Admissions and Requirements

Admissions Information

Thank you for your interest in the graduate program in Classical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies! Our Department offers both an MA program and a PhD program.

Applicants for graduate study may enter the program with either a bachelor’s or master’s degree. For the Classics option, candidates are expected to have covered at least the equivalent of an undergraduate major in Classics, which consists of at least three years of both Greek and Latin.  Candidates whose preparation falls short of the minimum requirements may be admitted with deficiencies at the discretion of the Department, but will be required to do additional work within the first year of the program. Applications are evaluated on the basis of previous academic record, Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores, letters of recommendation, the writing sample and a personal statement.

All applicants to the program must apply online by January 5. Only select the MA application if you plan on a terminal MA at UW-Madison—all other applicants select the PhD application, even if you have not yet received a master’s degree. Please note: the $75 application fee must be paid at the time of application (international students will be charged an additional $6 for processing).

As part of the online application process, you will be asked supplemental questions regarding your level of language preparation and expected to upload the information listed below:

  1.  Writing sample of scholarly work no more than 25 pages (optional).
  2. Transcripts or academic records from each institution attended. You may upload unofficial copies for department review. International academic records must be in the original language accompanied by an official English translation. Please note: official, hard copy transcripts will only be requested by the Graduate School upon Department recommendation for admission. Further information will be provided upon department admission.
  3. Official Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score report sent from the Educational Testing Service (ETS). Use institution code 1846 to route your results to the UW Graduate School. Once results are received, they will populate on your online application.
  4. TOEFL or MELAB for all international applicants.
  5. Statement of purpose (citing your reasons for graduate study).
  6. Curriculum vitae listing language experience, awards, honors, etc.
  7. Three letters of reference. You must submit your requests to all three of your references as part of the online application. Recommenders will receive a notice via email and will submit their letters accordingly.

In addition to University funds, there are limited scholarship funds available which are administered independently by the Department of Classical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies. All applications received in full by January 5 will be eligible for fellowship opportunities from the Graduate School. If application materials are received after the deadline, you will no longer be eligible for a University Fellowship, although you may be eligible for consideration for financial assistance through Department funds such as Teaching Assistantships, Project Assistantships, Research Assistantships, or Departmental Fellowships.

Please do not hesitate to contact us should you have any questions about the application process.

Program Requirements

The Department of Classical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies offers both an MA and PhD in Classics. Admissions to the graduate level Hebrew Bible program have been suspended.

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Requirements for CANES MA option in Classics

Language, Text, and Culture Requirements

  • 9 credits in Greek above the 300-level
  • 9 credits in Latin above the 300-level
  • 6 additional credits in Greek and/or Latin above the 300-level
  • 9 additional credits in Greek, Latin, or other courses
    Non-language courses in related fields must be approved by Director of Graduate Studies
  • 3 credit seminar in Classics, Greek or Latin

Total: 36 credits

Read more details in The Guide

Cumulative Assessment

  • Proficiency examination in either Latin or Greek
  • Proficiency examination in German, French, or Italian
  • Thesis
  • Oral exam and Thesis defense

Thesis Details

  • Form a provisional thesis committee no later than the first week of the semester in the year in which the student intends to defend their thesis. The master’s committee should consist of the thesis advisor (committee chair) and two other faculty members from Classics or affiliated with Classics.
  • Meet with a thesis committee by the end of the first month in the semester in which they plan to graduate. In order to evaluate the viability of the thesis topic, candidates should submit an abstract of 1-2 pages to the committee. This meeting should be scheduled by the thesis advisor and scheduled through the department administrator.
  • Present a paper, typically 25-35 double-spaced pages, written under the supervision of the thesis advisor. The paper should be written in a scholarly manner following the stylistic guidelines specified by the thesis adviser, and demonstrating familiarity with the appropriate bibliographical resources. The thesis is usually developed out of a graduate seminar paper.
  • Take an oral examination and defend thesis, set by the thesis advisor and scheduled through the department administrator. The completed thesis should be delivered to all three committee members at least two weeks in advance of this oral defense. Oral defenses will not be scheduled during the summer semester.

