Every graduate student planning to take a doctoral or master’s program is required to take a comprehensive exam. Comprehensive exams are exactly what they sound like: comprehensive. They cover the entire field of study, and they are a very big deal given that they play a huge role in making or breaking a student’s graduate school career. Learning everything there is to know in a field, however, is not an easy task, and one can easily get overwhelmed. Such an examination will require you to be systematic in the preparations. In this post, we will share some essential tips that you may utilize for your grad school exam preparations.
Manage Time Wisely
You must understand that you have limited time that needs to be well managed. Most students, especially those taking the doctoral exams carve out the time they need to focus on their study. During this time, they cut out working, teaching, or coursework. While some choose to take a month, others take a whole summer or even longer. This is something you have to decide, depending on how much you need to learn and practice before the test day.
Like most students, you probably have topics that you understand better than others, so distribute the little time you have to cover what's most important. According to what you need to study, devise an appropriate schedule, and set goals for each week. Follow the schedule for a few weeks to determine what subjects are taking more time, then adjust accordingly.
You are not the only student preparing for the exam, and working with others will improve your chances of absorbing as much information as you can. Hang out together and hold group discussions about different strategies and how to manage your stress and wellbeing. Create a study group that will set goals, then aim to meet and report those goals to each other. Studying in isolation will lead to loneliness, which will not be good for your motivation and morale.
Plan Things Accordingly
Consider your situation and challenges you are currently facing in preparing for the exam. What reading materials and resources do you have? Do you live with your family or roommates? Do you have a quiet time to study? Do you have the space you need to spread out? Devise solutions to all the problems well before you start to prepare. This will cut out any distractions or limitations.
Think About What You Read
Studying for a comprehensive exam is tricky. You can easily get swept away with what you read, taking notes, and memorizing. Keep in mind that you’ll be required to reason about what you read and construct arguments that discuss everything at a professional level. Think about the strategies used and how to apply them in different scenarios, especially when it comes to doctoral exams. Preparation tests will also take you a long way because they will help you get an idea of what to expect. The MCAT test prep, for instance, can be very useful for medical students.
Gather Study Materials and Resources
You cannot possibly download and read everything, but you need to gather enough materials and resources to cover most of everything. This part can be overwhelming and downright consuming but go for the past papers from cohorts and test papers from reliable online sources. Make choices on what to touch lightly and what to read in-depth depending on your strengths and weaknesses.
Consult with Your Professors
Faculty members usually take the time to talk to students about the tests. Most of the time, this happens in a group setting. However, you can always go to the one you trust if you have specific questions that need to be addressed. You can ask how the exam is organized or suggestions on how best to prepare for it.