The Master of Arts Program in Spanish

The Masters Degree in Spanish is a two-year program designed to expose the beginning graduate student to all periods of Peninsular, Latin American, and U.S. Latino/Chicano literatures and cultures. The degree is awarded upon the successful completion of coursework and written and oral comprehensive exams. The program functions primarily as preparation for doctoral study insofar as it provides graduate students with the requisite knowledge of literature, linguistics, and critical theory that the Department considers fundamental to any subsequent graduate work, irrespective of field and/or emphasis. Moreover, performance in the Masters program will determine whether a graduate student is granted permission to proceed to the doctoral program after completion of the Masters Exam cycle (see Permission to Proceed below). Masters candidates must complete a minimum of 3 quarters of coursework in the Department. The maximum time to complete the Masters program is 2 years.


The Graduate Director will assign a professor to each new incoming student as Masters Advisor. In contrast with the Ph.D. Advisor, the Masters Advisor need have no relation to the student's field of interest. The main functions of the Masters Advisor are to provide orientation to the student, to sign and approve the quarterly academic plan of study, to advise the student of degree requirements and procedures, to guide the student in preparing for the Masters Exam, and to serve as a faculty mentor for the student. In this latter capacity, the advisor provides academic orientation and guidance to the student (study strategies, methods of research, etc.) during the first year; it is recommended that the Masters Advisor and the student meet 2-3 times a quarter during the first year. The student petitions the Graduate Director or, in special cases, the Chair for a change of faculty advisor. At the beginning of the academic year, all new Masters students should meet with their Masters Advisor during Welcome Week.


A minimum of 8 courses must be completed with a passing letter grade of B or better (a B- is not a passing grade; if the course is required, it must be retaken). Coursework completed with an S(=Satisfactory) or IP(=In Progress) does not fulfill required coursework but does count for workload credit for the Masters.
Required coursework includes:

1. Spanish 239A or B (Introduction to Literary Theory)
Workload Credit

All graduate students (assistants and associates) must enroll for a minimum of 12 units or three courses each quarter. At least 8 units must be in regularly scheduled graduate courses. Any exception must be approved by the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies. It is departmental policy that part-time graduate students must enroll for 8 units. Students on a fellowship or grant are responsible for meeting the specific requirements of their individual situation.
Departmental Policy on Directed Readings and Individual Studies (M.A.)

Directed Reading

Directed Readings (Span 291) are designed for students to prepare themselves for the M.A. exam by closely reading a number of texts under the close guidance of a faculty member. Only ONE Directed Reading can be taken at the M.A. level. A Directed Reading course is taken for S/U and it does NOT count towards the required 10 courses for the M.A. degree. An extra Directed Reading will be allowed in cases of Masters students who must retake the exam or part thereof. Directed Readings must be petitioned in writing and should include the following:

1. A detailed rationale for taking the course
2. Reading list
3. Course objective
4. Evaluation components

This document must be approved by the instructor, the student's M.A. Advisor, and the Graduate Director before the first week of classes. Please see the Graduate Coordinator for further details.

Individual Study

The purpose of an Individual Study (Span 290) is to further explore a chosen field or topic under the close guidance of a faculty member. The end result should be a research paper. Only ONE Individual Study (Span 290) can be taken at the M.A. level. A Masters student may upgrade an upper-division undergraduate course to a graduate Individual Study course by attending regularly scheduled class sessions and completing a final research paper. This arrangement must be petitioned in writing and approved by the instructor, the student's M.A. Advisor, and the Graduate Director before the first week of classes (at the very latest). Note: However, that this type of arrangement will not convert the undergraduate course to a graduate course (it does NOT count towards the required 8 courses for the M.A. degree). Please see the Graduate Coordinator for further details.

Departmental Policy on Incompletes

Students who received an Incomplete have up to one quarter to complete and hand-in the required course assignment. The Instructor has the right to require an earlier due date on Incompletes. Should the Incomplete occur in the spring quarter, the student has until date of notification from the Graduate Dean’s Office in mid August to complete all required coursework. Students must file with the Graduate Program Coordinator a “Contract” appropriately completed and signed by both the student and professor. This contract should be honored no later than the ninth week of the quarter following the request for an Incomplete, so as to allow the professor enough time to evaluate the work and document the change of grade.