Upon passing the oral examination, any candidate who wishes to continue to the doctorate program must present a formal application to the Director of Graduate Studies before the final department meeting of the spring semester (usually the first Thursday of May). The faculty will then review the application and notify the candidate of their decision by letter.

Each application must contain the following materials: A cover letter, a completed graduate student self-report form, copies of all completed exams for the master’s requirements, and the final version of the master’s thesis. In addition to fulfilling the above criteria, the record of performance and application to the doctorate program submitted by the student for completion of the master’s degree will exhibit the following characteristics: capacity for original and creative contributions to classical scholarship; ability to work with feedback and develop scholarly contributions in a systematic, independent, and timely fashion; plans for a tenable research program going forward; and research interests compatible with the specializations of current faculty.

Requirements for CANES MA option in Hebrew Bible

This program has suspended admissions.

Language, Text, and Culture Requirements

  • 2-6 credits across two semesters of Biblical Hebrew. The number of credits depends on the student’s preparation.
  • 6 credits Northwest Semitic language
    • Two semesters: Aramaic 701-702 or Ugaritic and Canaanite Dialects 703-704 or Syriac 705-706
  • 12 credits advanced text courses
    • Two of the following text-based sequences: Pentateuchal Narratives and Pentateuchal Legal Codes 743-744 or Isaiah 751-752 or Psalms and Wisdom Literature 755-753
  • 3 credits in one of the following courses: Classical Hebrew Linguistics: Historical & Descriptive 723 or Biblical Archaeology 451 or Classical Rabbinic Texts 448
  • 3 credits in one graduate level course in the department (this may be a 799 or an approved course in Classics)
  • 3 credits CANES Advanced Seminar in Theory and Methodology
  • 3 credits in one seminar in Hebrew Bible or in a second CANES Advanced Seminar with a different topic than the first

Total: 36 credits (includes 6 credits of Hebrew Bible)

Read more details in The Guide.

Cumulative Assessment

Master’s exams are based on course work and the MA Reading List and are given at the end of the final semester of study for the degree, typically at the end of the summer of the second year. An exam can be taken no more than twice.

All MA Candidates

  • Hebrew Texts and Grammar Exam
    • Translation from Hebrew to English (see annual MA Reading List), including some sight passages
    • Hebrew grammar and syntax (including parsing and producing forms)
    • Translation from English to pointed Biblical Hebrew
  • Oral Defense
    • This exam will include oral reading, translation, and discussion of sight passages, as well as questions calling for synthesis of knowledge learned in course work and readings.

Terminal MA Only

  • General Exam
    • MA candidates should have a basic familiarity with the history and methodology of biblical studies, especially of the 19th-20th centuries. They should know the main features of the Pentateuchal sources, according to the classical source division. In text criticism, they should demonstrate a familiarity with the major documents used, the methodology of textual criticism, and the history of the masoretic text and the Septuagint. They should be able to identify the masorahs and to explain the meaning of the most common masoretic notes. The exam includes questions on biblical literature and its interpretation; history and archaeology of Israel and the ancient Near East; postbiblical Judaism; Hebrew language, biblical text and canon, and the ancient versions.
  • Exegetical Presentation
    • The candidate will prepare an exegetical presentation on a selected passage from the Hebrew Bible in consultation with Director of Graduate Studies.

Requirements for CANES PhD option in Classics

  • 3 credits Classical Archaeology or Classical Art History
  • 3 credits Greek Prose Composition
  • 3 credits Latin Prose Composition
  • 12 additional credits in Greek and/or Latin
    • Non-language courses in related fields must be approved by Director of Graduate Studies
  • 12 credits from 4 seminars
    • Ancient History offered by History Department
    • Greek
    • Latin
    • Final seminar can come from Greek, Latin, or an approved seminar outside the department
      • Students who did not complete a seminar for the MA (e.g. from another institution) must complete a fifth seminar
  • 3 credits CANES Advanced Seminar

Total: 36 credits

Read more details in The Guide.

