Centre for Medieval Studies - Modern Languages Examination Guidelines (2023)
In 2022-2023, the CMS Modern Languages Committee conducted an internal review and clarified the expectations and guidelines related to the Modern Languages Examinations at the request of the CMS Executive Committee. These recommendations made by the CMS Modern Languages Committee were reviewed and approved by the CMS Executive Committee, resulting in these guidelines. Please note that these guidelines do not significantly modify previously established practices at the Centre for Medieval Studies, but rather aim to clarify them for the benefit of students. The CMS Executive Committee would like to express their gratitude to the members of the CMS Modern Languages Committee who contributed to the finalization of these guidelines.
The CMS Modern Languages Examinations are internal examinations that are only open to graduate students who are registered at the Centre for Medieval Studies.
Ideally, CMS's language requirements in French and German (which are prerequisites for the Special Field Examination) should be fulfilled by September of Year Three of the Ph.D. program. However, they must be completed no later than April of Year Three. For more information, please refer to Programme by Year.
CMS Modern Languages Examinations are offered three times a year, in September, January, and April. The specific calendar is communicated at the beginning of each academic year and is made available on our website (see: Upcoming Language Exams).
Students must register to take the CMS Modern Languages Examinations.
As a general rule, Modern Languages Examinations should be taken in person on the specified day and time communicated at the beginning of each academic year, and also posted on our website (see: Upcoming Language Exams). In exceptional circumstances, such as during a research stay abroad or due to a compelling family situation, students may request to take the exams online via Quercus. The request to take the exam online should be made when registering for the exams, and a rationale should be provided. Students whose requests to take the exams online have been approved by the CMS Executive Committee will receive information close to the exam date.
Regardless of whether the exam is taken in-person or online, Modern Languages Examinations are invigilated, and students are not permitted to use any additional tools beyond those allowed below.
Graduate students with a documented disability, whether ongoing or temporary, are encouraged to register early with Accessibility Services to request a referral and to contact the CMS EDIA Officer to discuss their specific needs. If you require specific accommodations for the Modern Languages Examinations, you will be asked to provide relevant documentation which will detail the request at the time of registration for the exams.
Since the Modern Language Examinations are offered three times a year, students who were unable to take an exam after registering are typically expected to register for the next round. In the rare event that, due to exceptional circumstances, a student missed the last available examination in their Year Three of the Ph.D. program (see above), the student should contact the Graduate Administrator as soon as possible to discuss alternative solutions.
Petition to Replace one Language
As a reminder of CMS guidelines, in exceptional cases, a student may petition to replace one of the two required modern languages (French and German) with another language relevant to their area of research. To do so, a written request with a signed confirmation of support from the supervisor must be submitted as early as possible, and no later than the end of the Fall term of Year 2, for consideration by the CMS Executive Committee. In the case of a successful petition, the student will be expected to take the exam no later than the next scheduled examination date. Substitute examinations for approved petitions will be offered no more than twice a year (in April and September).
Preparing for the Examinations
Students preparing for Modern Languages Examinations have access to a range of tools, including ad hoc tutorials. The tutors will contact CMS students at the start of each academic year. Please note that modern language tutorials offered by CMS are designed for students with some prior knowledge of French and German. It is important to carefully review the recommendations provided by the CMS Modern Languages Committee.
All students are encouraged to:
- Consult the list of past language exams available on the website.
- Arrange at least one meeting with the CMS Modern Languages Tutors to assess their current preparation and the best path to prepare for the examinations.
- Take the Modern Languages Examinations to familiarize themselves with the exam’s format as soon as they feel comfortable,
- Seek the advice of the Chair of the Modern Languages Committee and the Modern Languages Tutors if they do not pass.
Students with no previous knowledge of French/German are encouraged to:
- Complete undergraduate language courses (FLS100H1F French for Beginners, GER101Y1Y Introduction to German, or their equivalent at other institutions) in the summer before the start of the program to acquire the very bases (placement test required for FLS100H1F and GER101Y1Y).
- Complete the graduate reading courses for French and German (FSL6000HF/S Reading French for Graduate Students; GER6000H Reading German for Graduate Students).
- Attend the tutorials offered at CMS for one term, minimum (more than one term is likely to be needed).
Students with a basic knowledge of French/German are encouraged to:
- Complete the graduate reading courses for French and German (FSL6000HF/S Reading French for Graduate Students, GER6000H Reading German for Graduate Students).
- Attend the tutorials offered at CMS for one term, minimum (more than one term likely to be needed).
Students with a good grasp of French/German are encouraged to:
- Attend the tutorials offered at CMS for one term, minimum (more than one term may be needed).
The CMS French exam consists of the translation into English of two French texts (approximately 400 words in total).
The CMS German exam consists of the translation into English of two German texts (approximately 25 lines in total).
Each of the two texts comprising the French and the German exams is selected from two different disciplines and scholarly publications relevant to Medieval Studies, in French or German respectively. They should not deal with overly specialized or technical topics but should be intelligible in and of themselves; in other words, the previous or subsequent pages of the publications from which they are drawn should not be essential to understanding the texts themselves.
Printed dictionaries only are allowed during the Modern Languages Examinations. The CMS Modern Languages Committee recommends the largest one-volume bilingual dictionaries (for instance, Le Robert & Collins: Grand Dictionnaire for French; The Oxford German Dictionary for German).
Please note that the use of online dictionaries or other online aids when taking the exams on Quercus will result in a break of the workflow in your log and might occasion additional controls.
The CMS Modern Languages Examinations are Pass/Fail examinations.
A “Pass” is defined as follows: An accurate translation fulfills the requirements, that is, a complete translation of both texts that: demonstrates good knowledge of vocabulary, morphology, and syntax; captures complex phrases and grammatical features, idiomatic formulations, and specialized vocabulary; is nuanced and mostly accurate.
A “Fail” is defined as follows: An inaccurate translation does not fulfill the requirements, that is, whether due to incompleteness or because it: demonstrates poor command of vocabulary, morphology, or syntax; fails to render complex phrases and grammatical features, idiomatic formulations, or specialized vocabulary; is incomprehensible or deviates significantly from the original text.
According to CMS policy, the CMS Modern Languages Committee consists of two voting faculty members for German and two members for French, who evaluate the exams, plus two student representatives as non-voting members. The anonymity of the submissions is maintained throughout the evaluation process. The Committee members meet either in person or online and engage in a collegial process to evaluate the submissions.
To facilitate discussion during the meeting, each voting member of the Committee has their individual evaluation for each submission ready. The Committee members rank the translations separately for each text as either “pass,” “borderline,” or “fail.” During the meeting, the Modern Languages Committee establishes the results based on the following criteria:
- A translation is considered a "pass" when both examining committee members agree.
- A translation is considered a "fail" when both examining committee members agree.
- A translation is deemed "borderline" when the examining committee members disagree or if one or both members feel that further discussion in camera is needed. In such cases, the final decision is taken collegially by all voting members of the CMS Modern Languages Committee.
For a submission to pass the exam, both translations must earn a "pass".
At the end of the meeting, the Chair of the Modern Languages Committee transmits the anonymous results to the Graduate Administrator, who verifies the identity of the author of each submission. The Graduate Administrator then informs the students and the Ph.D. Coordinator of the results.