Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Comprehensive exam preparation process

It is day 5 before my comprehensive examinations and I am actually feeling less nervous as the days go by. In fact, I almost feel raring to go and get it over with. I have weeks and months of readings behind me, with much of that knowledge extracted in both my personal notebooks and my personal knowledge base. Some of the knowledge are also extracted into blogs, databases, papers and other computer files that I can access when needed.

For those who need a bit of background, the comprehensive examinations is an exam that PhD students do in order to qualify them to undertake the writing of a thesis proposal. In my case, it is a take home exam that must be done within 5 days, after 6 weeks of preparation in reading a list of scholarly works amounting to over 8000 pages. In my particular case, I got to select my topics or areas of focus: Information Sources, Organizational Storytelling and Knowledge sharing and Blogs.

At the beginning the work seemed overwhelming. In addition, some of the readings seemed inaccessible to one's comprehension and one worries if one will actually recall much less master such readings. Now, my anxiety is reduced as the time draws closer. I have been able to absorb a fair amount of knowledge from what I read. I found myself thinking differently and having integrated what I have read into my daily thought processes when thinking or analysing my social world. When this takes place, one feels more confident going into the exam, knowing that one definitely has sufficient grasp of the literature to sound informed in answering questions, although, one does not actually know exactly what questions will be posed to one's knowledge base.

I must say, that I wasn't as strategic in my preparation and planning of my readings, and did not apply math to help me determine how many sources to read per day. I did use some sort of strategy: basically some general principles:

  • Read books first, since they have more pages and are more indepth and comprehensive. In addition the achievement of completing books with many pages will improve your self-efficacy when it comes to the less paged journal articles and conference papers
  • Complete at least one section/topic of your reading list and at least half of the others. Know one topic indepth, especially the one that is of most interest to you or the one that you know the least. This is especially applicable if you have to select questions, which means that you have a choice in what you can do on the exam.
  • Try to cover new and diverse perspectives in your reading. If time is running out on you and you are unable to read all voices, read the voices/perspectives/authors that are different from each other. After a while, in your readings, you will find that authors mention each other and discuss each other's works. It is then useful to look at those that are not mentioned or disagree.
This strategy will be tested within a week to see if it worked. Then I can post and give you feedback on its strenght and weakness.


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