Cumulative Assessment

  • Proficiency examination in Latin, Greek, and German
  • Proficiency examination in either French or Italian
  • Proficiency examination in Ancient History
  • 4 Preliminary Examinations
  • Greek literature, Latin literature, Greek author, Latin author
    • Planning: Within a semester after passing the MA, candidates should tentatively select special authors and make arrangements with the Graduate Advisor to supervise their course of study.

Executing: Preliminary examinations are offered during the academic year, near the end of the fall and spring semesters and are taken within two years of entering the doctorate program. The candidate should complete all the preliminary examinations in two to three consecutive semesters (all four examinations may be completed in the same semester, but is generally not recommended).

Dissertation proposal defense

Candidates for the doctorate program should form a provisional dissertation committee the semester before they intend to complete their last preliminary exam and reach dissertator status. This committee should consist of a Dissertation Advisor and at least two additional faculty advisors.

During the first semester of dissertator status, candidates will schedule a dissertation proposal defense to discuss the proposal’s viability. Under the guidance of their Dissertation Advisor, candidates will provide all committee members with a detailed abstract of the proposed dissertation, including a synopsis of each chapter and a timeline for scheduled completion. After the provisional committee has approved the proposal, the candidate may begin writing in consultation with their committee.

Dissertation and defense

The final composition of the dissertation committee requires four members in total (one of whom should be from outside the department). Once the dissertation has been completed and approved by the Dissertation Advisor, the candidate will distribute the final document to all committee members at least four weeks before the anticipated defense date. If the committee supports the dissertation, the Advisor will set a date for the oral defense in conjunction with the department administrator. Dissertation defenses will be scheduled for the academic year only. Graduate students may not hold a dissertation fellowship in any semester following the semester of their defense, regardless of whether or not they have filed their thesis for graduation.

Additional guidelines set by the Graduate School for dissertation completion can be found at their website.

Minor

The doctorate degree includes course work in a minor field. Students should consider a minor which broadens their knowledge, supports their dissertation, and helps situate them well in the job market. Course work for the minor may be started before completion of the master’s program.

Two types of minors are available:

  • Option A (external): A PhD minor consisting of at least 9 credits in another department, according to their specifications for a minor. Typical minors are Classics, Linguistics, Comparative Literature, or Religious Studies. This minor requires the approval of the minor department.
  • Option B (distributed): A PhD minor consisting of at least 9 credits in one or more departments. Up to six credits may be in a different area of the Hebrew Department, namely rabbinics and medieval Hebrew. Selection of this minor requires the approval of the Graduate Program Director.

Requirements for CANES PhD option in Hebrew Bible

This program has suspended admissions.

  • 6 credits Northwest Semitic language
    • Two semesters of a sequence not taken previously: Aramaic 701-702 or Ugaritic and Canaanite Dialects 703-704 or Syriac 705-706
  • 6 credits of Greek at the Intermediate Level (300-level) or higher. Other languages may be taken with prior approval of the Director of Graduate Studies.
  • 6 credits advanced text course
    • Two semesters of a sequence not taken previously: Pentateuchal Narratives and Pentateuchal Legal Codes 743-744 or Isaiah 751- 752 or Psalms and Wisdom Literature 755-753
  • 3 credits not taken previously
    • Classical Hebrew Linguistics: Historical & Descriptive 723 or Biblical Archaeology 451 or Classical Rabbinic Texts 448
  • 9 credits in three graduate-level courses approved by the Director of Graduate Studies (Minor, see below)
  • 6 credits in two seminars, taken in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies

Total: 36 credits

Read more details in The Guide.

