Comp Testing = Testing the Nerves?

Sunday, 1 September 2013
I'm finally finished with my four comprehensive exams. The next step is finding out whether my answers are sufficient enough to be defended orally. If so, then I'll meet with my committee on September 18th for the defense. IF that goes well, I will officially be ABD (all but dissertation) and can move forward with my dissertation proposal and data collection.

While it's all still fresh in my mind, I thought I'd write a little bit about comps so I can remember the experience. I began studying in early May with reading lists and organization of materials that I needed to re-read and commit to memory. After reading all summer and building resources lists, I began studying 10 hours a day for the last four weeks leading up to comps. Each question received specific attention, outlines, practice notes and writing non-stop to practice for two to four hours.

That's the process: show up at the college's dean's office at 9:00 a.m., sign in to a computer in the board room that only has word processing capabilities, close the door and answer a question (essay style) for four hours with nothing but a list of resources. The first day, I walked in feeling very nervous with my list of resources, green tea and a few snacks. I sat down, signed in, and got started.

It was very quiet in the windowless room and when someone answered a phone in the adjacent office, I could hear voices pretty clearly. That was fine because the dead silence was almost eerie. I study with the public radio broadcasting station on in the background because I have a hard time working in silence. (I'm used to a very loud newsroom.)

Because it was so quiet in the room, I could overhear a strange creaking, almost whining, noise outside. It wasn't constant but it was unnerving. I finally figured out that it was the door that led out of the office to the hallway. It sounded a bit like what I imagine the front door to a haunted house sounds. REEEEEeeeeeeiiinnnngggggg.

I took a deep break, refocued on the task at hand, and got back to work. I blocked out the creaking noise but about an hour later, the florescent light just above me went out. I looked up and it turned back on. On. Off. On. Off. This went on for about 20 minutes, going on and off every few minutes. I didn't want to waste any of my time asking someone to fix it so I just kept writing. An hour later, the light started flickering a-la-70s disco ball style. I thought to myself that if I had a risk of seizures, I would have lost the battle. THEN the creepy door sound started again. REEEEEeeeeeeiiinnnngggggg. It was getting closer to lunch time and students were coming in and out with questions about their schedules. I started imagining that I was in a basement, in a locked cell, writing to save my life. (I have an active imagination.)

I wrote my answers in a room with a flickering florescent light and a creepy, creaking door for 16 hours over four days. Comprehensive exam testing also tested my mental stability. I didn't know that was part of the challenge but fingers crossed that I passed! :)

1 comment

Lee Elder said...

OMG! Sounds like a nightmare to me. Like you, I have to have noise to write, and I'd have been driven insane by that environment. Glad it's over, and I'm sure you did well.