semesters in the course of their third, fourth, and fifth years in the program.