MA Program Requirements and Policies

The following drop-down headings provide information on policies and requirements for our various MA graduate degrees, including comprehensive examinations, the thesis and supervision, and requirements for modern languages and archaeological fieldwork.

The official requirements for graduation are always those published in the UBC Calendar entry for the year of your program start date.

All MA degrees require the completion of 30 credits, including CNRS 500 and CNRS 549 (a six-credit thesis), demonstrated competence in one modern language, and two subject-specific comprehensive exams. All courses are normally at the 500 level, but up to 6 credits may come from 300- and 400- level undergraduate offerings within the Department or graduate offerings from other departments, but not both.

Students may choose courses according to the following regulations, and are strongly encouraged to do so in consultation with their Graduate Advisor, to ensure all program requirements are met.

  • MA in Ancient Culture, Religion and Ethnicity: courses may come from any of the department’s course codes.
  • MA in Classics: at least 12 credits at the 500 level must be in courses in GREK and LATN.
  • MA in Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology: at least 12 credits at the 500 level must be in courses in CLST, NEST and/or CNRS, and must have completed the archaeological fieldwork requirement.
  • MA in Religious Studies: at least 12 credits at the 500 level must be in courses in RELG, HEBR, and/or ARBC. For students wishing to specialize in Asian religions, up to 6 of these credits may come from relevant courses in Asian Studies (ASIA). Such courses must be approved in advance of registration by the Religious Studies Committee.

Additionally, all MA candidates must have completed, before the end of their program, at least three years’ study (18 credits or equivalent) in Ancient Greek, Biblical Hebrew, Latin, or Classical Arabic (minimum grade: B-/68%). Any courses taken to satisfy this requirement do not count toward the 30 credits of coursework required by the program.

Students in the MA in Ancient Culture, Religion, and Ethnicity, the MA in Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology and the MA in Religious Studies may substitute up to 6 credits in Akkadian, Egyptian hieroglyphs, Coptic, or another relevant ancient Near Eastern language towards this requirement. Students intending to pursue doctoral degrees are advised that more languages are typically required for admission, and that these minimum standards may not be sufficient.

All graduate students are required to attain minimal reading knowledge of at least one (for M.A. programs) or two (for Ph.D. programs) foreign modern languages in addition to English. Doctoral students who have demonstrated competence in an approved modern language as a requirement of their MA need only test in one more language. Available choices are French, German, Italian, and Spanish. The student will select the language(s) in consultation with their Graduate Advisor. The selected language(s) will be reported to the Graduate Committee.

Competence in a language can only be established by the successful completion of an examination administered by the department’s Graduate Committee or (when available) by another department (currently such examinations are offered at UBC for French, Spanish and Italian).

In exceptional circumstances, when an intended dissertation project requires access to a significant body of scholarship in another language, doctoral students may substitute that language for one of the two required languages, with the approval of the Graduate Committee. The selected language must clearly be relevant as a language of scholarship key to the student’s intended program of research.

The Department strongly urges students, in consultation with their Graduate Advisor, to consider early on in their program how they will fulfill the language requirements in order to further their career development.

The modern language requirement must be satisfied before the student completes comprehensive examinations. The examination may be re-attempted until passed.

Modern Language Examination Logistics

The Graduate Advisor will select two passages, each 500-600 words. These passages will be drawn from modern scholarly literature that is relevant to the student’s field of study. These two selected passages will then be submitted to the Graduate Committee, who will select the passage for the examination.

Departmental examinations will be offered at fixed times (usually in October and February). The Modern Language Examination will be 90 minutes in duration. The student is permitted to use a dictionary during the examination.

All logistical organization (date room, time) of the examination will be determined by the Director of Graduate Studies. The examination will be graded on a Pass/Fail basis by one member of the department’s faculty selected by the DGS. The marker will inform the DGS of the outcome of the examination and the DGS will inform the student, and note the examination’s outcome in the student’s file.

Below, find a template of the instructions to appear on each language examination:


You have 90 minutes to write this examination. Translate as much of the assigned text (excluding the footnotes and captions to illustrations) as time allows into idiomatic English. The overall purpose of this examination is to demonstrate that you are able to make quick and efficient use of scholarly literature in the language and thus equipped well for your future research endeavours.

Please write your translation in ink on alternate lines of the examination booklet.

You may use a dictionary.

Though not required for entry to the MA program, all students in the MA in Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology must have fulfilled this requirement by the end of their MA program. Students applying for entry to the PhD program in Classics (Classical Archaeology) must have fulfilled this requirement prior to entry.

