Comprehensive exams are terrifying. After all, it’s also a major exam! It means cramming all that year’s knowledge into your head and spewing it out on the day of the exam. Sometimes, the teacher giving the exam allows you to have a kodigo or a cheat sheet. But you also know what that means…
The answers will not be on your cheat sheet!
So, you’ll be stuck with a paper that can somewhat help but also not help. Most of the time too, comprehensive exams could also render a lot of things useless. In Graduate studies, you have that exam that can render all your coursework useless and you’ll be back to square one. Professors have said that it’s not your thesis that will kill you. It’s this exam.
What’s the best way to study for those kinds of exams? Here are some ways:
Prepare months before!
No, this is not an exam you can cram in one night. This is an exam that you have to burn your eyes out for. It takes time; you have to practice your brain every day. Absorb new information, prepare days where you really have to focus, and most of all – MAKE SURE YOUR STUDYING MATERIALS ARE COMPLETE!
Talk to your teachers
Weird but it helps. As the ones who made the questions, they can also give you tips on how to answer them. It’s okay to ask them questions. Always make sure you send an email to set up an appointment with them. They’re also quite busy but that doesn’t mean they won’t try to make space for an appointment with you.
Practice writing it down.
Probably one of the most concrete ways of studying for a comprehensive exam is to write down your answers. Or at least, copy the medium you’re going to use. Some schools such as Ateneo have computerized comprehensive exams so, typing it out may help.
However, writing things down always had a better effect when it comes to memory retention. Not just that, you can refer back to them when you’re done.
Always set time for yourself to study it.
It doesn’t have to be one whole day. Even an hour or thirty minutes should do. The amount of time spent doesn’t matter; what matters is the frequency of how much you practiced it. The common misunderstanding is that the more time you spend doing it, the more you’ll understand. But that’s not always the case. A comprehensive exam is not about how well you memorized it but how well you understand the subject matter. So, you can choose to spend 6 hours staring at your notes and get nothing in. Or, you can choose to practice at least one hour a day with that topic. Soon, it’ll become second nature to you and you can recall everything on instinct.
Using Pavlov’s Classical Conditioning theory, you can motivate yourself to study more even with the one-hour routine. For example, you just love milk tea; it’s like your legal form of weed save that it doesn’t have Cannabidiol (CBD) or 5HT. But, don’t give yourself that just yet. Discipline yourself that you must accomplish at least one (1) hour of studying before you can buy yourself one.
With that, you’ll be surprised at how motivated you can be. Soon, you won’t even need milk tea to persuade yourself to study.
Take time for yourself.
Counterintuitive but it’s true. Some people who take comprehensive exams especially during their master’s degree find themselves extra stressed. Why? They’re juggling work, they’re juggling their studies, and God knows what kind of problems they have at home. So, it’s okay to take time for yourself. You need to replenish and heal yourself. You’re not a robot; you’re a living human being who also has needs.
A comprehensive exam is JUST an exam.
What makes a comprehensive exam sound so scary is how the people give the grading mechanics and its weight. People tell you that you can only take it twice or you’re kicked out. Or, that it’s 70% of your grade. Those are the kinds of thoughts that can kick up a person’s anxiety straight through the roof! But remember, there’s still more to life than the exam. There’s more to life than that piece of paper.