Tips for Succeeding at the Comprehensive Examination
Preparing for your examination begins when you begin your course work. It is not something you do two weeks before the examination takes place. If you keep up with your readings, keep good notes (that you review occasionally) and spend time reflecting on the meaning of what you are, and have been, studying you will be preparing for your examination. Part of the processing is reflecting on the course in total. What is the big picture? How do the topics in the course relate to each other?
When you have completed each course, condense your notes into a workable unit. Think once again about what the overall course was about. What do you need to be able to use this information? Keep your books and notes in an easy-to-find place. Too often students spend inordinate amounts of time just looking for their information; keeping this together will make the process easier. We suggest purchasing a large plastic container that you will keep your notebooks, books, notes, graded projects and handouts in.
Remember that you will be taking the exam while you are taking other courses. You will be busy just keeping up with your traditional coursework. Do not wait to begin studying for your exam. Start the process at least six months before the exam. Set up a study schedule and stick to it. Make a timeline for yourself and post it somewhere you will see it regularly. Set up a study group. Meet with your group regularly and share notes. Even the most diligent students will miss some points in notes. Trade copies of notes with another student and look over his/her information in relation to yours. Give yourself enough time to do this so if you have any questions, you have time to discuss them with the other student. It is highly suggested that you trade notes prior to the end of each course.
You will be provided with the take-home portion of the exam approximately 14 days prior to the in-class portion. You will know when your exam is taking place. Clear your calendar! This is one of those times when school will need to be a priority. Do not try to study for the in-class portion of the exam at the same time you are writing the take-home part—you will be overwhelmed. Have your in-class examination studying completed before you receive the take-home portion. Be as thorough and complete as possible on both the take-home and in-class sections. One good hint for the take-home portion is to imagine that you are completing responses to written questions a prospective employer (one you really want to work for) has requested from you. You would want to persuade the employer that you know what you are doing and have a thorough, proficient understanding of your profession. This is what the readers are looking for.
Finish studying a day or two before the exam. Try to relax the night before the in-class portion. Get a good night's sleep. Do not stay up late studying; you will be tired and confused. Get your materials (pencils, erasers, watch and take-home portion) together early the night before the in-class portion, so you do not have to panic in the morning looking for something.
Tips for the Day of the Exam
- Leave in plenty of time to get to the exam, you know how traffic in Chicago can be!
- On the day of the exam arrive a bit before time (15 minutes) so that you can get yourself together and relax.
- Avoid getting into conversations with others about specific topics in courses. You will learn nothing at this point and will only become uncomfortable if the discussion turns to a topic with which you are unfamiliar.
- Make certain that you have your pencils, erasers, and a watch with you. We will provide the blue books.
- Listen to the instructions carefully. If any instruction is unclear, ask for clarification. Many students skip over the instructions quickly in their haste to begin the exam. If you do this, you may miss some important information.
- Breathe! Everyone feels uncomfortable taking these exams. Try to relax.
- Plan your time for the exam. Look over the entire test and set up a time budget. Allot the most time for the questions that give you the most points.
- First answer the questions you know well, then go back and work on other questions.
- Read every word in the test question. If you don't read it carefully, you may read something into a question that isn't there or miss an important point.
- Attempt to answer all the questions, even if you are not absolutely sure of the answers.
- Check your answers for obvious errors before turning in your exam.
- You do not get points for being the first person finished—take your time.