The Portfolio is the comprehensive exam for English M.A. and
What is in the Portfolio?
The portfolio is composed of four representative samples of
graduate student writing:
- one revised and expanded seminar paper or final project, plus
the earlier draft of this paper (with the professor's
- two additional seminar papers or final writing projects;
- one ten-page critical preface that discusses your intellectual
development as an English graduate student.
Portfolios do not need to be bound; a manila envelope or folder
will suffice as a container.
Passing the Exam
Portfolios are read on a Pass/Fail basis, based on the whole
package. Portfolios should show:
- Graduate level research and writing skills, including
professional use of authorities (MLA format) and grammatical
- Thoughtful response to outside comments on the revised essay or
final project,; and
- Critical awareness of the writing samples’ value in contexts
beyond the class and/or professor for which it was originally
Failing the Exam
Portfolios will fail as a result of plagiarism and/or failure
to meet professional writing standards, lack of familiarity with
the critical discourse pertinent to a given topic, or failure to
discuss your writing samples in the critical preface.
Select Papers That Mean Something to
Prior to submitting the portfolio, students should meet with their
professors to choose which papers or final projects they will
submit. Most importantly, they should decide which paper or
project they will revise. Choice of papers should not be
based simply on which papers received the highest grade. Rather,
you should select papers that demonstrate your most meaningful
work, as you will discuss in your critical preface.
After choosing which paper or final project to revise,
students should substantially revise and expand it for the
portfolio. Revision strategies should begin by considering final
comments on the paper from the professor for which you wrote it,
but you are not limited to these suggestions. The purpose of
the revision is to expand the context of the seminar to consider a
broader professional audience and purpose for your writing.
This revision stage is where you show off your growing professional
skills, which means that your revision should be more substantial
than simply copyediting or adding scholarly references to your
Writing the Critical Preface
The critical preface to your portfolio should discuss your
intellectual development as an English graduate student, with
reference to the writing samples as evidence of this
development. While there are not prescribed rules for
this essay, it should demonstrate how you understand yourself as a
scholar in English studies. The essay should be as compelling
and distinctive as possible in discussing your development, rather
than just a summary of the written work that you are submitting for
your portfolio. Consider the following questions as you begin
to think about your critical
- What intellectual advances have you made?
- What critics or critical schools do you tend to use and
- How has your relationship to interpretation or reading
- How has your teaching changed?
- How have your writing practices changed?
- How has your sense of audience changed?
View a Sample Critical Preface.