Fundamentals Senior Exam

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Fundamentals Senior Exam
  1. Format

The Senior Exam consists of four questions, three on texts from your list and one that requests that you reflect on your Fundamentals question with any one of the texts from your list. You will answer two of the four questions. Each answer usually comprises an essay of approximately eight to ten pages (double-spaced), to be typed up in a word processing program and emailed to the program coordinator at by the specified time.

The three text questions will be submitted by faculty members who will then read and grade your essay (only the essay that responds to the question he or she has submitted). Each essay will also be read by another faculty member, usually one with expertise in the text in question. Frequently the faculty member will be the one with whom you studied the text. In any case, the faculty member will be acquainted with your question statement and will craft a question about the text that relates in some way to your question.

The fourth, “question” question will be formulated either by your adviser or by the Fundamentals program chair (should your adviser not be available). Here, too, the author of the question will be one of the two readers of your essay. You are free to choose this question or not, as long as you answer two questions in total.

Please understand that you will NOT be allowed to confer with other students or your adviser when you are working on your exam essays.

  1. Preparation

The Senior Exam will be distributed by email at 9:00am on Friday morning of Sixth Week in the Spring quarter and is due at the same time on the morning of the following Monday. Alternate, adjacent dates can be arranged if these conflict with important religious obligations.

During Spring quarter you must sign up for the Senior Exam reading course, FNDL 29002. This allows you time in your schedule for reading, reviewing and analyzing the six texts on your list and for reflecting upon your question in the light of these six texts.

By Friday of first week in Spring quarter you must submit your revised question statement to the program coordinator. This is the place to signal to the examiners what kind of question you would like to be asked about each text. It should therefore articulate the most current form of the question and include a brief paragraph regarding each of your texts that explains how you understand the text to relate your question, and whether it poses particular problems or suggests particular avenues for you.
  1. Follow-up

As with the Junior Paper, you are encouraged to follow up with the Fundamentals program coordinator and chair about your exam papers. They will also encourage the faculty who read your papers to contact you about them.
  1. Timeline and To-dos (2016)

  • Friday of Week 1 (April 1st): Send the Program Coordinator your finalized Question Statement. This will include the final articulation of your Fundamentals question, an essay (1-2 pages) discussing how you have come to approach this question, followed by six short paragraphs that name the six texts you have chosen for your Senior Exam and explain their relevance to your overarching question

  • By Friday of Week 3 (April 15): Get the appropriate form from Charles Todd to register for FNDL 29002. The section number will correspond with the Fundamentals chair; this year, you’ll use FNDL 29002 / 20 for Prof. Sternstein.

  • Friday of Week 6 (May 6): You will receive your exams by email from the Program Coordinator at 9:00am. Choose two questions out of the four and take the weekend to write an essay of 8–10 pages in response to each. Be sure to include your name and the question number (A, B, C, D) in the title of each essay.

  • Monday of Week 7 (May 9): Submit your essays, either in .doc or .pdf form, to the Coordinator on time at 9:00am.

  • Relax and take a day to celebrate; you’re done with the last stage of Fundamentals!
  1. FAQ

  • Can I see example exam questions? Indeed you can, but be advised that the exams are customized to fit each student’s question. To see previous questions, go to the Fundamentals website and click “Sample Exams” (

  • Can grad students or faculty outside of U of C grade my exams? No. Only U of C faculty are asked to evaluate your responses; usually the faculty are in Fundamentals, although there are exceptions.

  • Can I change the date of my exams? Generally, no. We make exceptions to accommodate religious obligations or other serious matters that cannot be worked around, but you have to let us know well in advance and make a good case. If you do get permission to reschedule, the new dates will be as close to the official exam times as possible; i.e., a matter of days, not weeks.

  • Can I write about multiple texts in my “question question”? Generally, no. Eight to ten double-spaced pages is really only enough space to talk about one text in detail; you may refer to other relevant texts in your response, but you should focus your argument on a single text. Some students have attempted a comparative reading of two of their exam texts in response to their “question question,” but it’s a tough balancing act.

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