Preparing for Comprehensive or Qualifying Exams Part Three College Life

Hello everyone:

So, here you are, just days away from the big exams. What do you do now? I recommend going over all of your summaries a few last times and then taking the night before the exams lightly. That is, don’t try to cram a bunch more stuff into your brain, just review the basics, and then go to bed in a timely manner. Not early, not late, just try for the normal bedtime with as much normality as possible. Keep to your normal routine at bedtime.

When you arrive at the testing center, get your geese in a row. If you have been allowed to bring in food, do so. Organize your things as much as possible. We were allowed to bring in food, drinks, and notepads and pens. As soon as the exam begins, do a brain dump before you even look at the questions.

Is there something that you want to make sure you remember? Don’t be distracted by looking at the questions before you jot it down. Maybe you are required to list authors and their works in all of your answers. Write down names and books/articles as quickly as you can. Dump everything on the notepad that you think will be helpful to mention in your replies. This will take several minutes. Take this time because it will pay off later.

After you have done your brain dump, now look at the questions. As you go through them, go ahead and type the basic questions into your answer pages. Then, go back through the questions and start actually answering them, one at a time. If something suddenly “comes to you” about part of the answer, go ahead and jot it down. When you have written all of the sources that you want to use in a specific answer, go back and begin writing your own thoughts on the topic, making sure that you support everything that you are saying with quotes or paraphrases from your sources.

If something does not seem immediately obvious, go ahead and work on other parts of the answer, but be sure to return to the area that you drew a blank on earlier. The thing is to make sure you go back and answer the question. If you are still uncertain and time is running out, try to answer around the question as best you can. Happily, we had oral defenses of our written exams and I was able to answer the question at that point in time.

If you still have time, go back and polish the writing. If you run out of time, just make sure that you are at least basically understandable. We had four hours of testing, one hour for lunch, and four hours of testing for two days. Do not waste energy by kicking yourself for something you forgot.

BTW, my professors really liked it when we could take information from one class and apply it to something in another class. Since my knowledge of philosophy was particularly strong, I took a philosophical approach to all of the questions I was asked. That worked very well.

I wish you well with your upcoming exams. If you have any questions or comments, please use my name or this specific topic in your comments so that I know you are not spam.


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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