GraduateGuide to Graduate Study

Guide to Graduate Study

First Stage

Foreign Language Requirements

In practical terms the purpose of the foreign language requirement is to prepare students to read literary and critical works in languages other than English. However, departmental faculty believe that there is also an intrinsic value in linguistic study for anyone seriously interested in literature. Students in the Ph.D. program are expected to demonstrate a reading knowledge of two foreign languages, or to demonstrate superior proficiency in a single foreign language. Examinations requiring translation of literary and critical passages are offered by the department each quarter in French, German, and Spanish and once a year in Italian. Other languages are acceptable as long as comparable examinations can be arranged by the student in another UCLA department.

A basic reading knowledge of a language may be established in one of the following ways: (1) by passing a special reading examination offered by the English Department or certain UCLA foreign language departments; (2) by passing the special reading course for graduate students offered by various language departments, e.g. Italian 1G, German 1G or French 1G; (3) by passing with a letter grade of B or higher the elementary language course offered by various language departments, e.g. Spanish 3, Japanese 3, Persian1C, or by passing a higher level language course which requires an elementary course as a prerequisite; (4) by passing with a letter grade of B or higher the summer intensive language course offered by various language departments, e.g., Arabic 8, French 8 or Latin 16; (5) by passing with a letter grade of B or higher English 211, Old English; (6) by passing with a letter grade of B or higher an upper-division or graduate level course in the literature (not in translation) of the language. Students may petition to have prior coursework counted as fulfillment of the requirement, but work done more than two years before entering the program is not ordinarily accepted.

The first language requirement must be fulfilled before the student is permitted to take the Part One examination; and the second before the student is admitted to the Second Qualifying Examination.  Students choosing the single-language option (superior proficiency) must first demonstrate a basic reading knowledge of that language during the first or second year of the program in any one of the ways described above. They may then proceed to demonstrate superior proficiency, before taking the Second Qualifying Examination, in one of two ways: (1) by successful completion (letter grade B or higher) of three more upper-division or graduate courses in the literature (not in translation) of the foreign language (such courses must be approved by the Vice Chair, must be in areas related to the student’s specialization, and must not have been completed more than two years before entrance into the Ph.D. program); or (2) by passing an examination administered by the English Department. Students electing the latter option are expected to demonstrate a knowledge of the foreign language (and literature) comparable to that which might be obtained by taking the three upper-division or graduate courses.

Course Requirements

All students are admitted directly into the Ph.D. program, and the Department does not have an MA program, as such. Fourteen letter-graded courses are required. These courses must be English department courses at the graduate level (200 or above) or equivalent courses offered by English department faculty in other departments or programs. With the approval of the Vice Chair, Ph.D. students may apply to the fourteen-course requirement up to three courses offered by faculty in departments other than English (such as literature in another language, history, art history, Afro-American studies, film, women’s studies).

All graduate students in the First and Second stages of the program are required to take a minimum of 12 units per quarter. Students pursuing the doctorate take English 596 (Directed Individual Study) each quarter during the First Stage, usually on an S/U grading basis, either under an individual professor or the Vice Chair.

Students at any stage of the program may take courses for S/U grading, but such courses cannot be used to satisfy degree requirements. The work required to receive a grade of Satisfactory must be agreed on in advance with the instructor of the course.

Of the fourteen letter-graded courses for the Ph.D., a minimum of three courses must be periods before 1780, and three in periods after 1780. (Classes in literary theory, folklore, or other such fields will not ordinarily satisfy the breadth requirement, but students may petition the Graduate Committee for a ruling.)

First Stage Evaluation

At the beginning of the student’s second year in the program, the Graduate Committee reviews the student’s file, which includes the faculty’s written reports on course work as well as grades, and instructs the Vice Chair to advise the student as to his or her progress in the program. Students who entered the program with an MA may petition the Committee to grant credit toward the fourteen-course requirement for graduate courses taken elsewhere; at the Committee’s discretion, a maximum of four such courses may be credited toward the UCLA degree.


The general adviser for graduate students is the Vice Chair for Graduate Studies. The Vice Chair and a second member of the Graduate Committee also serve as the personal advisers for first-year students. These two advisers meet with entering students, approve their plans for study each quarter of their first year, counsel them as the need arises, and evaluate their academic progress periodically. Among the factors considered in the evaluations are course grades, written evaluations of performance in seminars and other courses, and progress toward the satisfaction of degree requirements.

