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Like many other people, I've been trying for years to pass the Centre for Medieval Studies PhD Latin exam. Well, two years anyways, which is apparently about average time-to-pass for Centre PhD students anyways, which I am not.

The Centre has a bumper crop of new MAs this year, far more than expected, and thus was especially eager to have as many students as possible pass the PhD exam to get them out of the Latin program, out of the Latin classes, and off to doing other things, like reading more Latin in literature classes. That desire, however, conflicts with their greater desire to maintain the long-term standards to maintain the rigorousness of the PhD Latin exam, to retain its status as a "license to practice Latin".

Fifty-five or so of us took the exam last Friday. Only one person passed.

I didn't, nor did any of the Centre PhD students who have to pass this exam in order to schedule their major field exams. Nor did any of the history PhD candidates who are now required to pass the PhD Latin exam in order to schedule their defenses and receive their PhDs.

The exam was easier than usual. The last time the exam was this easy, no one passed at all. The easier the exam, the higher the standards required to ensure competent latinity amongst their Latin students.

This means that, in order to submit my dissertation and schedule my defense for sometime this school year, I will need to drop the Latin class. I can keep taking this exam for years to come, if I choose to. After I finish this degree, it'll cost me about $50 a shot. Also, my chances at passing are reduced if I stop studying Latin for any substantial length of time. I won't be in the class this fall but, if for whatever reason I'm still around in the spring, and have submitted already, I could always study more then. At this point, I'm not sure what I'll do, but regardless, I'll continue to read Latin at some level or other: my profession requires it.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 16th, 2004 09:26 am (UTC)
That's tough Shana, although with only one out of fifty-five passing it sounds like the deck was stacked against you from the start.

Concentrating on your dissertation is definately the way to go for now.
Sep. 16th, 2004 02:07 pm (UTC)
I think I've seen highs of 7 or 8 people passing the PhD exam in one go before, and usually at least 40 people take it. 3-6 is more usual. Once, while I've been around the Centre, no one passed at all.

At least I don't have to worry about it anymore now!
Sep. 16th, 2004 11:51 am (UTC)
Oh my God. That sucks. Who's the lucky winner? How's everyone else taking the news?
Sep. 16th, 2004 01:07 pm (UTC)
I heard the results secondhand, so don't know who passed. I do know that whoever it was was probably an incoming student, since neither pittenweem, nor the second-year MA who told me, recognized the name.

There are a lot of disappointed people who were really hoping to pass this time around. Especially after so few passed in the spring as well.
Sep. 16th, 2004 12:00 pm (UTC)
That desire, however, conflicts with their greater desire to maintain the long-term standards to maintain the rigorousness of the PhD Latin exam, to retain its status as a "license to practice Latin".

That's a quick turnaround and a rotten turnover; I'm sorry. I hope at the very least you feel like it's off your plate as you court the ALmighty Dissertation ;)

::shakes head::

So much I could say were this the appropriate forum. And I think of my single try at ours, which I still can't figure out if it was an exam or a bizarre hazing ritual (it has a lot of mystique--a lot of people don't pass--but as you probably know it's not quite you folks' PhD exam)--and of the fact that all I do now is parse Boccaccio I can't read and read Thomas and Boethius for ballast--and I just don't even know what to say anymore. ::shakes head renewedly::

Sep. 16th, 2004 02:06 pm (UTC)
I do indeed feel like it's off my plate. I don't have to worry about. Technically I never did, but I have devoted quite a bit of time to Latin over the last several years of class 3-4 days a week all-year-round in effect. Also, I know that after all this, my Latin really is pretty good - not good enough to pass, but pretty good by most other standards, and certainly good enough for my current research needs. (In fact, I've been able to read most of what I needed to in Latin for years, as most of what I need is not particularly difficult.)
Sep. 16th, 2004 01:12 pm (UTC)
Sorry to hear about your test. :/

Eventually, this strategy will backfire on them, once word gets out to potential students that people's degrees are being delayed by years or denied altogether due to the low success rate in Latin. PIMS is great, but it ain't the only horse in the race.
Sep. 16th, 2004 02:03 pm (UTC)
If the current students aren't doing their degree at the Centre because they want to prove their Latin is that good, they ought to be. I don't know of any students who have specifically dropped out because they just couldn't pass the Latin exam, but it wouldn't surprise me. I have friends who probably could finish a year or three earlier if they weren't delayed by the exam.
Sep. 16th, 2004 09:29 pm (UTC)
I am now utterly horrified by what my future holds. We need to talk about this tomorrow, and in depth!
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )