Stages of Studying for Comps

Comprehensive exams are a thing of legend. Every PhD hopeful must endure the process of preparing and must survive the exams themselves. If you have not taken these exams, here is what is in store for you:

Vague Awareness
At the start of your PhD program, you know you will have to face comps one day… but that day is not here yet… it is not even happening this year!

Reality Shock
Somehow, you managed to complete all your coursework and now the faculty have scheduled your comps – in a few weeks!

Panic Mode, Engaged
This happened much too soon… there is so much material to review… did you even learn what you were supposed to?

Nope. You most certainly did not learn anything. You know nothing. At all. Not a single thing. Time is ticking.

You get over the despair and begin to study. And as you review, you realize that you don’t even remember half of these things. What is the difference between moderated mediation and mediated moderation? Is that even a thing?

You have spent so much time studying and it dawns on you: most of the material has nothing to do with your research interests. Why are the faculty even testing you on this? Don’t they know you need to focus and publish?

Once you let go of all the emotions, you get to work. You have to take comps soon!

Panic Mode, 2.0
It is too much. There is so little time. There is no way in the world a single human could possibly learn all of this. You panic. Again.

You finally realize that every single PhD you know has gone through this. You are not alone. You are capable. You can do this!

More Studying
Yes! You got a second wind and this time YOU KNOW you can handle it!

After your second wind and new-found determination, you study like never before. Now, you have ben studying for so long… you can’t possibly do any more.

The exams start tomorrow. And sleep is elusive. You ponder all of the life choices that led you to this moment. You wonder if you are smart enough, and if you have what it takes.

The Exam
The exams begin. Somehow, you manage to type ALL THE WORDS. You write pages and pages and pages. Everything you know – everything you are – is poured into this exam.

You are done with this exam. You can’t even make it home. You are so done.

The Wait
All you have left to do now is wait for your faculty to decide if you pass…

The Results
You somehow manage to pass this hurdle. You should celebrate!! Be happy!

The Next Step
You are now ready for the next stage: the dissertation! Keep pushing!


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