Sep
2006

i'm begging you for help

I just spent an hour composing a blog post that detailed everything about what I am going through with preparing [or not preparing] for my doctoral exams and realized that none of it matters since the decision is mine to make whether or not I want to take them this semester or next. There are no guidelines, and therein lies the problem.

So instead of making my case and listing all my pros and cons, I pose the following questions to those readers who have gone through a comprehensive exam experience of any kind:

How much time did you study beforehand?
How much communication did you have with your question writers about what they expected?
Were you given reading lists with which to prepare and/or did you compose annotated bibliographies beforehand?

I know every school does these differently, and if I wanted to take them this semester it’s been up to me to start studying and get information, but I cannot even begin to describe the mess that the department is when it comes to having checklists, having professors, having professors actually be in their offices or return a damn email, hiring a new chair after not having one for 2 years, failing to hire anyone in Rhet/Comp, or establishing any sense of community among its grad students.

I know that it’s probably my fault for coming to such a large place, or even staying at one when after my first year 3 big name professors moved on to other universities, but come on!??!?!? Even if I have answers to some of my questions now, the exam dates are only 6 weeks away!

Or they could be in March. I’ll let you know what I decide, but I’d really like your feedback.

4 thoughts on “i'm begging you for help

  1. Did they give you the questions beforehand or themes that they’re likely to focus on?

    Daisy, can you get some sort of discussion/study group together to meet two or three times a week to discuss the material? Each person could take a topic/question and present it to the group for dicussion and analysis, but basically you’d be the leader for that particular session.

    Without an idea of the direction the questions are going to be in, it’s going to be tough.

    If you can’t figure it out in the next week, I say wait until March. If you can get some sort of direction before next week is out, take your comps now. There’s no sense in prolonging the agony.

    I hope this helps.

  2. Thanks Rita.
    I get to choose the 3 areas I want to be tested on and one prof turns in ?s related to his/her area.
    Because of that, each person’s exams are completely different, depending on what they chose to specialize in. I am pretty sure that I am the only Rhet/Comp person taking the exams this Fall to, so the discussion group is impossible.
    They have posted a PDF of sample questions for us, but like I said before, if they have nothing to do with the 3 areas I want to be tested on, then they aren’t much help either.
    I’m still trying to finish the 1 Incomplete I took last Spring when I had that back spasm and that prof doesn’t seem to be too cooperative with making sure her paperwork is done before I can even submit the exam form before October 6 so it’s leaning towards March more and more every minute!

    Thanks for your comment though!

  3. I would suggest opting to take them as soon as possible.

    In my department (Spanish at Virgina) we all took them the same year. It forced everyone to get them over with. I saw friends in other departments, who got to set the date, wasting semesters studying for exams.

    The fact is Ph.D. exams completely suck. You will spend every moment studying for them. When you take them, you will feel completely unprepared. As I said, my schedule was set. I could have easily studied an extra semester or even a year, but I didn’t have that option. Even after that extra study, though, I would have still felt unprepared. I think that’s just the nature of beast. You can’t let you sense of dread that you don’t know everything convince you to delay the exam.

    This has been a rambling answer. Short answer: they will certainly suck, they will take all your time, and you will almost certainly feel completely unprepared to take. That said, I bet you’ll pass (or at least only have to retake a few, depending on what the standards are in your department). It’s a hurdle and part of the hazing ritual of the academic. The sooner you can leap the hurdle the better.

  4. Pingback: Doctor Daisy » 10 more days

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