Ancient History Qualifying Examination

I. 2020-2021 Coordinators

Katherine Blouin (all academic year); Boris Chrubasik (Fall 2020); Sarah Murray (Winter 2021)

II. Ancient History Stream Examination

Timing of Examination

This exam typically takes place during the 3rd year of the PhD Program.

While normally the exam would be offered during the September and May examination period, in consultation with the ancient history coordinators, students can take the exam at another mutually agreed point throughout the academic year.

Alterations of the timeline can be provided in exceptional circumstances (e.g. if a student enrolled in stream after their first year). The date of the exam should normally be determined in conversation with the student’s supervisor(s) and the Ancient history stream coordinators in consultation with the Graduate Coordinator. Normally, the dates should be set 8 weeks before the examination date on mutual agreement between the students and the ancient history stream coordinators.

For the year 2020-2021, all exams will be given virtually.

Should the student fail the exam, they can retake it at the next possible opportunity. Normally, this exam should not be retaken more than twice.


This exam has 3 main aims:

  1. To test students’ breadth of knowledge of historiographical and methodological issues pertaining to the ancient Greek and Roman worlds.
  2. To assess their ability to mobilize the methodological and historiographical skills that have been taught to them in three contexts:
    1. Their graduate seminars
    2. The ancient history methods course
    3. The proseminars
  3. To test whether students can convey a coherent historical argument both in written and oral form.


This exam consists of 2 parts:

  1. A take home written exam: Each student will be given a set of 8 to 10 questions. They are asked to answer one of these questions in writing within a period of 2 weeks (10 business days). Questions will be tailored to each student. Drawing upon skills learned across the three contexts, questions will be tailored to each student and formulated in a way that tests the student’s ability to position themselves coherently in an area that is outside of their particular area of specialization or interest. Their written paper should demonstrate the following:
    1. That they can answer in a way that provides the reader with a substantiated historiographical or methodological argument.
    2. That they can structure their answer in a coherent manner
    3. They engage with relevant primary evidence and secondary scholarship. They can also draw from other publications, including the references listed in the History stream “Reading List”, although the list is meant to be taken as suggestive of relevant historical approaches, and does not comprise a checklist for the exam. The expected length of the written response should be about 6000 words (+bibliography).
  2. An oral defense: The oral defense will normally take place within a week of the submission of the written exam. This defense will normally not exceed 120 minutes. The purpose of the defense is to enable student to discuss their written exam with the examiners in a conversational manner. Students will be invited to clarify or expand on certain parts of their written response. Normally, the examiners will be the ancient history coordinators of the current year. Students will be informed of their examiners before taking the first part of the examination. Normally, students will be communicated the result of the exam immediately after the oral component.


Students can prepare for the exam primarily by broadly reviewing the methodological and historiographical skills learned in their 2 first years in the program.

III. 2020-2021 Methods Course and Proseminar Schedule

Please see the linked PDF, “Ancient History Methods course and Seminar (2020-21)

IV. Suggested Readings

Please see the “Reading List” page.