Requirements for Plan B Exam in U.S. History

Coursework Requirements:

Students must take all three courses in the U.S. History 210 sequence, although the courses need not be taken in chronological order: 210a (Colonial America), 210b (Nineteenth-Century America), and 210c (Twentieth-Century America).

Description of the Plan B Examination:

Candidates taking the Plan B examination, which includes all students in the Concentration in History Education program, will be examined on books and articles either in U.S. History through the Civil War (part I) or in U.S. History from 1865 onward (part II). The exam will be given toward the end of the spring and fall semesters only and not during the summer. The exam will be a 4-hour, closed book exam with 3 questions.Students wishing to take the Plan B exam should contact the Graduate Adviser no later than the fourth week of the semester in which they plan to take it.

On the examination candidates are expected to demonstrate mastery of two areas: a basic factual knowledge of the period of American history in which they are being examined, and a grasp of the major historiographical debates in those periods. A candidate writing an essay about the New Deal and its impact on America in the 1930s, for example, would cover in depth and detail key pieces of New Deal legislation (the date, basic provisions, and deficiencies of the Social Security Act, for example) and would also name the historians and the arguments associated with particular interpretations of the New Deal. Factual information is readily available in the reading list for the Plan B exam, and students will also have been exposed to historiography (its definition and practices) in the U.S. History 210 series, as well as in History 102 and History 200. For an example of a book of historiographical essays see Eric Foner ed.,The New American History (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1997). A basic American history textbook that also contains historiographical summaries is Alan Brinkley, American History: A Survey (new editions come out every two or three years). More on the historiographical essay, and specifically how to write one, appears in Anthony Brundage, Going to the Sources (Arlington Heights, IL: Harlan Davidson, 1989), ch. 4.

Readings for the PLAN B Examination:

There are two required reading lists for the Plan B examination, one for part I and one for part II. Each has approximately 75-80 works on it. All of the works appearing on these lists are required for the Plan B examination. In other words, if you are taking part I of the U.S. History examination, you will be expected to be familiar with all of the books on the part I list. If you are taking part II of the U.S. History examination, you will be expected to be familiar with all of the books on the part II list. Please note that the Plan B list in U.S. History was revised in fall 2001. It is applicable to candidates entering the program in fall 2001. The older list was revised in February 1995 and there are copies in blue in the history office; it applies to students who entered before fall 2001. THE READING LIST MAY BE OBTAINED FROM THE HISTORY OFFICE (408) 924-5500

Relationship of the Required Reading Lists to the 210 Course Series:

In the U.S. History 210 series, 70% of the books used by the faculty will be drawn from the Plan B exam list. This means that many, but not all, works will be covered in the 210 sequence. The main reading selection for each week in the 210 series will be roughly 150-200 pages long. Students should familiarize themselves with the skill of reading a historical work rapidly yet carefully for the author’s thesis, main arguments, historiographical position, evidence, and methodology.

Although the Department of History sees the U.S. History 210 sequence as part of the preparation process for the Plan B exam, students should be aware that it is not the only preparation that they are required to make for success on the exam; they must study on their own as well. Not all topics, or readings on a particular topic, will be covered in the 210 series. The faculty teaching the 210 sequence reserves the right to introduce and require important books or articles that do not appear on the examination reading lists as a part of their teaching. Graduate students taking the Plan B exam are expected to read required books not “taught” in class, in the same way that students writing a thesis do much work on their own outside the context of a formal class. For colloquia not taught in the 210 series, the “70%” rule does not apply (in other words, instructors for those courses may assign any works of their choosing).

Central to the teaching goals of the U.S. History 210 series is imparting to graduate students the methods and skills of professional historians. This includes learning to assimilate both factual information about a historical time period, and also learning to understand and critique historiographical arguments in the assigned readings. At the instructor’s discretion, various methods will be used to ensure students’ grasp of the readings and historical facts; these methods may include mini-lectures by the instructor, quizzes on an assigned textbook, and the like.

Historical Journals in Full Electronic Text

A wide range of history journals and their contents in full text may be obtained in electronic form on and off campus. To search for a history journal that the King library has in electronic form, go to the Electronic Journals Index.

Important Forms