Friday, February 8, 2013

It's Comin' On Comps

Hello my lovelies.

We're about 4 weeks into the spring semester of my third year (give or take, I lose track about 2 weeks in), and I've been focusing most of my attention on preparing for my comprehensive exams.

Comprehensive exams, or "Comps", is the gauntlet equivalent that determines if a PhD student advances to candidacy and stays in a PhD program. In my particular program it involves writing research proposals for a four chapter dissertation, an extended period of time where faculty on an academic committee ask written exam questions, and culminates in a face-to-face oral exam with the entire committee. The exam material is basically anything they feel I should know, and they will ask me questions until I can't answer them anymore.

I'm kind of looking forward to this in some ways. I kind of want to know what I know, and know what I don't know. I'll also be showing off my biology knowledge to my non-biology committee members, and showing of my geology knowledge to the biology folks. On the other hand, however, they can ask me anything. And I don't really know what to expect from some people.

The written part of the exam has me less worried than the orals. They will very likely be open book questions. I already know that one of my committee members is going to give me 48 hours to do his part, and my adviser typically gives a week. The other two committee members are kind of wildcards for me. They are from different departments that do comps differently than the biology department, so they might throw me a curve ball.

The trick to passing the oral portion of the exam is not cracking too soon.

My oral exam is April 25th, and the 5 weeks before are set aside for my written exams. I start the week after spring break. Between now and then I'm trying to do as much reading as possible. This afternoon I turned in a draft of my proposals for my committee to look at.

So we'll see what happens over the next couple month.

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