General Exam Suggestions

Here is some advice for my PhD advisees taking their candidacy exam. If you are not my advisee please check with you advisor as every advisor has their own way of guiding students through this process.

Preparing for you exam:

During your coursework you and I will start to talk about potential committee member for your exam. You will need to have three people in addition to me on your committee. As you near the end of your coursework, you and I will sit down and plan your committee meeting. To prepare for that meeting you will write a short 5-10 page treatment of your intended dissertation research. When I think it’s ready, you will send the treatment to the other committee members in preparation for your committee meeting. In you committee meeting you will present your research idea and the committee will assess your coursework in relation to your research interests and decided whether or you can proceed to your candidacy exam. If you are given the green light during that meeting the committee will also discuss a general area on which each committee member will examine you.

Writing your exam:

The greatest challenge and struggles that students have writing their exam questions is synthesizing the relevant research needed to answer their questions. Synthesis is different from summary. Make sure that you know the difference.

Preparing for the Oral Defense:

After you have completed the written portion of the exam, prepare a printout for your committee members using the following guidelines:

  • Print a copy of all your answers for each member of your committee.
  • I would suggest putting tabbed dividers between each answer and haveeverything bound together – make it look nice.
  • Put in a cover page that that has the date, time, and place of the defense, along with a list of the committee members and their email addresses.
  • Make sure that you start each answer with a copy of the question. Each answer should conclude with a list of reference.

Drop the bound answers off to each committee member’s mailbox, let them know that you dropped it off, and ask them to confirm that they they received it.

The Oral Defense:

Do not bring any food beverages for the committee members. It’s against graduate schools rules.

Do bring some water for yourself during the exam, but don’t drink too much so you don’t need to take a bathroom break during the exam.
Remember to breath.  Take some deep breaths every so often to get some more oxygen to your brain.