Judging by the number of GradHackers who have recently taken exams, will shortly be taking exams, and/or are seriously-right-this-minute sitting their exams, I declare October and November Graduate Exam Season!
To help you (as well as ourselves) through this trying time, here is a link roundup dedicated to all those exam preppers, ABD achievers, and oral exam completers out there!
Regardless of which sort of exam you are getting ready to take, you cannot proceed without a good note-taking system. That’s why Emily VanBuren’s 5 Strategies for Organizing Notes for Comprehensive Exams is such an invaluable guide. Back when this was written, I was six months away from my first written exam. I borrowed Emily’s Wiki idea, and it worked wonders! Maybe there is a new strategy in there for you, too.
- Surviving Studying for Comprehensive Exams, by Stephanie Hedge: Maybe you have just finished up your coursework and you are just starting to think about your quals, or maybe you are realizing that your current study habits are not doing you any good. Either way Stephanie’s advice is a great guide that keeps you focused on your goals (passing) while also not losing your mind in the process. My favorite recommendation is to enlist others. After all, you have a network, so why not use it?
- Surviving Writing Comprehensive Exams, by Stephanie Hedge: A follow up to her previous post, this article talks about what you need to do to physically sit in a chair and take your written exam. From how to set up your workspace, to how not to psych yourself out, Stephanie reminds you to take a deep breath, jot down ideas as they come, and remember that everyone is rooting for you! Yes, you might still have an epic freak out an hour in (you certainly wouldn’t be alone), but her advice will help calm you down and get back on track. Just remember: Relax, and it will be okay.
- Deconstructing the Written Comprehensive Exam, by K. D. Shives: “While straightforward and fairly simple, it can be helpful to have guidelines in mind while writing something as large as a comprehensive exam proposal. This can help take some of the dread out of the process so that you can enjoy the opportunity to put your own ideas together.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
- Qualifying Exam Proposal Checklist, by Megan Poorman: In this post, Megan shares with you her “QUAL resource binder,” a series of things she did while planning to take her oral exam. This includes the groundwork she laid in advance with her committee, how she created an achievable study plan, and a note on maintaining a good mindset. In fact, she shares her actual checklist, including everything you should consider at each stage in your preparation.
- Surviving and Thriving During Quals, by Natasha Chtena: Less about studying, this post focuses on you—the test taker. Is your desk uncomfortable or too cluttered? Fix it now, says Natasha. Are you going to need to eat in the weeks leading up to your test? Meal prep early on, she says, so that you have healthy food ready. And so on. Natasha’s advice will make the experience of studying a bit less physically demanding even as you are mentally stressed.