Cumulative Assessment

  • Reading competency in German and French or Modern Hebrew by exam
  • Proficiency in Biblical Hebrew by exam
    • Translation of passages, together with textual and philological notes, and consultation of the Septuagint and Peshitta.
    • Grammatical parsing, pointing of unpointed texts, production of forms.
    • Discussion of Biblical Hebrew in its Northwest Semitic context, translation of Hebrew epigraphic texts (in Paleo-Hebrew script), together with discussion of problems they present.
  • Proficiency in Northwest Semitic languages by exam
    • Translation of texts written in Canaanite dialects, Ugaritic, Aramaic, Syriac. Some of the texts will be read in Semitics courses; other texts must be prepared independently.
  • General Exam, based on reading list and course work
  • Special field exam
    • This exam allows students to concentrate on an area of interest, and may be coordinated with the dissertation topic. Individualized reading lists for this option are worked out with the Graduate Program Director or the appropriate professor. Currently available options are:
      • Advanced Northwest Semitics
      • Hebrew Linguistics
      • Text Criticism
      • Rabbinic and Medieval Hebrew
    • Other areas of interest should be discussed with the Graduate Program Director.
  • Dissertation proposal defense
    • Candidates for the PhD should form a provisional dissertation committee the semester before they intend to complete their last preliminary exam and reach dissertator status. This committee should consist of a Dissertation Advisor and at least two additional faculty advisors.
    • During the first semester of dissertator status, candidates will schedule a dissertation proposal defense to discuss the proposal’s viability. Under the guidance of their Dissertation Advisor, candidates will provide all committee members with a detailed abstract of the proposed dissertation, including a synopsis of each chapter and a timeline for scheduled completion. After the provisional committee has approved the proposal, the candidate may begin writing in consultation with their committee.
  • Dissertation and defense
    • The final composition of the dissertation committee requires two additional faculty readers (one of whom should be from outside the department). Once the dissertation has been completed and approved by the Dissertation Advisor, the candidate will distribute the final document to all committee members at least four weeks before the anticipated defense date. If the committee supports the dissertation, the advisor will set a date for the oral defense in conjunction with the department administrator. Dissertation defenses will be scheduled for the academic year only. Graduate students may not hold a dissertation fellowship in any semester following the semester of their defense, regardless of whether or not they have filed their thesis for graduation.
  • Additional guidelines set by the Graduate School for dissertation completion can be found at their website.

Minor

The doctorate degree includes course work in a minor field. Students should consider a minor which broadens their knowledge, supports their dissertation, and helps situate them well in the job market. Course work for the minor may be started before completion of the MA program.

Two types of minors are available:

  • Option A (external): A PhD minor consisting of at least 9 credits in another department, according to their specifications for a minor. Typical minors are Classics, Linguistics, Comparative Literature, or Religious Studies. This minor requires the approval of the minor department.
  • Option B (distributed): A PhD minor consisting of at least 9 credits in one or more departments. Up to six credits may be in a different area of the Hebrew Department, namely rabbinics and medieval Hebrew. Selection of this minor requires the approval of the Graduate Program Director.

Requirements for CANES PhD minors

  • Greek: 9 credits in Greek courses beyond the elementary level
  • Latin: 9 credits in Latin courses beyond the elementary level
  • Classics: 12 credits in Greek and Latin courses beyond the elementary level
  • Hebrew Bible: 9 credits in Biblical Hebrew courses beyond the elementary level

All Graduate School requirements for minors must be completed.

Graduate Program Exams

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Greek and Latin Proficiency Exams

Proficiency exams are meant to help both faculty and students monitor the student’s ability and progress and to assist in first and second year course placement. Proficiencies are given at the end of each fall and spring semester and in the first week of fall classes to accommodate the summer semester. Exams must be retaken each semester until passed. One exam must be passed before the master’s degree is awarded. The second exam must be passed within the first academic year after the MA.

The format of the proficiency exams is two passages of intermediate difficulty (e.g. Homer and Plato, or Vergil and Cicero), one prose passage, and one poetry passage, to be translated without a dictionary in a time limit of one hour. The exam is set and assessed by the Foreign Language Examiner and an additional reader. The examiner will record a grade of “pass” or “not pass” on the exam booklet which is then placed in the students file in the administrator’s office. The examiner will notify the student and the Director of Graduate Studies in writing of the result of the exam.

Modern Foreign Language Exams

Modern Foreign Language Exams are given at the end of each fall and spring semester and in the first week of fall classes to accommodate the summer semester. Exams may be retaken until passed. Options for the Modern Foreign Language Exams are French, German, or Italian. One exam must be passed before the MA is awarded. A second exam must be passed within the first academic year after the MA. The German exam will be required for the doctorate. Recommended preparation for the exam is a “Reading Knowledge” course offered by the individual foreign language department, a summer abroad in a relevant country, or by independent study from a grammar book.

