Friday, December 5, 2014

So. Comps.

The fact that comps are somewhat over feels rather surreal. I have been studying for these exams for more than the past 6 months, pretty much full time. I started collecting and organizing my cites in January. I started reading and synthesizing the literature in May. I started memorizing in late October. We didn't travel for Thanksgiving so I could study and keep a relatively normal schedule. I am sure there are other sacrifices that have been made, but you get the point. My life has revolved around these exams for a LONG time. 

This image and others courtesy of google
To be fair, the stakes are relatively high. You get 2 chances to pass all 3 exams. Fail at least one of them 2 times in a row, go to jail, go directly to jail. Do not pass go, do not collect $100. You get the point. No comps, no PhD. 

In talking to most people, I have had a really difficult time explaining these exams and how difficult they are. The amount of information is immense and you have NO idea what questions are going to pop up. You are expected to be able to answer any question about any theory, talk about policing or courts or corrections, and be familiar with all the intricacies of research methods. I had over 500 citations memorized for all three sections when it was all said and done, and that was after cutting a lot of material out. You have to hedge your bets at some point because you simply can't know everything. 

Additionally, these exams are written. I wrote 17 (double-spaced) pages for theory, 13 pages for policy, and 10 pages for methods. We were given 4 hours for each exam, and they were typed, fortunately. 

The way it works is we show up to the testing center on campus, we put all of our belongings in lockers, and then we are escorted to the computer. We get a piece of paper that lists 2 questions, regardless of which section it is. We pick one question from those 2 and answer it to the best of our ability. 

For theory and policy, I knew what question I was answering simply by process of elimination. I couldn't answer one of the questions for each exam at all. One of them asked about feminist CRIM, a very rarely studied topic, of which I had 1 cite memorized. Fortunately I felt relatively comfortable with the questions I could answer, so answer them I did and that was that. 

For methods, I didn't feel comfortable with either of the questions. Each prompt had multiple parts and I felt I could answer some parts of each. However, there were some sub-sections I wasn't completely confident about. Regardless, I still had to pick which prompt to answer, so I gave it my best shot. If I had to identify an exam I feel the least good about, it would be that one. 

Me on the couch last night at 7 PM.
The way the grading process works is there are 3 faculty committees, each made up of 3 professors. One committee grades all the theory answers, another grades policy, and the other grades methods. Each professor will read the answer, decide if it is a pass or fail, and then they meet together to discuss them. The faculty say there are answers that are clear passes and clear fails, so those don't require much discussion at all. Then there are those that are borderline; those they do discuss in greater detail. 

In the past this grading process has taken anywhere from a few days to 2 weeks. Since there were so many of us taking it relative to past semesters, we were told to expect them by 2 weeks, for sure by Christmas. The results will come by email, so if you see me anxiously staring at my email inbox or my phone, you know why.  

Included for no reason at all except it made me smile
At this stage in the game, I'm not sure which was worse-- studying, taking them, or waiting for the results. None of them were fun. Taking those exams was especially stressful. Trying to figure out the best way to present an argument, being mindful of the time you have left, plus the emotional strain of just knowing this is it, well, it made us all very exhausted by the end. 

Several of us got together for drinks Wednesday afternoon when it was all over. It was great to relax a little, but it was also hard even then not to over-analyze what each of us had written. Did we interpret the question correctly? "Oh, you took it to mean this? Well, I thought it meant that." Ultimately though, I'm learning how to just let it go. To trust God that the results will come out as He wants them to. Much easier said than done, but it is a lesson I'm actively learning.

I also want to say a big thank you to Matt. He took off work so he could come be with me during the breaks and stay in the hotel with me so I wouldn't be alone. That meant so much to me and I know it wasn't easy for him to do any of that. I am very blessed to have him as my husband!

On a related not, I also felt very encouraged through several people that reached out to me, let me know they were praying for me and thinking of me. If you were one of those people, know it meant a lot to me and I really appreciate it. 

Finally, if you got to the end of this very long description of comps, kudos. Hope you have enjoyed the fun and at times random images along the way :)

It is Christmas season after all!

1 comment:

  1. The main thing is: you cannot do anything about it now, so forget about it (but my nightmares continued for several weeks). I LOVE the puppy in the bowl pic...... Paula