The General Examination in this field normally consists of four parts, all of which may be article-length papers, including one unit on a classic text written before 1900 treated in its historical context, a review essay on an important recent book in the field, a unit on a conceptual problem, and a unit administered outside the Department, most often by a member of the Department of Philosophy. Students are expected to gain familiarity not only with recent developments in Continental and British-American philosophy, but also with historical materials from both Western and non-Western traditions. Students in Religion and Philosophy draw on resources throughout the humanities departments, especially in the Department of Philosophy, which includes many distinguished figures.
Before completing the General Examination, a student in this field is required to demonstrate reading knowledge of two modern foreign languages relevant to his or her doctoral research. In most cases, this means, at a minimum, passing approved six-week intensive courses in two of the following languages: French, German, and Spanish. Students are also expected to learn whatever languages are essential for completing the dissertation project in a respectable way. For example, a student proposing a dissertation on Augustine would normally be expected to learn Latin (as the language of the primary sources) in addition to French and German (as the languages most heavily represented in the secondary literature).