Academic Policies

Scheduling and Grading of Comprehensive Examinations (for students on the old curriculum)

Two of the examinations should be taken by the end of the sixth semester (or the end of fourth in the case of students admitted with an M.A.). The remaining examination should be taken by the end of the seventh (or the fifth). The discussion of the dissertation prospectus should occur by the seventh or eighth (or the fifth or sixth) semester.

Students are advised to contact individual faculty members well before the first exam in order to discuss effective preparation. The format and nature of the comprehensive exam questions is left to the discretion of the individual faculty members.

Each comprehensive exam is a four-hour exam. A half-hour (lunch) break is allowed, though all exam materials must be left with the proctor. The break does not count as part of the four hours. Students may leave the exam room for personal reasons, but do so with the clock running. After four hours, the exam proctor will announce that four hours are up and that the student has a fifteen-minute grace period for completing the exam. This policy is adopted to ensure fairness for all students taking the comprehensive exams.

Comprehensive exams will be graded according to the following scale: high pass, pass, weak pass, and fail. Students who fail an exam or portion of an exam are allowed to retake the failed portions one more time. If the second attempt is also unsuccessful, the student's participation in our program will be terminated and he or she must leave the program at the end of the current semester or academic year.


The dissertation is the crowning achievement of graduate studies. Course work, comprehensives, and particularly the prospectus defense will have prepared students to embark on a major research project. Students work closely with their dissertation advisor and possibly with other potential members of their dissertation committee. The result should be a substantial piece of original research on some aspect of German literature, language, or culture. Students should consult the University of Pennsylvania Doctoral Dissertation Manual. The dissertation advisor determines when the student is in a position to schedule his or her dissertation defense. In consultation with the graduate chair, a committee is established consisting of the dissertation advisor, graduate chair and two or more additional standing faculty members from the graduate group or from other graduate groups in the event of an interdisciplinary dissertation. According to the rules of the graduate group, the defense is not public. The typical format of a dissertation defense is as follows: the Ph.D. candidate offers a brief summary of his or her dissertation (oral presentation) and then members of the committee pose questions (oral examination). At the conclusion, the candidate is informed of the result.

Grades and Policy on Incompletes

In accordance with University policy, only grades of A and B indicate satisfactory performance in a course. Students must maintain a grade point average (GPA) of B- or better to remain in the Program.

The Department has a rigorous policy on incompletes. Students are not permitted to carry any incompletes into the next academic year (i.e., incompletes accumulated during the 01/02 academic year must be removed by the beginning of fall semester 2002-students have the summer to do so). We have adopted this stringent policy for your benefit. Too often incompletes are the downfall of graduate students. The faculty of the Department at the same time pledge their cooperation in making it possible for you to complete your work in time. This policy is identical to the Graduate School policy for William Penn, Fontaine and other University Fellowship holders.

Advising and Academic Progress

Students will be advised before or at the beginning of every semester by the Graduate Chair who, along with the administrative assistant, is responsible for maintaining student records. Students are encouraged to seek advising on an informal basis from other faculty members. Students will select a dissertation adviser in year three. The Graduate Chair will continue to monitor progress.

At the beginning of the fall and spring semester, the executive board of the graduate faculty will meet to discuss the progress of each of the graduate students. At the fall meeting, the faculty will hear a report on incompletes and student progress from the Graduate Chair. Students will be warned in writing if they are no longer in good academic standing and told what they must do to correct the situation. At the spring semester meeting (generally in late January), faculty will look at the overall progress of each student. Students who have failed to remove incompletes in a timely manner or whose grades and/or GPA are low will be informed that their financial support will not be continued in the following academic year. Every student will receive an official letter indicating satisfactory or unsatisfactory performance after this meeting.