Requirements and Exams

Father Sorin Founder Notre DameFather Sorin, Founder of the University of Notre Dame

Guide to the Master’s Program in French Department of Romance Languages and Literatures

Master's Program Requirements
    Credit Hours
    Qualifying Exams
    Graduate Reading Exam
    Final Written Comprehensive Exam
    M.A. French and Francophone Studies Checklist

Combined B.A. / M. A. Program
    B.A./M.A. French and Francophone Studies Checklist

Additional Policies and Procedures
    Transfer Credits
    Degree Eligibility
    Admission to Candidacy
    Thesis Requirements

Option 1:

Requirements, Policies, and Procedures for the M.A. Degree

Degree Requirements in French


30 credit hours which may be satisfied by either of these two options. Option I: All 30 hours may be obtained by the completion of 10 courses to be distributed as follows:

NOTE: While the LLRO 61076 / 63075 courses are required of all first-year teaching assistants, they do not count as coursework toward the MA degree. That is, students must take 10 courses in addition to the required course for teaching assistants.

Elective courses:
6 courses (18 hours) in French literature. Two of these courses (6 hours) may be on the 400 level.

Students may complete the program by taking an additional 2 courses (6 hours) in French or may choose the following “allied” field options:

2 courses (6 hours) in
(1) an allied field, such as Art, History, Philosophy, with the permission of the Director of Graduate Studies; or (2) a second national literature (Romance, Comparative Literature, or English, etc.); or (3) history of the language or linguistics

Students wishing to take both courses in the same field will be designated as having a certificate in that area.

The exact selection of courses will be determined in consultation with the student's advisor.

Option 2:

24 hours may be obtained by the completion of course work, as described in Option I, and the remaining 6 hours by completion of a thesis. These 6 hours are in lieu of the two courses in allied fields described above in Option I. The thesis’ length must be between 50 and 80 double-spaced pages of text. To be considered for this option, the student must present a written request to the graduate program liaison for the student's area of study. This should be done no later than the end of the Spring semester registration period of the first year in the program.


REQUIREMENT II: Qualifying Examinations

An oral examination determining candidacy for the degree will be given in February of the student's first year at Notre Dame. It will be administered by the French section for its own candidates and coordinated by the Director of Graduate Studies and his or her Liaison. The students will be presented with three short texts several weeks prior to the examination date. They will choose one and prepare a 20 minute (maximum) oral commentary on this text to demonstrate language proficiency, ability to analyze literary works, and general knowledge of the genre and period of the selected work. A question period, lasting normally 15-20 minutes, will follow the student’s formal oral presentation. The entire exam will not exceed one hour in length. All graduate professors in French who are not on leave or not in residence will participate in the examination. The exam is graded only “pass” or “fail.” Passing work is that which merits the equivalent of a B or better. The Committee's Chair, i.e., the Liaison to the Graduate Director, will report the results to the student and the Director of Graduate Studies no later than one week after the examination. In order to continue in the program, the student must achieve a passing grade. Failure to do so will result in dismissal from the program. No retakes are permitted.

REQUIREMENT III: The Graduate Reading Exam

Before taking the written examination (described below), the student must demonstrate competency in a second foreign language by passing the Graduate Reading Examination or show reason for exemption (i.e. if they are a native speaker of a second Romance language). All students are urged to fulfill the departmental language requirement by studying a second Romance language. Students should consult their mentors and/or advisors when deciding which language to pursue.

REQUIREMENT IV: The Final Written Comprehensive Examination

Each student will take during the final semester of classes a comprehensive written examination based on the reading list furnished by the department. Candidates in French will be required to select five periods from a choice of seven categories, of which at least two must be from pre-Eighteenth century periods (Medieval, Renaissance and Seventeenth). Periods will be divided as follows: (1) Medieval (2) Renaissance (3) 17th Century (4) 18th Century (5) 19th Century (6) 20th Century (7) Francophone

Each area of the exam will be tested for a total of one hour, and students will be required to answer one question from a choice of three, consisting of two essay questions and one commentary on a short literary passage provided to the student. The exam will take place over a two-day period, with a three-hour sitting on one day and a two-hour sitting another day. A fifteen-minute break is permitted for each sitting, taken in between portions of the exam. As the individual sections of the exam are written in sequence, students will not have access from the beginning of each session to all the exams they will take that day. Note that students may elect the commentary option only once per day.

Students who choose to write a thesis on a given field will still be required to take the comprehensive exam.

The student’s areas of concentration or fields of examination must be designated by February 14. It is the responsibility of the Liaison to the Graduate Director, who shall be the chair of the Examining Committee, to oversee the examination process, gather questions from faculty members, etc. All members of the graduate faculty in a given language section not on leave of absence or not in residence shall be members of the Examining Committee, and all shall read the entire exam. Each professor will assign a letter grade to the questions she or he has written; other members of the section will mark the questions Pass/Fail. In case of a disagreement, the section will meet to discuss the problem and reach a consensus.

A grade of at least a B must be earned in each section of the examination in order for that examination to be considered passing. A B- is not sufficient. Students who fail one section of the exam will be required to retake only that section. Students who fail two or more sections must retake the entire exam. Students who fail either one section or the entire exam are permitted only one retake.

If the student fails any section of the examination, he or she is considered to have failed the examination, and failure is to be recorded on the student's official record. As long as the student is continuously registered, he or she is allowed to retake the examination once within the next academic year. A student may request postponement in conjunction with the Graduate School, but must remain continuously registered in order to retake the exam.

All grades are to be submitted to the Chair of the Examining Committee, who will then inform the Director of Graduate Studies of the result of the exam, who will, in turn, inform the candidate.


