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Senior Assessment in the Major

To view an individual department's senior assessment methods, select a department from the drop-down menu and click go.

Each department at Whitman conducts a unique evaluation of its seniors before conferring a degree. This experience is meant to be a rigorous test of students' knowledge and ability within their chosen specialty. Although each department uses different techniques to test their seniors, the methods may be broadly divided into six categories:

Senior Seminar: Many departments require students to enroll in a class comprised of only seniors as a requirement to complete the major. The purpose of these classes differs widely, though some prevalent goals include providing a capstone integrative experience, admission to honors candidacy, and thesis guidance.

Pre-Thesis Oral Defense: Some departments require students to present a thesis proposal before the end of the first semester of the student's senior year. The general goal of the pre-thesis oral is to ensure that the student has found a suitable direction for their work and that the topic area will offer a suitable level of academic rigor.

Required Thesis: Just over two-thirds of departments require the writing of a thesis as part of the senior assessment. The thesis is an involved academic inquiry guided by a member of the department's faculty (though not necessarily the student's academic advisor).

Oral Thesis Defense: Almost every department that requires a thesis also requires an oral exam on the subject matter of the thesis. These exams generally last between 1-2 hours and are conducted by between 2-5 faculty. In many departments, the thesis defense also functions as an oral exam that covers a broad range of concepts that the student is expected to have mastered before graduation.

Oral Exam: Structured much the same as a thesis defense, oral exams are used to test a broad range of knowledge that the student is expected to have gained during his or her course of study at Whitman. Often, the subject areas are defined by a reading list or an outline of concepts that is supplied by the department.

Written Exam: The format of written exams varies widely at Whitman. While some may be created by the department to test knowledge on specific material, others might be standardized tests such as the GRE or MFT.

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