Transfer Coursework

A Masters student may transfer up to 1 approved course completed as a graduate student at another university and a maximum of 4 courses completed at another campus of the University of California. To appeal a course that has not been approved for transfer, a student should submit a petition to the departmental Graduate Studies Committee with supporting documentation (syllabus, written work, exams, letter from instructor). Note that coursework completed as an undergraduate cannot count towards a graduate degree. For example, if an advanced undergraduate takes Spanish 201 (History of the Language) and is subsequently admitted to the Masters program, the student has satisfied a required Linguistics course, but must substitute a literature course in order to complete the 8 course requirement for the Masters.
Miscellaneous information about coursework

Through their graduate representative, graduate students may design and petition one graduate course offering each year. This petition should be submitted to the departmental Graduate Studies Committee by the first week of Winter Quarter in order to be implemented the following year (contingent on departmental resources.

Since the maximum time to obtain the Ph.D. degree is 7 years, and the M.A degree is two years, the MA exam must be taken no later than the fifth quarter of graduate study, or the end of the second year.

Masters Committee

The three faculty members of the Masters Committee are selected by the student and approved by the Graduate Director. They do not necessarily include the student's Masters Advisor. The members should represent the three parts of the exam (Spanish Medieval & Golden Age, Spanish 18th – 20th centuries, and Latin America). The Masters candidate is encouraged to select the Masters Committee as soon as possible, certainly by the end of Fall Quarter of the second year, and submit the committee membership and chair to the Graduate Director for approval. One of the three members of the committee may be an Emeritus professor, provided the student has taken one regularly scheduled graduate seminar with this professor. If the student is required to retake the exam, the composition of the Masters Committee may not be altered by the student. The Committee Chair reports in writing the outcome of the Masters Exams to the Graduate Director and the Chair.

The Exam

The Masters Exam is based on the Masters Reading List. The exam, written in Spanish, is divided into three parts given on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The Reading List consists of 2 Major Areas (Peninsular and Latin America) and 4 sub-fields for each area (8 in total). The student can opt out of two sub-fields, one from Peninsular and one from Latin America, by taking at least one graduate course in each corresponding sub-field. (See Graduate Coordinator for Form) The student will request the approval and signatures of the professors who taught the two courses. Each part of the written exam takes one to two hours (taken in the following sequence):

(1) Spanish (Medieval & Golden Age)
(2) Spanish (18th –19th; 20th centuries)
(3) Latin America (Pre-Colonial and Colonial; 19th century;
Modernismo (Narrative/Poetry/Essay)
(4) 20th –century (Short Story/Novel/Poetry/Theater/Essay)

In addition to the written exam, students take an oral exam lasting one hour. The Masters Exam is scheduled to take place during the sixth and seventh weeks of the quarter. Once a student files with the Graduate Program Coordinator an official intent to take the exam, no postponement of the exam will be allowed unless there is a valid excuse or some type of emergency.

Between the written and the oral exams, the student may access a copy of the written exam in the departmental office of Graduate Studies to prepare for the oral exam. The oral exam allows the student to correct inaccuracies, strengthen any weaknesses, and expand in more depth on any part of the written exam. The Masters Committee has the discretion to query the student on other questions as well. After completion of the oral exam, the student will leave the room so the Committee may deliberate. The Committee Chair then informs the student of the outcome of the exam.

The Masters Committee may opt not to give an oral exam if parts or all of the written exam are deemed unsalvageable. In this case, the time allotted for an oral exam will be devoted to a discussion of the written exam to help prepare the student for a retake. Masters students who must retake part or all of an exam may enroll in one Directed Reading course (Spanish 291) to prepare for the retake.

If the student does not pass part or all of the written exam, s/he must retake the parts not passed during the sixth and seventh week of the following quarter. In this case, both the written and oral are mandatory.

If a student fails the oral exam, s/he is permitted to re-take it again within two to four weeks after taking the original exam. The oral exam, just like any other part of the MA exam, can be repeated only once.
Permission to Proceed

The Masters Exam also functions to determine whether students can proceed towards the Ph.D. After the student successfully passes the written and oral exams, the Masters Committee reviews the student's performance on the Masters Exams, and makes a recommendation regarding permission to proceed. Permission to proceed is granted by unanimous vote of the entire faculty; it is not determined by the Masters Committee. If denied permission to proceed, the student is awarded a terminal M.A. degree, and cannot reapply for admission to the doctoral program.

The possible outcomes of the MA exam may be, then, summarized as follows:

(1) Pass with approval to continue to the Ph.D.
(2) Pass without approval to continue on to the Ph.D. (terminal MA)
(3) No Pass (with the option of repeating the exam only once)