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Comprehensive Examinations

Each MA student must write 20 questions, 10 for each area selected. My two areas are TESOL and linguistics. Luckily, the TESOL MA students have a list already written for us, and we just have to select 10 TESOL questions and 10 linguistics questions. Those lists are due to the graduate director by the end of the first week of the semester, and the graduate committee will select three questions from each list for each student to prepare for.

On the day of the comprehensive exams, March 10, the graduate director will select one of the three questions from the TESOL list, and I will write a 2-hour essay in response to that question, take a 30 minute break, and then write another 2-hour essay in response to the question selected from the linguistics list. If I pass both essays, then I am one step closer to earning my MA.

I was given the six questions I must prepare for today! I have been preparing all day for our study group meeting tomorrow. We decided that, since we know our questions now, to prepare an outline and a list of sources and present that to the group. The group members will help find holes in the outline and offer suggestions for other sources to consult. I keep looking at my questions, and I just can’t remember why I picked two of the three questions on the TESOL list! I don’t know why I would want to answer them, or why I would think that I was prepared to. I do feel comfortable with all of the linguistics questions selected for me.

I guess I could have anticipated these feelings. Well, somewhat, I guess. I didn’t think I would feel this insecure about the TESOL questions. I guess I just got stuck with two that I don’t really like. *sigh* At least we have the questions a full month before the exams. I know some people who had only the minimum allowed: two weeks.

Here are my questions:
3. Explore the subsystems (phonetics, phonology, morphology, semantics, syntax, discourse, and pragmatics) of the English language that an ESOL teacher needs to have knowledge of, making clear why knowledge of each is important to an ESOL teacher. (This is the one I feel comfortable with.)

31. Identify your philosophy of teaching as it relates to the ESOL classroom. Referring to specific people and theories, support the relevance of your philosophy. (Yikes! I’m not sure I even know what my philosophy of teaching is as it relates to a normal classroom! I guess developing one in preparation for this question is good, right?)

42. Discuss various issues with and modern approaches to teaching grammar in the ESOL classroom. (I like the idea behind this question, but I don’t feel prepared at all to write an essay on it!)


4. Discuss the bilingual history of the U.S. (No problem here: I just took Sociolinguistics, and an entire three weeks was spent discussing this very topic.)

7. Second language acquisition research has usually followed first language research both in its research questions and in its methodology. Discuss several such areas of second language research. (I should have a lot of notes on this topic, but I haven’t been able to find them: I took this class my first semester of grad school….)

9. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, the field of linguistics has been dominated by approaches that study language as an autonomous science. First, discuss what is meant by naming linguistics an autonomous science. Second, discuss some opposition to this approach. (No problem here, either. I have all the books from this class, and even though I’m not sure where the notes are, I feel confident that I can find most of the needed information in the textbook. Plus, the fact that I have a study group should help: maybe some one else has the notes?)

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