By the end of the first year (and no later than the beginning of the second year), students select from among the departmental faculty a three-person advisory committee, whose membership will be approved by the Vice Chair. These personal advisers meet with students to discuss their programs and more general issues of intellectual and professional concern. They also supervise the student’s preparation of reading lists for the First Qualifying Examination. As the student’s interests evolve and gain focus, it may be appropriate to change the membership of this committee. There is no requirement that all members of the committee administer the student’s First Qualifying Examination, but it is normal for some, if not all, to do so. In composing this committee, students should bear in mind that not all faculty teach graduate courses each year (some even less often) but that such faculty may well be the most appropriate committee members.

The department encourages students to consult, as early as possible in their graduate careers and frequently thereafter, with any and all faculty, and in particular with those in their special fields of interest. The Graduate Counselor should be consulted on any questions or problems that arise.

The Part I Exam

As students near completion of the 14-course requirement (including the breadth requirement), ordinarily sometime early in their third year, they should finalize the composition of their reading lists and the membership of their examination committee. Under the supervision of the committee, the student devises three reading lists, each consisting of approximately 30 primary texts (or equivalent bodies of work, as in the case of poems, short fiction, essays, etc.), and 10 critical texts that have been important to the development of the field, each list representing a coherent field of literary study. At least two of these fields must be historical, chosen in most cases from among the widely-recognized historical periods (e.g., Anglo-Saxon, Middle English, Renaissance, earlier 17th century, Restoration and 18th century, Romantic, Victorian, 20th-century British and Irish literature, earlier American, 19th-century American, 20th-century American, etc.) and including a substantial number of canonical works by major authors. The third exam topic may be an additional historical field (following the same requirements as the other historical lists), a special topic (e.g., African American literature, literary or critical theory, media studies), or one devised by the student. Where the third field is a special topic or a newly-devised topic, its list is to consist entirely of works not included on either of the two other lists.

Once the student and individual faculty members complete the lists, all three lists together must be approved by the entire examination committee. The lists are then submitted to the Vice Chair for approval. The Vice Chair will appoint an examination committee chair, and the First Qualifying Examination can then be scheduled. The date of the examination will be no earlier than six months (two quarters) after the lists are approved.

Two weeks prior to the examination, students submit to the committee members written work from any two seminars that they believe best reflects their performance. The committee’s review of these papers constitutes the first stage of this examination. The second stage of this examination is a two-hour oral examination.

In order for a student to receive a Pass on the examination, all examiners must agree that the student has passed all three sections of the examination. If a student fails one section, the student will receive a Fail and will be required to retake that section. If a student fails two sections, the student will be required to take all three sections again. The examinations may be retaken only once. Before any failed examination is retaken, the Graduate Committee reviews the record as a whole and offers, through the Vice Chair, advice on how students should proceed. Faculty will be reminded of their responsibility to conduct a rigorous exam, to be willing to judge that a student has failed, and to be willing, when a second failure has occurred, to instruct the Vice Chair that the student not be permitted to continue in the program.

Part I Exams should be completed no later than the end of the third year of study and preferably earlier. Students must complete at least one foreign language requirement and have no outstanding incompletes before the exam can take place. Ordinarily the examination occurs after the 14-course requirement is completed, but in some circumstances it may occur before all course requirements are satisfied, provided that, at the time of the exam, the student has completed at least one language requirement, has no more than two required courses remaining, and has no outstanding incompletes.

Students in the Ph.D. program may receive the MA after they have satisfied the 14-course requirement, completed one foreign language requirement and passed the First Qualifying Examination.

M.A. Thesis Option

Students who choose to leave the program upon obtaining the MA may elect the thesis plan for the terminal MA. Students choosing this option must request a committee from the Vice Chair a minimum of two quarters before completion of the program.  The committee will consist of three faculty members who will meet with the student as a group to consider the thesis proposal.  The thesis will be not less than forty pages (10,000 words) or more than sixty pages (15,000 words) in length. The thesis itself must be filed no later than the tenth quarter after admission.

Career Development Expectations

During stage one, students will be learning, largely through observation, what it means to be a professional academic.  Students should take this time to identify their strengths and weaknesses and build a game plan for professional development.



  • To begin, we recommend all PhD students complete the Skills, Interests, and Values assessments in Imagine PhD, a free, confidential, online career planning tool, and that they revisit these assessments at least once per academic year.  Students should discuss their results with any or all of the following: the Vice Chair for Graduate Studies or Director of Professionalization in the English Department, their adviser, or a graduate counselor at the Career Center (we strongly recommend becoming familiar with and making use of the Career Center, especially their advising services and workshop offerings).
  • We recommend students use Imagine PhD’s “My Plan” feature to build a 5-7 year timeline that includes completion of their degree.  Plot degree milestones and, drawing from assessments, plot skill-building activities.
  • Build skills at this stage through coursework, teaching, volunteer opportunities (academic and non), and summer employment.
  • Stage one is an ideal time to build healthy habits that will ensure success in graduate school.  Students should make time to have fun, cultivate friendships, and attend to their physical and mental health.  UCLA is rich in such resources, and we recommend students explore offerings from UCLA Recreation, UCLA Counseling and Psychological Services, and the Graduate Student Resource Center.

