Senior Comprehensive Examination

Classical studies majors are required to pass a senior comprehensive examination. Each student shall identify two classical studies faculty members to serve on the examination committee, one of whom shall be designated as the committee chair. It is the student's responsibility to arrange the dates of the examination in consultation with their committee chair.

Preparations for your comprehensive exam should begin at least one quarter in advance. The Classical Studies Comprehensive Exam Checklist will guide you through how to make arrangements and sign up for your exam.

Guidelines for the Comprehensive Examination

The classical studies senior comprehensive examination has three components:

Bust of Athena, Glyptothek Museum, Munich. Photo by  F. Tronchin
  1. A two-hour translation examination consisting of three representative passages taken from Greek and Latin texts. Students are encouraged to demonstrate proficiency in translating both Greek and Latin texts. At the discretion of the exam chair, students proficient in Greek or Latin alone may translate three passages in the language of their choice. Passages will be translated at sight, but, selected from a list of authors and texts with which the student has some prior familiarity. Vocabulary will be provided as appropriate.
  2. A two-hour written examination. This will consist of two one-hour essays on topics that students have chosen and researched prior to the exam in consultation with their exam committee. Each member of the faculty committee will pose up to three questions relating to one of the two topics. At the time of the examination, a student will select one question from each faculty member and write two separate essays. With the approval of one committee member, a student may substitute a Senior Essay for half of the written exam.
  3. The written exam will serve as the basis for a one-hour oral examination, during which students will discuss their chosen areas of specialization with their committee members.

Students will consult with exam committee members regarding potential examination topics, which should reflect student interest. Students should meet regularly with their committee members over the quarter preceding the exam to discuss the topics they have chosen, and should be prepared to research these topics under the direction of their committee. The following are examples of topics for the written exam:

  • Single author: Homer, Virgil, Livy, Ovid, Sappho, Plato, Cicero, Catullus, etc.
  • Genres: epic poetry; drama, historiography, the ancient novel
  • Greek and Latin myth
  • Special topics (examples): Greek democracy; Roman oratory; ancient visual culture; gender in antiquity; ancient drama in performance; literary and/or narrative theory; Platonic philosophy; Greece and its Others; Egyptian hieroglyphs; biblical narrative; Roman Empire and/or Republic; classical political theory; the practice of translation; varieties of ancient philosophy

All components of the examination must be completed by the 8th week of the quarter.


A committee chair may confer a Pass or Pass with Honors to mark a student’s completion of the exam. Honors will be awarded for exceptional performance on two out of three portions of the exam. The chair also writes the evaluation of a student’s comprehensive examination which describes the student’s areas of focus, evaluates their performance, and justifies any honors awarded.


Superior performance in the examination and in classical studies course work may be recognized with the designation of Honors or Highest Honors in the Major, which appears on a student’s diploma and official UCSC transcript. The appropriate designation will be decided upon at the time of the oral exam, based on the committee's appraisal of the student's complete transcript.

Classical Studies Comprehensive Exam Checklist

One Quarter Before Exam

  • Select an exam committee of two classical studies faculty, one of whom will be chair. In consultation with them, choose the topics for your exam.
  • Complete a Classical Senior Check and Petition for Undergraduate Individual Studies with your exam committee chair. Obtain your chair's signature on both forms.
  • Submit your approved Senior Check and Petition for Undergraduate Individual Studies to the classical studies undergraduate program coordinator during drop-in advising hours. You will be issued an enrollment code for CLST 197F, Senior Comprehensive Examination Preparation (2 units).
  • Register for CLST 197F. Be sure to select the grading option that you and your committee chair agreed upon for your exam.

Quarter of Your Exam

  • Apply to graduate (if graduating in the same quarter) by the deadline published in the UCSC Academic and Administrative Calendar.
  • Meet with your committee members to decide how you’ll prepare for your exam. In consultation with them, write out a preparation schedule for each of two exam topics which will be the bases for the written essays and the oral exam.
  • Optional: Obtain approval from one committee member to substitute a Senior Essay for half of the written exam.
  • In consultation with your committee members, set the dates, times, and locations for your translation, written, and oral examinations.
  • Report the date of your oral examination to the Undergraduate Program Coordinator no later than the 6th week of the quarter.
  • Complete your comprehensive exam by the end of the 8th week of the quarter.