Last Thursday I took THE TEST. Specifically my first qualifying exam that I need to pass to advance through my graduate program.
The program is set up with several milestones.
Year 1 – required coursework
Summer – THE TEST
Year 2 – required and elective coursework
46 credits – advance to level 2
Year 3/4 – elective coursework
60 credits – THE TEST part 2 (Second Doctoral Exam)
Advance to candidacy (level 3)
Year 4+ – Defend Dissertation Proposal
The purpose of the written exam (or so they say) is to show off what we know. The exam is three hours. We are given three questions and we have to answer two of them. Seems easy enough, except that we are expected to cite, and can’t bring in any notes or reference material. It is stressful. But goes back to the early days of the Academy and exams were given. And no notes so there is no way of cheating. (although since we don’t know the questions…) How do we begin to study for this kind of a test. We were given a list of practice questions and formed a study group and began discussing some of the papers we covered in class. It was working well. I wrote practice answers for all 6 six the practice questions and read up on the areas I felt were a little weak. The cohort above ours said their exam questions came from the practice questions. I fretted and worried and read and crammed. Wednesday, I crashed. I was just too tired and my brain to fried to take in anymore. So I went home early, cooked a nice dinner and watched Castle reruns with Rob. We love that show.
So back to Thursday TEST day. I got there early. Go me. Armed with Lara bars, almonds and water. We entered the exam room and together went through the set-up procedures and exam rules. I opened my envelope and read the questions. The questions. Oh the questions. One was close to a couple of the practice questions. One I was wholly unprepared for and did not look at again. And one was unfamiliar, but I feel I had read enough to answer. I wrote for an hour, and finished my first essay. Then I took a restroom break. I wrote for another hour for my second essay and took another break. I still had an hour, so I re-read, edited and expanded my answers. They were each just over two pages. I hope it is enough.
The worst part for me was that everyone had to turn in the answers simultaneously, so I couldn’t leave when I was done. And because there were no outside materials allowed I couldn’t read or do anything else either. That was rough. I didn’t want to keep reading and thinking about my answers in fear of making them worse and over thinking. So I sat. Then we turned in the essays. I find out if I passed on the 31st. I am feeling pretty good. One answer I know was good, the other was more ok, but I think acceptable. We will find out soon.
They say the purpose is so we can show off what we know and it is not mean to be overly difficult. I don’t feel so much that I was able to show off, I feel more like I coped. But for me, much of the first year of grad school was coping.
In one moment of despair while studying, I started to question myself and why I am putting myself through this process. It really is a process like no other, one that you can not fully understand until you go through it or live with someone who is going through it. Why am I doing this to myself. and as I was thinking about what it is that I want in my life, and the kind of work I would like to do, I thought about the work that makes me truly happy. And it is the work I’ve done with content and curriculum research. In order to continue in this field, I do need a higher degree. In order to advance to a director position I do need a PhD. So I continue the process. (Of course I had to choose a job that first requires this) But I did pass my first year. I learned and advanced my scholarship. I am looking forward to continuing my research. The coursework and exams are a part of that. So I endure. But the worst is behind me, or so they say.
My first day of class is Thursday. Four hours of Statistics. Tuesday I will find out about the TEST. Until then I am trying not to think about it.
Tuesday 9:30 – 2nd Year Research Seminar
Tuesday 11:00 – Lunchtime Lecture Series
Tuesday 2:00 – Parent Child Relationships
Thursday 9:30 and 2:00 – Statistics
Thursday 4:15 – Professional Development, Academic Writing
Goals for year 2 – positive outlook, advance research, improve writing and scholarship.