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Taking the Prelim when you show up


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5 replies to this topic

#1 insertphysicspun

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 03:17 PM

At my institution, you get a free shot at the prelim when you first arrive (physics PhD program). I have a master's from another institution and, since the prelim reflects one's first-year graduate education, I believe that I might be able to pass it given a summer of dedicated study. If I pass it, I could by-pass typical first-year courses.

This is really a non-quandry because I think I will give it a shot, but I wonder whether it would be worth it to take first-year courses with the rest of my peers and really nail down the material once-and-for-all (i.e. take my time instead of rushing). On the flip-side, part of me thinks that taking the same courses over again (albeit from a different institution) is a rather daunting proposition.

Any thoughts?
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#2 ANDS!

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Posted 22 March 2012 - 06:48 PM

How long has the break been between MA and entering PhD?
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#3 insertphysicspun

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Posted 22 March 2012 - 07:33 PM

How long has the break been between MA and entering PhD?


It's been 2 years since I graduated (spring 2010) and 4 years since my first-year courses (fall 2008). It's been a little while, which makes me feel like the courses would be helpful. Additionally, different universities/profs cover material differently so there is potential to gain important new perspectives. But my stomach sinks a little imagining sitting in a class similar to one that I took 4 years ago.

The tuition is waived and I have a stipend, so money is not a concern.
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#4 ANDS!

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Posted 22 March 2012 - 07:47 PM

I would double up on classes; ie - still take the course as a refresher for the prelims, but double up on what you would normally take. That's what I intend on doing first two semesters - I've already taken a course seq. at undergraduate level, but will still take their equivalent course (and as you say instructors can vary WILDLY in how they teach the same material) but will be taking other graduate courses since the burden is reduced significantly.

However, this will have been like no-gap for me; only you know how confident you are with that 4-year gap (but I mean is it really "4-years" if you've been engaged with the material since then).
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#5 Sigaba

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Posted 22 March 2012 - 07:56 PM

Any thoughts?

I would go through the first year of classes before taking the exams for two reasons. First, as ANDS! points out, the course work can serve as a refresher.

Second, the year would give a student time to figure out the dynamics of the program and the personalities of the Powers That Be--(especially one's POI). While there may be an opportunity to take the exams right away, doing so might push buttons one could just as easily avoid. (For example, members of your department may want you to jump through some hoops to see how well you can jump through hoops.)

Also, and I don't mean to sound like a downer, one might think through carefully the consequences of declining to do the first year of study before taking the exam, and then not passing.
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#6 eco_env

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Posted 22 March 2012 - 08:30 PM

Can't you try to take the exams and take the classes if you fail? If you pass, clearly you know everything you need to know.
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