Advising Resources

Preliminary Exams (PE) Question Repository [VT RW Program]

This page is set up so that with each refresh, a preliminary exams question will appear for you to review, analyze, and practice with. The questions repository is a growing database including more than forty actual questions from exams completed since 2019. Each question includes a [notation] identifying the sub-list it was associated with (Foundations, Rhetoric in Society, or Studies in Writing and Communication). Some questions may include specific references to readings that happen not to be a part of your readings lists; in such cases, for practice, adapt the question so that, by way of substitution, it refers instead to a question from your list.

Practice Question

Describe a compelling and ongoing conversation with the field of rhetoric and composition to which you would like to contribute. Identify what is being said within this conversation, what is at stake, and what spaces exist within the conversation that might provide an opening for your work. Then describe the work (theories, pedagogies, and/or methodologies) that you would use to approach the conversation, as well as perceived implications of your intellectual contribution. [Studies in Writing and Communication]

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Reminders about PEs

  • A written exam response to one question should be approximately 3,000 words.
    • According to the RW Handbook, written responses to the three exam questions should total about 8,000-10,000 words, or 32-40 pages of writing.
    • The scope of the literature review should be about 5,000-8,000 words, or 20-32 pages of writing.
  • Exams consist of four questions: two from Foundations (choose one), one from Rhetoric in Society, and one from Studies in Writing and Communication. During the oral exam, you may be asked about the Foundations question you opted not to answer.
  • You will receive your set of questions for the written exam when you turn in the completed literature review. The literature review is based on the specialized reading list.
  • Consult the Rhetoric & Writing Handbook for specific policies applicable to the exam process. The Common Date is announced by the RW Director in late summer; the date typically corresponds with Fall Break.

Additional Materials