The format of the proficiency exam consists of a passage selected from a book on a classical subject which must be translated within one hour. Use of a dictionary is permitted. The exam is set and assessed by the Foreign Language Examiner and an additional reader. The examiner will record a grade of “pass” or “not pass” on the exam booklet which is then placed in the students file in the administrator’s office. The examiner will notify the student and the Director of Graduate Studies in writing of the result of the exam.

Greek and Latin Literature Preliminary Exams

Literature preliminary exams are usually offered in either the fall of spring semester of each academic year. The exam is set and assessed, in consultation with a second reader, by the faculty instructor offering the survey course in the corresponding language. In semesters in which a survey is not offered, an examiner may be assigned by the Department Chair. The examiner will record a grade of “pass” or “not pass” on the exam which is then placed in the students file in the administrator’s office. The examiner will notify the student and the Director of Graduate Studies in writing of the result of the exam.

The format of the exam includes a mixture of translation and essay questions with additional sections of short identifications at the discretion of the examinor. Preparation for these preliminary exams may consist of a survey course as well as consulting the recommended reading list of primary and secondary sources. Students may choose to study independently for the exam as long as they obtain a syllabus for the survey and are aware of the materials covered.

Special Author Preliminary Exams

Students should consult the Director of Graduate studies to determine the faculty best suited as examinor and second reader for the author chosen. Special Author Preliminary Exams are offered at a time convenient for both student and examiner to be determined in consultation together. The examiner will record a grade of “pass” or “not pass” on the exam booklet which is then placed in the students file in the administrator’s office. The examiner will notify the student and the Director of Graduate Studies in writing of the result of the exam.

The format of the examination will take the form of a 48-hour take-home exam and will consist of a combination of stylistic analysis, and short and long essays. Students are encouraged to prepare for the special author preliminary examinations through coursework in their first four years of graduate study.

Graduate Program Policies

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Criteria for Satisfactory Progress Toward Degree

In addition to departmental satisfactory progress criteria, all Graduate Students are bound by the Graduate School Minimum Degree Requirements published in the The Guide.

Satisfactory progress while completing the master’s degree may be achieved by completing all course work, language exam requirements, and the thesis with defense in no more than two years. In addition, candidates must maintain a GPA of at least 3.25 after two or more semesters of graduate work. More than one grade of B or below is considered unsatisfactory progress. More than one Incomplete at any one time is also considered unsatisfactory progress.

Candidates entering with deficiencies may take no more than three semesters to earn the equivalent of an undergraduate major. After completing the equivalent of the undergraduate major, the candidate must complete any remaining work for the master’s within two semesters.

The PhD Candidate

To achieve satisfactory progress in the doctorate program, candidates must enroll for nine (9) credits each semester before beginning work on the dissertation. An exception may be made with prior approval of the Director of Graduate Studies during the semesters in which the candidate is taking preliminary examinations and/or semesters where the candidate has a Teaching Assistant appointment. Once a candidate reaches the dissertation stage, he or she must enroll for three (3) credits each semester thereafter until completion of their degree. Candidates must maintain a GPA of at least 3.25 after two or more semesters of graduate work. More than one grade of B or below is considered unsatisfactory progress. More than one Incomplete at any one time is also considered unsatisfactory progress.

In addition and specifically for the Classics graduate program, candidates must pass their second examination of reading knowledge in Latin or Greek (the alternate that was completed for the master’s) as well as a second modern foreign language no more than one year after completing the MA. Students with a master’s degree from another university which did not require reading knowledge of a modern foreign language must pass examinations in two modern foreign languages within 2 years after entering the doctorate program. Candidates must also pass the Ancient History exam and begin taking the five preliminary examinations by their third year after completing the MA. After passing the preliminary examinations, candidates must complete the dissertation within three years to maintain satisfactory progress.

Guidelines for Special Student Credits

  • The grade awarded for the course is an important criterion (B or lower is very unlikely to transfer).
    • Normally, no more than nine credits will transfer.
    • Courses at the 300-level and below would be unlikely to transfer.
  • Students should be aware that if the department decides to accept the credits, the student is billed for the difference between graduate and special student credits.