First Exam

Political Theory Reading List (updated 2015; PDF)

Previous Exams, August 2010-August 2014 (PDF)
Theory Exam August 2015 (PDF)

Theory exam grading rubric (PDF)

Changes in First Exam Format beginning in 2014-15
The current exam structure works like this: All questions are problem-driven, asking students to analyze a central concept in political theory, through the lens of at least two theorists. Theory majors are required to answer three questions, theory minors, two questions. Majors must include in their answers a discussion at least one theorist from each of the three historical periods (ancient/medieval; modern; 20th century/contemporary); minors must include in their answers a discussion of at least one theorist from two of the three historical periods. Majors and minors can discuss no more than one theorist twice. And the practice over the last several years has been that basically each questions requires you to compare two theorists from a specified list of anywhere between four and ten theorists.

Much of this structure will be maintained in the future. There will, however, be three changes.

First, in addition to the three historical periods mentioned above, we will now include a fourth, non-historical, category called “non-Western.” From now on, majors must include in their answers a discussion of at least one theorist from THREE of the FOUR categories (ancient/medieval; modern; 20th century/contemporary; non-Western); minors will be asked to include in their answers a discussion of at least one theorist from TWO of the FOUR categories. Students will have the choice of which of the two/three categories they wish to drawn from.

Second, questions will no longer specify which possible theorists you can drawn upon in your answers; you will have complete freedom to choose the theorists you wish to write about, so long as your choices reflect overall the stipulations above, and so long as the theorists are on the comprehensive exam reading list.

Third, the faculty has expanded the list to include a wider range of theorists and texts, especially from outside the Western tradition. Let me repeat what we’ve always said: the purpose of the list is not that you have to master each theorist and text for the exam; it is instead our statement as the faculty of what we think theory students should know as theorists. For the purposes of the exam, you will have the freedom to choose which theorists you will be writing about, again so long as your choices fit within the stipulations set out above and are appropriate to answering the question at hand. The revised list is available at the top of the page.

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  1. Pingback: Revised Exam Reading List | Political Theory at The Graduate Center

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