The fieldwork requirement can be fulfilled by the completion of CNRS 535 or through an equivalent field experience, including but not limited to excavation, museum work or conservation, archaeological survey, or geophysical work.

To count for credit toward the MA program, field experience must be fulfilled in the form of CNRS 535 during the degree. Credit can be achieved from a UBC-run field school, or by participation in another field project undertaken during the program, provided that it has been approved in advance by the Archaeology Committee. For outside (non-UBC) projects to qualify for credits for CNRS 535, they must involve a minimum of 4 weeks of fieldwork and must be demonstrated to fulfill the specific learning objectives that are described in the CNRS 535 syllabus.

Students may submit for approval by the Archaeology Committee other previously acquired field experiences as defined above: field programs that are not completed as part of CNRS 535 can fulfill the field requirement, but do not count for course credit toward the MA program.

All MA students may include CNRS 535 (to a maximum of 3 credits) as part of their program, as long as other degree requirements are met.

The Department of Classical, Near Eastern, and Religious Studies believes that Reading Lists constitute the best way to prepare students with the general background of the field, by reading seminal primary and secondary works. Familiarity with these lists is examined by written comprehensive examinations or comps.


Students in the MA in Ancient Culture, Religion, and Ethnicity write essay exams based on reading lists. Students choose two lists on which to be examined from the following: (a) Greek Culture; (b) Roman Culture; (c) Near Eastern Archaeology; (d) Judaism (e) Christianity; (f) Islam; (g) Hebrew Bible and the ancient Near East.


Greek. Reading lists for candidates writing comprehensive exams on Ancient Greek — MA Classics, is available here.

Latin. Reading lists for candidates writing comprehensive exams on Latin — MA Classics, is available here.

Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology:

Students in the MA in Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology write essay exams based on reading lists. Students choose two lists on which to be examined from the following: (a) Greek archaeology; (b) Roman archaeology; (c) Near Eastern archaeology.

Religious Studies:

Candidates for the MA in Religious Studies choose two lists on which to be examined from the following: (a) Christianity; (b) Islam; and (c) either Hebrew Bible and the ancient Near East or Judaism. Students wishing to write a comprehensive exam on Asian Religions may do so with the approval of the Religious Studies Committee, if suitable examiners can be secured.

The Department of Classical, Near Eastern, and Religious Studies believes that reading lists constitute the best way to provide students with a general background in the field. Familiarity with these lists is examined by written comprehensive examinations or ‘comps’.

As part of the requirements for each MA in the department, students are expected to write two comprehensive examinations. These take place in the first two weeks of April in the student’s second year of study.

Reading lists are the same across the cohort and are not tailored to individuals; the content may vary from year to year. Students identify the subjects on which they wish to write by 15 April of their first year to their Graduate Advisor. Lists for the following academic year are available from 1 July. While some works on these lists may be covered as part of the candidate’s coursework, there is no expectation that they will be: students should have the ability to work through all these texts on their own in addition to coursework.

Lists for translation exams represent a prescribed set of primary texts in the original language. The works represent a canon of original authors (literary, historical, and philosophical) that draws from many genres and time periods. The process results in an identifiable and useful body of knowledge that is objectively examinable and fills the gaps in the candidate’s reading of central authors.

Lists for essay exams consist of 25-30 recent and substantial contributions to the relevant field and/or selections of key primary sources.

Changes to the lists are the responsibility of the relevant examining committee:

  • Classical Languages Committee: Greek, Latin.
  • Archaeology Committee: Greek archaeology, Roman archaeology, Near Eastern archaeology.
  • Religious Studies Committee: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East.
  • ACRE Committee: Greek culture, Roman culture.

The structures for MA comprehensive exams are as follows:

  • Structure of translation exams (CLAS). Students write two 3-hour exams. For each examination, students must attempt 5 translations of 8 possible passages (4 verse, 4 prose). At least 2 must be from each category. In addition, students must provide short commentary on 1 passage from each category (chosen passages may include those already translated), for a total of 7 answers. Strategies for preparing for the comment section (“gobbets”) can be found here.
  • Structure of essay exams (CLAR, RELG, ACRE). Students write two 3-hour exams. In each exam, five essay questions are asked, of which three must be answered. The student must refer to and discuss at least 15 items on the list, and at least 5 per answer. If the list includes primary and secondary literature, both types of material should be discussed.

