Comprehensive Exam Advice, Part 3: Studying

There are many paths to Truth and Happiness, but I’m only going to tell you about the part I have photos for. My supervisor for my second exam suggested making a flow chart of ideas, themes, and concepts from my readings. Maybe you don’t work like this, but lots of people in Ye Olde Humanities have found this very helpful for organizing their thoughts, forging connections, and Writing Their Dissertations.

My chart looked like this:

I made this giant poster…

… that didn’t even fit in one grainy photograph.

It was fun to make, but it was in a tiny font and didn’t connect the themes or ideas too clearly. It was useful to thematically group the readings based on key words, but apparently not The Most Useful since my oral exam Needs Improvement.

When I was re-studying for the exam, I used massive quantities of note cards. They looked like this:

I have now purchased school supplies in two provinces, three countries, fourteen counties, and eight states.

I found this helpful, and I brought them to the exam in my bag (even though I didn’t / couldn’t use them in the defense, having them with me seemed to help me mentally visualize all the themes I had written on them. Reading through them 400 times before the exam probably helped, too, as did re-arranging them thematically to forge different connections between responses to the exam questions.).

I chose key quotes from my notes to write on the cards:

This seemed to help inscribe them on my memory, too. I can attest to the success of this method in my experience because I did Satisfactorily pass my second attempt at the oral defense. (More on that later!)

When I first started to make them, my exam supervisor said that I wrote too much on them:

She was probably right, but I am glad that I did it anyhow because (a) many of these cards will come in useful as I write my dissertation and (b) re-reading the full quotes closely can lead to new forms of Enlightenment.

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4 Responses to Comprehensive Exam Advice, Part 3: Studying

  1. Timmy says:

    Whoa, that’s a lot of work but whatever works for you, more power to you.

  2. A Yuen says:

    That IS a massive quantity of note cards!! Also, I am intrigued by your Canada card with quotes on it. Surely our fine country does not merely boil down to a ‘problem’ for Keophane (sp?)? Or an ‘experiment’ for Bodroghkozy? If it does, I should like to learn how!

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