Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Exams-Part II

Monday's post addressed the month leading up to, and then the first leg of the exam process. Today's post covers the second leg and the month following the completion of your exams.

In between writtens and orals

Meet with each of your committee members to discuss your written performance and to get an idea for direction in which your oral exams might go.

Reread your written answers with an eye toward obvious weaknesses, references to texts/authors you didn't really develop in the answer. Think more about these moments.

Try Try Try to think of yourself as going into a discussion in which you're no longer a "student" in the sense you've been used to since you were 5 years old. Engage in a dialogue that just so happens to be based on questions your committee asks you.

Taking the orals

This part of the process is hugely different dependent on your committee. What I can offer that will probably apply across the board is to narrate your thought process at any time you're feeling stuck. So, for example, if a committee member asks you an especially tough question that you can't answer immediately, don't freeze up and try to think of an answer. Instead, narrate to your committee why the question is tough and this will lead you toward forming an answer. For instance, you might say, "this is an especially tough question because it asks us to think about postmodernism and poststructuralism as essentially the same thing, when I don't think they really are. So, in order to answer I need to begin by offering what I see as the difference between these two things"

The one thing to keep in mind as you set out on such narrations is to NOT lose sight of the initial question! Write it down! Most committees are cool with that.

After the orals


It'll probably take you about a month to recover physically, emotionally, psychologically, maybe even economically if you celebrate a little too hard (smile)!

...then start to think about the knowledge base you're building and how it's going to help you move into the prospectus phase in which you'll be forecasting a project the scope of which you've most likely never undertaken before but are now equipped to tackle!!

[programming note: due to the craziness of the semester, we'll be going to weekly posts starting next week]

[second programming note: this week's posts were written in response to a couple friends who wanted to see some advice on comprehensive exams. If there's any specific content you'd like to see on Constructing the Academy, please don't hesitate to contact us or to use the comment field to get in touch!!]

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