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History Dept. Will Broaden Its Generals

Questions to Cross Course Boundaries

By Philip M. Boffey

The History Department has changed its General Examinations in the direction of emphasizing a broader knowledge of history, Ernest R. May, head tutor in the department, said yesterday. The change, scheduled to go into effect this spring, will chiefly affect non-honors candidates.

These are the main changes:

1) For the honors candidate: The only departure from past exams will come in Part II of the generals. This has been shortened from three hours to two, and the student will only be required to answer questions from two, rather than three, of the four areas designated by the department.

But the questions will be broader in nature this year, rather than being tied to the various courses offered by the department. The lecturer in each course will no longer hand in a question to be included on the Generals relating directly to the material covered in his course. Instead, the questions will be more general, and will attempt to cut across course boundaries.

No Change in Honors

There has been no change for honors candidates in either the Special examinations at the end of senior year, or in Part I of the junior year Generals, which tests the type of material covered in junior and sophomore tutorial.

2) For the non-honors candidate: Part I of the Generals will be increased from one hour to two. It will still be given in junior year and will still be a separate examination from that given to honors candidates.

Part II of the Generals will be changed to the form indicated above for the honors candidates. It will not be given to the non-honors student until the end of senior year, however, and it will be the same exam as that given honors students of the next year below. (That is, non-honors students from the Class of 1958 will take the same Part II as honors students from the Class of 1959.) This is being done so the History Department will have some basis on which to compare its two types of concentrators.

One effect of this change is to put the poorer student in a more precarious position. Previously, if he failed his Generals in his junior year, he could get a degree by passing the special examinations senior year. But now, if he fails Part II of the Generals his senior year, he has no second chance.

May Gives Reasons

In explaining the change, May cited three main reasons: first, he said that the department felt the General Examinations ought to pertain to the Department as a whole, rather than just test material relating to specific courses within the department; secondly, he said the department wanted some basis for comparing all its concentrators; and thirdly, he said the department wanted to maintain contact with all its concentrators. Previously, the non-honors students had tended to drift away after they had finished their Generals in junior year.

To Require Outside Reading

Since all the Department's courses are somewhat specialized, May said, the Generals will probably require additional outside reading by most students. Although he realized this might be considered a hardship by this year's junior class, he noted a compensating element in the fact that students will only have to answer questions from two of the areas in Part II, rather than from three, as before.

The committee from the department which studied the problem and recommended the changes was headed by Charles H. Taylor, Henry Charles Lea Professor of Mediaeval History.

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