Comprehensive Exams

So we embark on another year where finals are over and comprehensive exams are coming online.  Casella & Berger, Billingsley, and Chung will be names I mention as much as any friend in the next 2 weeks.

Here are some pointers that I hope serve me well:

1) Communication: Most important person to discuss your responsibilities while studying/prepping is your advisor.  They need to know not to expect much from you other than frazzled emails that have minimal to no progress on projects.  Objective #1 in your first year is passing comprehensive exams.  #2 is research, but you should be able to sacrifice 2 weeks of no work for harder/more productive work 2 weeks after the exams are over.

So communicate this to collaborators as well.   If they don’t understand that, you may have to weigh some other options because if they are unrelenting during this time, re-evaluate connections.

Tell family and friends that you’re going to be crazy/boring/stressed/a hermit.  You can still be totally social during this time.  But just minimally.

2) Productive distractions: As from 1) above, research is at an all time low.  Try to make sure if you’re wasting time it has 1 of 3 properties 1) they advance you in another way (blog, read a paper, read a blog) 2) are well time-defined so that there are clear cut endpoints (1 episode of BLANK TV show is at least over in 20min-1hr) 3) Scheduled – they become very good motivators when you’re cruising.

3) Figure out which other students can spitball the same way you do.  Not all students work together the same way (or not at all).

4) Treat this as a short-term project.  Do what you normally do for projects: define goals, define timelines, have some re-evaluation midway to see if the process is working, iterate.

5) Find some good tunes.  They help.  Daft Punk just came out with “Random Access Memories”.  Fitting name for this post as well.


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