Career Path Preparation

Stage 1 is the time to learn the contours of academia and lay the foundations for professional success.  We recommend students take the following steps before moving on to stage two.

  • Build an Online Presence – most students already have one, but the start of PhD work is a good time to ensure one is representing oneself professionally across platforms, and to build a presence on relevant academic platforms.  The Career Center holds regular workshops about this, and you may discuss online strategies individually with a Graduate Career Counselor.
  • Create both a cv and resumé, and be sure to understand the difference between the two.  See chapter five of the Career Preparation Toolkit for Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Scholars.  
  • Attend talks – this is an excellent way to be exposed to new ideas, to observe and absorb codes of professional, public academic behavior, and meet people.  Attending departmental events especially is a crucial aspect of collegial behavior.
  • Review academic and non-academic job ads – becoming familiar with how employers describe what they’re looking for in a future colleague is an excellent way for students to begin thinking about skill-building and self-presentation.  Links to various academic job sites can be found at the “Academic Job Search” age of the “Career Development” CCLE site; Imagine PhD pulls non-academic job listings in real time from  These may be found in the “Apply” section of each Job Family.

Communication Skills

  • Students should, in their first stage, continue to develop as writers through course work and publicly engaged writing and add any writing or publication goals to their timelines.
  • They should also gain familiarity with the major conferences and journals in their field.

Second Stage

As soon as possible after successful completion of the First Qualifying Examination, students select a dissertation director and begin to prepare the dissertation prospectus. Once students advance to this stage, they may take up to 12 units of English 597, either under an individual professor or the Vice Chair, so that they can concentrate on the prospectus. Students are also encouraged to take any seminars that might prove useful.

When the student decides on a dissertation topic and a faculty member agrees to direct the dissertation, the student should inform the Graduate Counselor. The dissertation director serves as the official adviser for the remainder of the student’s time in the program.

The Part II Exam

After students pass the second language requirement, and once they and their dissertation directors conclude students are sufficiently prepared (but no later than three quarters after they pass the First Qualifying Examination), they take the second qualifying examination, also known as the University Oral Qualifying Examination. This examination is administered by the student’s doctoral committee, which must be formally nominated and approved in accordance with Graduate Division Minimum Standards for Doctoral Committee Constitution before the exam can take place.

The doctoral committee must consist of a minimum of four faculty members, at least three of whom hold current UCLA Academic Senate faculty appointments. Of these three UCLA members, at least two, including the committee chair or co-chair, must hold these appointments in the English Department. Two of the three UCLA members must hold the rank of professor or associate professor (regular or in-residence series).  All committee members read, approve, and certify the dissertation.

At least one month before the examination, students must submit their prospectus to each member of the committee. The prospectus must be a substantially researched overview of the proposed dissertation, about 30 pages in length and including a bibliography. A sample chapter or partial chapter may be submitted as well but is not required. It is in the student’s interest, of course, to have a draft read farther in advance by all participants so as to identify any points of substantial doubt or disagreement well before the exam.

The second qualifying examination, which normally lasts for about two hours, focuses on the issues raised by the proposed dissertation and attempts to ascertain both the feasibility of the project and students’ preparation for it. Though this examination concentrates on the prospectus, students should be prepared to discuss a wide range of works that bear on the proposed dissertation. Students are encouraged to consult with their committee in advance of the examination. The grading on the examination is pass or fail. The candidate may, at the discretion of the committee, repeat the examination once only.

Career Development Expectations



Students should take time at this stage to pause and reflect.  Passing the Part One exam is a major achievement, and students should savor their accomplishment.  Students can also use this time to think and plan for their ideal outcomes. Students should be thinking, that is, about what they – not their advisers or peers – really want to be doing once they earn the PhD.  At this stage students should be staying on track to finish their degree and figuring out what kind of academic (in terms of field, institution type, and public engagement) they want to be should they choose to pursue an academic career.   We recommend students take the following steps before advancing to candidacy.

