• Gregory M. Colón Semenza


Perhaps no requirement for the Ph.D. is more dreaded, more misunderstood, and more badly mismanaged than comprehensive examinations or “comps”. Whereas preparation for the master’s examination tends to be relatively self-explanatory, since students usually are asked to respond to a standard or fixed list of works (see pp. 33–36), Ph.D. comps often cause students trouble because they represent the first stage in one’s graduate career where content is determined largely by the student, rather than imposed from on high. Because you will be responsible for selecting the subject categories on which you will be tested, constructing (with help from your committee members) appropriate reading lists, and managing the long period of study prior to the actual examinations, there simply are more things that can go wrong unless you are systematic, focused, and well-organized. While this chapter explores ideas and strategies also relevant to MA-exam preparation and testing, it focuses primarily on practical solutions for the problems commonly faced at the comps stage of one’s career; its subjects include:
  • Emphasizing process over product

  • Selecting the right exam areas

  • Composing reading lists

  • Streamlining for the dissertation

  • Reading and note-taking

  • Understanding grades and comments

  • Preparing for the oral defense


Committee Member Comprehensive Examination Boot Camp Dissertation Research Comp Stage 
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Copyright information

© Gregory M. Colón Semenza 2005

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  • Gregory M. Colón Semenza

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