June 11, 2005
Prelim Lessons Learned
Over the last week, I've been reflecting on my experience of my prelim oral exam. As time goes by, I already remember less and less of what actually happened in the exam itself. More than anything, I have impressions and feelings, particularly the feeling that led me to want to say, "Enough already!!"
I remember doing my thesis defense for my master's degree, and thinking that it would be really hard and somewhat contentious, etc. Well, it really turned into a celebration of me having finished my degree. There were good questions, but not hard ones, and a few suggestions for revision, but nothing major. I mistakenly thought that this oral prelim exam was going to be a little more like that. Well, was I wrong!
As I look back, I think the oral prelim is one of those moments of initiation, and as such, it's tough. It's even tougher if you're thinking of doing something a little less traditional or if the methodology you're hoping to use is less known or understood. I think the challenge increases exponentially with the number of committee members, too.
So, here's my advice: find a friend who will wait for you outside of your exam so that when they get to the part when they send you out and then spend what feels like a year talking about things that you could hear but don't want to, you'll have someone to help that time go by a little less painfully. And, after they pronounce you a candidate, by all means, go out for a drink! You'll have earned one!
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