Format for MA Comprehensive Examinations

  1. Candidates will write the comprehensive examinations in Greek and Latin within an inclusive five-day period between April 1st and 15th, normally in the second year of study.
  2. Candidates will be allowed three hours for each examination.
  3. Both examinations will be based on the M.A. Reading Lists (see above).
  4. The examinations in Greek and Latin will be marked separately as a “pass/fail” with a 76% needed to pass.

Candidates who do not pass either or both of these exams will have only one opportunity for a retake, which will be held within an inclusive five-day period in the following August.

CNRS 549 (MA six-credit Thesis) – schedule and description

As part of their degree, students in the Master of Arts programs of CNERS write a thesis. Students undertake to produce a lengthy piece of academic work at an advanced level demonstrating their mastery of core methods and primary materials. This thesis should be the best piece of academic writing that students have done, and consequently requires a commitment of at least 312 hours’ work over the course of the academic year.

Suggested Schedule:

By May 1st of Year 1: identification of thesis advisor and choice of topic, so that student can start preparing proposal over the summer. DGS to coordinate information.

By September 30th of Year 2: thesis advisor, in consultation with the student, selects a second member for the committee. The graduate advisor serves as a member of each committee ex officio to ensure fairness across the cohort.

By October 15th of Year 2: submission of proposal to thesis advisor.

Format of proposal: proposal to consist of a summary of 500-1000 words + bibliography.

Thesis advisor to review proposal, if necessary working with the student to hone it, with a view to accepting it or a modified form by October 31st.

By January 31st: submission of final draft, this draft to be read by all members of the student’s supervisory committee.  The thesis advisor and the second member will return comments to the student by February 15th. The graduate advisor may or may not submit comments.

By March 15th: submission of final version, reflecting the comments of the supervisory committee.

Submission length: the thesis should normally be from a minimum of 15,000 words to a maximum of 18,000 words (excluding notes and bibliography).

Final submission format:

The thesis will include the following:

  • a table of contents,
  • footnotes or endnotes presented in a style approved by the supervisor,
  • a bibliography.

The thesis will be submitted in Times New Roman, 12-point font, and will be double-spaced.

Submission procedures: students will submit four copies of the thesis: one for the supervisor, two for the other readers, and one for the Department.

Assessment: the thesis will be assessed by the supervisor and the two readers.

Minimum standard: the thesis must meet a minimum standard of 76% to be assigned a Pass with Enrolment Services.

Oral examination: it is the thesis advisor’s responsibility to request an examination date from the DGS once the final version of the thesis has been submitted. The DGS will set a date in consultation with the committee. The oral exam will usually take place in late March/early April, (the deadline date for final submission for spring graduations is set by the Graduate School each year). The exam will be attended by the supervisory committee and will be open to other faculty and students in the Department. The examination will start with a presentation by the candidate (15-20 minutes), followed by questions from the committee. At the end of this examination, the committee will confer and determine whether the thesis meets the minimum standard. Even if the thesis meets the minimum standard, the student may be required to either make light or heavy revisions before submitting the thesis to the Graduate School.

Reporting of assessment: when the thesis has been approved, the DGS will submit the grade to the Graduate School by the deadline laid down by the Graduate School (usually mid-April for May degree conferral).

Any student not meeting the deadlines for spring graduation will be required to register again for the thesis for resubmission at the end of the summer or the following academic year with fees for an extra course. If the student plans to submit the thesis during the summer, the above-suggested timeline must be adapted to provide longer periods for each step to accommodate the diverse professional activities of faculty.

MA students select their thesis advisor at the end of their first academic year (before May, year 1), with the expectation that work begins that summer. Once the graduate advisor is informed of the selection, the thesis advisor becomes chair of the MA supervisory committee. In consultation with the student, the thesis advisor selects a second member for the committee, and upon submission the two must agree upon a final grade for the thesis (CNRS 549). The graduate advisor serves as a member of each committee ex officio to ensure fairness across the cohort, and is nominally chair until a thesis advisor is selected. In cases where the graduate advisor is one of the two markers for the thesis, a third suitable person is to be  selected as a member of the committee.

See also the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies guidelines for Supervisory Committees.

The department recognizes that graduate students may wish to change programs within the department mid-stream, in order to realize their academic goals better. To change programs, the student must make a written request to his or her current graduate advisor, providing a rationale for the transfer. The transfer will be decided by a majority vote of the Graduate Committee. Application will be made before April in the second year of study, and will not be approved if the student has failed any necessary component of his or her current program, including comprehensive examinations.