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Preparing for comprehensive-qualifying exams: Seeking guidance and practicing through sample questions

I wrote a previous blog post on how I prepared for my doctoral programme’s comprehensive exams. I did my PhD at The University of British Columbia, in Vancouver (British Columbia, Canada). Their graduate office has a very clearly written set of guidelines for comprehensive exams, but in the end, I strongly believe that it is each unit/faculty/department/doctoral committee that ends up generating the exact format in consultation with the student.

Reading highlighting scribbling and Everything Notebook

As I noted on my Twitter thread, I was very naive in the way I approached my comprehensive exams, and while I did ask for guidance, it wasn’t enough to prepare me for what was coming. So this morning, while reflecting on the question, I wrote a Twitter thread providing a few ideas to prepare for comprehensive exams.

Personaly, I absolutely loved preparing for my comprehensive exams.. For an entire year, I read what I loved studying and I spent time literally reading and writing (you’ve probably read my extensive rants on the importance of legitimising reading as part of the academic enterprise). But I understand why the process is stressful. Not knowing what to expect is something that makes preparing for qualifying/comprehensive exams extraordinarily hard.

Now that I had time to reflect on this, here are a few suggestions:

Reading and #AcWri on the plane

I want to re-emphasize what I said in my Twitter thread but now on the blog post:


Asking questions is better than going into a comprehensive exam without knowing exactly what to expect and how to approach them.

Something that I’ve realized is that Masters programs may also have comprehensive examinations.

Hopefully this blog post and the linked resources will be useful to those who are in the throes of starting their preparation for these exams.

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