  • Students should revisit their timeline – either in Imagine PhD’s “My Plan” or some other format – regularly, at least once per academic year to ensure timely degree progress and make any necessary adjustments.
  • Students should begin exploring their career options.  The profiles in the “Explore” section of Imagine PhD’s resources for the “Faculty” job family offer a sense of what it is like to work at various institution types.  Students might also consider conducting informational interviews with faculty.  More about informational interviews can be found in chapter 3 of the Career Preparation Toolkit for Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Scholars.  
  • Now is the time to begin thinking in earnest about other areas of professional interest.  Besides being a professor, what other careers might be of interest? See chapter 2 of the Toolkit for resources to begin such exploration, be sure to complete the Imagine PhD assessments, and consider scheduling an appointment with a Graduate Counselor at the Career Center.
  • Leadership roles, collaborations (such as in teaching and event planning), volunteer positions, teaching opportunities beyond English, and administrative positions on campus are ways to begin expanding skills and experience, which is something students should pursue at this stage.
  • Students should continue prioritizing their physical and mental health.

Career Path Preparation

During stage two, students should continue …

  • Updating their online presence regularly.
  • Reviewing job ads (academic and non)
  • Attending talks

Communications Skills

  • At this stage students should know what the major CONFERENCES in their field are and begin thinking about attending them.  Students should, with guidance from their adviser and the Director of Professionalization, be strategic about conference attendance in order to derive the most benefit from the effort and money it takes to attend one.  The Graduate Writing Center offers workshops on preparing conference papers, and you can access video from an English Department workshop on attending conferences on the “Workshops” page of our Career Development CCLE website.
  • Stage two is also a good time to think in concrete terms about PUBLISHING.  By now, students know the major journals in their field and can begin thinking about what kinds of articles they’d like to place where and when.  As with conferences, some strategic planning is in order when it comes to publication. Students should confer with their advisers, watch the English Department workshop about publications on the “Workshops” page of our Career Development CCLE website, and avail themselves of resources at the Graduate Writing Center.
  • While an article looks wonderful on a CV, so does a grant, especially one from beyond UCLA.  Stage 2 is an excellent time to explore EXTERNAL FUNDING.  Students can use the UCLA GRAPES Database (Graduate PostDoc Extramural Support) to search for funding opportunities and should watch the English Department workshop about funding on the “Workshops” page of our Career Development CCLE website.

Third Stage

When students pass the second qualifying examination, they advance to candidacy and receive the Candidate in Philosophy (C.Phil.) degree. Students proceed with preparing the dissertation and enroll each quarter in English 599 to reflect this ongoing research and writing. Students are encouraged to enroll in seminars in their field whenever they are offered. All course requirements (oral reports and term papers) may be satisfied through work connected with the dissertation.

A final oral defense of the dissertation is optional, at the discretion of the doctoral committee, but is usually not required. Final approval of the dissertation is normally delegated to three certifying members of the doctoral committee (two from the English Department, and one from another department).

Time to the Ph.D. Degree

Three quarters are normally allowed from the First Qualifying Examination to the Second Qualifying Examination. From the Second Qualifying Examination to the completion of the dissertation (and the degree), the time normally allowed is six quarters. From the time of admission, students will ideally be able to complete doctoral studies within fifteen academic quarters (five years).

Career Development Expectations

In this last stage of the PhD students should strategize for a strong finish and begin planning for life beyond UCLA.


  • Review and finalize timeline for degree completion and update regularly
  • Review job search goals, revise as needed and update action plan; this review and revision can be done in conversation with the student’s adviser, the Director of Professionalization, and a graduate counselor at the Career Center.
  • Stay healthy with rest, exercise, diet, and recreation.
  • Maintain a competitive edge by finishing their dissertation and professionalizing their wardrobe.

Career Path Preparation

  • Make sure online presence is up to date and tailored to specific roles the student is targeting
  • Finalize application materials, including references, and tailor as needed. See chapter 5 of the Career Preparation Toolkit for Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Scholars to get started, and be sure to watch the series of workshops on the “Academic Job Search” page of our Career Development CCLE website.
  • Search for and apply to job openings and postdoc positions

Communications Skills

  • Complete the dissertation and continue submitting work to journals
  • Schedule a mock interview with the English Department and at the Career Center
  • Continue to engage diverse audiences through presentations, teaching, or community involvement.

Time to Degree

Part I Exam

Ideal: Fall of Year 3
Standard: Spring of Year 3
Maximum: End of Year 4


Part II Exam

Ideal: Spring of Year 3
Standard: Winter of Year 4
Maximum: End of Year 5


Dissertation Filed

Ideal: Year 5
Standard: Year 6
Maximum: Year 9


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ASE Appointments

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Hooding Ceremony

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Graduate Study Groups

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Resources for Scholarship

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Policies and Procedures

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