Countdown to Comps

Every time I think I’ve told all of the people with faces about my pursuit of a doctoral degree and my yearlong woes of deferring my comprehensive exams in light of dayjob obligations, someone appears surprised that I’ve scheduled exams for this January. A few inquiries for long-term projects have received answers that recording new books and ‘casts can’t take place until February. I feel like I’m constantly repeating myself, to the point that I’m worried that it sounds like whining.

So, here are the facts. Not so I can play that tired pissing contest of “my program is worse than yours” or some other nonsense, but rather to provide a little bit of perspective on the larger situation.

  • Comprehensive exams are given over a two week period.
  • The material covers five courses; for me, these courses span a period of eleven years.
  • The exams are split into three parts.
  • The first part of the exam covers research in education and the associated statistical methods and analysis; for me, this part of the exam covers material learned over an eight-year period, with most of it coming from classes in the last two years.
  • The second part of the exam covers theories and trends in education; for me this part of the exam covers the first course I took in my master’s program eleven years ago and a course I took a year ago.
  • The first and second part are closed book, closed notes, with a series of six to seven questions to answer in essay format, APA citations required. These are given in a six-hour block, on a Monday and a Wednesday.
  • The third part is a take-home writing component, modeled after grant proposals and research proposals. It’s intended to provide an opportunity to draw all of the components of the courses together in a sort of prelude to the proposal.
  • In the past, a score of 85% on the written parts will allow a student to bypass the oral exam. A score below 60% on any question or component will fail the student.
  • The material for the exams covers three textbooks and forty research papers, book chapters, and supplemental pieces.
  • Comprehensives begin January 24th.

So, in light of all of the facts, I am prioritizing my studies so that I can best prepare for the exams. I am back in classes one night a week for three hours, plus at least an hour a day of review and note-taking. Weekends will ideally include a few hours at the library or at the local coffee shop for exam review. Once I wrap my committed projects, I will be somewhat silent until exams have finished. And, as January looms, my writing will slow down considerably as I ramp up my efforts to study and do well.

If I fail to answer lighthearted quips about “more important” things, please consider that deferring exams last year brought panic attacks that acquainted me with standard ER procedures, EKGs, and subsequent psychotherapy techniques. My sense of humor when it comes to academics is a bit off; patience and understanding are far more appreciated than attempts at jokes. For lack of a better phrase, this is serious business, and when I’m finally done with ALL of this, I will be ready to tackle all creative ventures once more.

And a dissertation… but that’s just words. NaDisWriMo, anyone?

This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 12th, 2014 at 10:06 pm and is filed under PhD Ruminations. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

3 Responses to “Countdown to Comps”

  1. Anne Elizabeth Baldwin Says:

    I’d always heard that Doctoral exams were pretty grueling. Yours certainly are. {sympathetic look}

    That said, I’m sure you can do this. If you were going to quit, you would have done so already, and I, for one, wouldn’t have blamed you if you had. You didn’t. So now you face the academic trials. Do whatever you need to do to face them… and may you find them less taxing than the health trouble you’ve already had. {Sympathetic Smile, take hand, squeeze, QUICK HUG}

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

  2. Doc Coleman Says:

    YOU aren’t whining, but it sounds like the folks who haven’t been paying attention to your availability are. It is incumbent on them to pay attention to your availability.

    I am sure you’re going to rock your Comps.


  3. P.C. Haring Says:

    Having gone through my own exam process with the CPA, I can definitely empathize and given the facts and details you’ve shared with us, I do not envy you this process.

    Over the past year I’ve come to learn that one of the first rules is that one must take care of themselves first. So do what you need to do. We understand and we’ll be here when you get back.

    Good hunting, Veronica. I know you’ll kick ass.