The Director of Graduate Studies oversees the entire graduate program in French and Francophone Studies, Italian Studies, and Iberian and Latin American Studies. Once on campus, each student should contact the department office to make an appointment with the liaison to the Director of Graduate Studies in French, who will furnish a reading list, explain the procedures of the program, and help the candidate choose an individual advisor. Students who have not selected an advisor by the end of the first month of residency will be assigned one by the liaison or the DGS. This advisor will assist the student in planning a program of course work that meets degree requirements as well as accommodates the student's personal interests, and may, if appropriate, serve as the student's thesis director. It is the student's responsibility to keep the advisor informed of any difficulties or problems which may arise. There is a mandatory meeting for all new and continuing graduate students during the first week of classes to discuss procedures and answer questions.


The student's academic and teaching performance is subject to annual review and, accordingly, financial support and continuance in the program is determined on a yearly basis. This is normally done in conjunction with the qualifying exam in February.

For questions concerning this and other policies, contact the graduate liaison for French and Francophone studies.


Requirements for the Combined B.A.-M.A. Program

The Department of Romance Languages and Literatures offers its undergraduate first majors the opportunity to complete its graduate program in one year following conferral of the B.A. through a combination B.A.-M.A. degree in French. This program requires students to take 30 credit hours at the 200-level or above during the normal four-year undergraduate program, followed by a total of 30 credit hours of graduate courses taken during the fourth and fifth years of residence. Six credits will be counted towards both the undergraduate and graduate degrees. Students begin their graduate studies by taking at least two graduate level courses during their senior year which will count retroactively toward the graduate degree plus two courses, either graduate or 400-level undergraduate, which will both complete the requirements for their first major and count towards the M.A. degree. Note that the two of these four courses do not double-count toward the undergraduate degree; this means that students must make up an additional six credit hours (by advanced placement, transfer credit or overload) in order to accumulate the 120 credit hours needed for the undergraduate degree. Students apply for admission to the Graduate School by February 1st of their senior year and will be able to finish all requirements for the M.A. degree (i.e. complete an additional 18 credit hours and pass the comprehensive exam) during the fifth year, which may be supported by a teaching assistantship.

Additional Policies and Procedures

Transfer Credits

The Department of Romance Languages and Literatures may accept course work completed at another accredited university toward meeting its degree requirements. A student may transfer credits earned at another accredited university only if: 1) the student is in degree status at Notre Dame; 2) the courses taken are graduate courses appropriate to the Notre Dame graduate program and the student had graduate student status when he or she took these courses; 3) the courses were completed within a five-year period prior to admission to the graduate degree program at Notre Dame or while enrolled in a graduate degree program at Notre Dame; 4) grades of “B” (3.0 on 4.0 scale) or better were achieved; and 5) the transfer is recommended by the graduate director and approved by the Graduate School.

These five requirements also apply to the transfer of credits earned in another program at Notre Dame.

The University considers a request for credit transfer only after a student has completed one semester in a Notre Dame graduate degree program and before the semester in which the graduate degree is conferred. The university of origin must submit two transcripts directly to the Notre Dame Graduate School. Credits not earned on the semester system, such as trimester and quarter-hour credits, will be transferred on a pro-rata basis.

A student transferring from an unfinished master's program may not transfer more than six semester credit hours. If the student has completed a master's Ph.D. program, he or she may transfer up to nine semester credit hours to a Notre Dame master's program. No grades of transferred courses are included on the transcript.


The minimum residency requirement for the master's degree is registration in full-time status for one semester during the academic year or for one summer session.

Degree Eligibility

Failure to complete all requirements for the master's degree within five years results in forfeiture of degree eligibility. A master's program that is pursued during the summer and the academic year must also be completed within five years. A student attending Summer Session only must complete all requirements within seven years.

Admission to Candidacy

To qualify for admission to candidacy, a student must be in a master's degree program. He or she must have been enrolled in the program without interruption and maintained a minimum cumulative G.P.A. of 3.0 in approved course work. Admission to candidacy is a prerequisite to receiving any graduate degree. It is the student's responsibility to apply for admission by submitting the appropriate form to the Graduate School office through the department graduate director. The applicable deadline is published in the Graduate School Calendar.

Thesis Requirements

In addition to the norms described above, the following procedures provide guidance regarding the thesis. With the approval of his or her adviser, the student proposes a thesis topic for departmental approval. The approved topic is researched and the results presented under the supervision of a thesis director. The thesis must follow the guidelines in the Graduate School's Guide for Formatting and Submitting Dissertations and Theses, available at the Graduate School office.

The thesis director indicates final approval of the thesis and its readiness for the readers by signing the thesis. The candidate then delivers the number of signed copies of the completed thesis required by the department to the department chair. Students should be cognizant of deadlines for graduation established by the Graduate School and the department. These copies are distributed to the two official readers appointed by the department. Readers are normally appointed from among the regular teaching and research faculty in French. The appointment of a reader from outside the student's program must have the Graduate School's prior approval. The thesis director may not be one of the official readers. Each reader must unconditionally approve the thesis and the department should promptly report the results to the Graduate School.

After the readers approve the thesis, the candidate should deliver two clean copies signed by the thesis director to the Graduate School office on or before the date specified in the Graduate School Calendar. There it will be verified for compliance with the style manual. The candidate then should deliver the verified copies and the Graduate School approval form to the Hesburgh Library, where he or she pays the binding costs. Should a student and adviser decide to microfilm a thesis, information concerning the University Microfilms International Master's Publishing Program may be obtained from the Graduate School office.