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Freaked out about quals. Please help!


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Hi all,

 

I have the written portion of my qualifying exam in 5 days. It's an open book, open internet, take-home exam, but it lasts for 8 hours and many students struggle to finish it all on time.

 

I've studied hard for a while now, but I can't seem to keep the anxiety away :(

I know the material, but I worry about sitting down at the start of the day and not being in the mindset to write, or taking too long on several of the questions, or losing my focus during the middle of the day.

 

Any advice?

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What are the pass/fail rates for your exam? 

 

My written prelim is two 8-hour days in a row (so 16 hrs total) in person, closed book/notes/everything. It covers the first year of coursework, and the covered material is both very dense and difficult to master. When I need something to prevent me from weeping softly under my desk while arguing with an imaginary friend at the mere thought of this exam, I just remind myself how statistically unlikely it is that I wouldn't pass. Any chance you can take the same approach? 

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Rehearse the basics of writing and the writing process as works best for you. Be prepared to spend some time making quick and dirty outlines to answer each question. Try not to get bogged down in the details of a question that seems tailored to your expertise and make sure you showcase your knowledge of the area that isn't quite exactly what you do.

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Rehearse the basics of writing and the writing process as works best for you. Be prepared to spend some time making quick and dirty outlines to answer each question. Try not to get bogged down in the details of a question that seems tailored to your expertise and make sure you showcase your knowledge of the area that isn't quite exactly what you do.

 

 

What are the pass/fail rates for your exam? 

 

My written prelim is two 8-hour days in a row (so 16 hrs total) in person, closed book/notes/everything. It covers the first year of coursework, and the covered material is both very dense and difficult to master. When I need something to prevent me from weeping softly under my desk while arguing with an imaginary friend at the mere thought of this exam, I just remind myself how statistically unlikely it is that I wouldn't pass. Any chance you can take the same approach? 

 

Thanks guys :) I really appreciate it.

 

I tried out a new strategy for writing that really helped. If I can get the bare-bones of the whole exam written within the first 4 hours, I can use the rest of that time to reword, edit, and polish my answers. Thankfully I'm feeling a bit better about the whole thing.

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It's completely normal to be anxious about quals.  Just remember that your department wants you to pass them.  As the others said, if you've done the prep and you're worried about doing well, I wouldn't worry to much about running out of steam (or focus) on the exam day.  Your nerves will power you through!  It helped me to have a plan on both of my exams.  We had 3 essay questions in 9 hours, so it was 3 hours per essay.  That helped me stay on track, as did doing mock exams (half exams- I could never make myself do a whole one in a day).  Good luck!  Unlike the hunger games, the odds really are in your favor :)

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It's completely normal to be anxious about quals.  Just remember that your department wants you to pass them.  As the others said, if you've done the prep and you're worried about doing well, I wouldn't worry to much about running out of steam (or focus) on the exam day.  Your nerves will power you through!  It helped me to have a plan on both of my exams.  We had 3 essay questions in 9 hours, so it was 3 hours per essay.  That helped me stay on track, as did doing mock exams (half exams- I could never make myself do a whole one in a day).  Good luck!  Unlike the hunger games, the odds really are in your favor :)

 

 

Your anxiety about the test in general is honestly a pretty good sign.  You sound like you recognize the weight and potential difficulty of it and have taken the necessary steps to prepare yourself.  The people who brush off the quals thinking it's a walk in the park are the ones I worry about ;)

 

Thanks for the comments!

 

I just finished the 8 hour exam today, and I'm actually feeling alright about it. I did a couple of practice exams beforehand to help me practice my time management, and it really paid off. 

 

And it makes for a new personal record -- 18 pages in 8 hours. :)

 

Thanks guys for the encouragement!

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Hi all,

I have the written portion of my qualifying exam in 5 days. It's an open book, open internet, take-home exam, but it lasts for 8 hours and many students struggle to finish it all on time.

I've studied hard for a while now, but I can't seem to keep the anxiety away :(

I know the material, but I worry about sitting down at the start of the day and not being in the mindset to write, or taking too long on several of the questions, or losing my focus during the middle of the day.

Any advice?

I know this probably comes a little too late/exam may already be passed. But I always think of the one key advice I received back in my undergrad, when I was studying at Oxford: you can only do SO much. After that, you have to let go and just do your best. I took that home with me, and even now. I appreciate the stress. But utilize that stress into something positive (focused studying, etc), then just let go and do your best.

Also, Test Taken 101 is that, after so much studying, there comes a point (right before the test) that any further study is counterproductive. Though I generally keep running notes until the very last moment, myself.*^^* So. Take that with a grain of salt.^^

Good luck!!

Edited by angel_kaye13
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Great!  Doesn't it feel good to be done? :)  Make sure you reward yourself- take the weekend off from work and do something relaxing.  

It does indeed. I guess it is spring break, so a break is definitely in order :)

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Congrats!! Must feel awesome to put it behind you and feel like you did your best on it!

 

(While I still have 2 months of dread coming up before my written prelim, I'm really looking forward to the feeling of knowing that it's done and I probably passed.)

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