Preparing for Qualifying or Comprehensive Exams Part Two College Life

Hello everyone:

Here is the information I promised you on studying for individual topics within your qualifying or comprehensive exams.

Take all of the books and articles you had for this class and make a summary of them. If you have a study group, assign each team member a specific book or group of articles to summarize. Begin with a 20-page summary of a given book, focusing on the main points that book has. Is there a particular point of view expressed by the author? What is the bottom line that the book offers?

Work through your summary slowly, encapsulating the theme of the book until you can get the summary down to one or two pages. You don’t have time to write a 20-page summary on exam day, so what is the author saying, in a nut shell? Are there any specific quotations that you can pull out of the text that explains it completely? That is what you are trying to distill from the book.

Move on to all of the other books from that class, doing the same 20-page summary, and then work at condensing it to one or two pages. Don’t do a copy and paste job here, but type the summaries up by hand. This makes the information go into your brain and through your hands in a way that a copy and paste job won’t.

Do the same thing with any articles that were required. Obviously, an article will be shorter than a book and the summary will be shorter as well. Give the articles the same treatment and condense them into one page summaries.

Next, place the information on 3×5 or 4×6 cards and keep them with you at all times. During any down time, such as waiting for a class to start, waiting at the doctor’s office, or waiting for anything at all, pull out your note cards and study them.

I am a treadmill runner, so I blew my Word document summaries up to about 16 point font, taped them to the wall in front of my treadmill, and had 1 1/2 hours to stud each day as I ran. That means that, before I even had my shower for the day, I had already studied for 1 1/2 hours.  The exams where I went to school cost $1,000 and could only be taken twice. I didn’t want to waste both time and money, so I studied and passed the 16- hour exams (and the 2-hour oral defense) the first time.

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns that I haven’t addressed herein and I would be happy to write about them next time. Please use my name in the body of your comment, so that I won’t think you are spam. Thanks!


Dr. Sheri


Sheri Dean Parmelee has a Ph.D. in Communication Studies from Regent University. She writes books on practical tips for people who become unexpectedly unmarried and is working on her second novel in a series of contemporary romance/suspense novels. She teaches at three colleges, working with students from freshmen to graduate students. Her hobbies include running 8 miles a day and reading biographies and fiction.

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