Running Title: 25 Written Qualifying Exam Tips as explained by Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time
by Brian Leung
To break the gravity of written quals, I’ve decided to write a fun blog post. (Clearly, I am spending way too much of my time goofing off.) Since I am starting the written qualifying exams in a few days, I wanted to share what the advice I’ve gathered from other grad students who have taken it or are taking it. (They are not in any specific order of importance.)
The advice here, may not apply to every Ph.D. program, but at least the majority of it should. Our written qualifying exams last for a month and we are given 4 review style questions that we have to answer. These questions are designed by our committee members and they may/may not be related to our thesis.
**All images are from Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time series**
1) Download the papers you need and turn off the Internet.
2) Read all the papers you just downloaded.
3) Coffee shops without Internet or slow Internet are my favorite. (Forces you to read and work)
4) Turn off social media.
5) Have a study plan. Have a stretch break every hour or so. Don’t just charge right through it. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
6) Eat regularly. If you are in the zone, it’s worth skipping a meal. (albeit debatable).
7) Bring snacks! It helps. Packing a 1-pound bag of M&M’s won’t help you.
8) Reviews are excellent. I mean, someone has already helped you out. Take it.
9) Have an outside activity other than studying.
10) Have some good tunes ready.
11) Accept the fact that you will have a caffeine IV.
12) Find ways to turn off your brain and night, otherwise you will have trouble sleeping.
13) Exercise in the morning to give the day a kick-start. A clear mind in the morning is a great time to write and proofread.
14) If you are not a morning exerciser, work out at night to ease the tension.
15) Be consistent with your sleep cycle.
16) Take 1 break day after a large milestone.
17) Set goals and treat yourself when you have completed them. One goal could be to read all the papers you downloaded within that one day.
18) Relating to question difficulty, knock out the easy questions first and work on the hard ones later. WTF-questions are inevitable.
19) Plan at least one proofreading day for each question.
20) When you read reviews, take notes.
21) When you read studies and experiments, write a little 1 sentence summary on a post it or on the front. State what were the key findings and how they are important.
22) Outlines are great. Just don’t go too overboard with them.
23) During the first draft, inhibit all urges to correct your run-ons, poor transitions, and embarrassing grammar mistakes. It’s more important to get those ideas down while they are fresh and then move the paragraphs around.
24) Good writing requires several drafts.
25) Tell a friend what your plan is for the week or for the day, that way he or she can hold you accountable!
Keep calm, write on, and Fight on!