Oh, munchkins. I’m…

Oh, munchkins. I'm feeling somewhat better this morning, but I had my first actual bout of exam panic last night. Luckily, Kevin was home to calm me down -- otherwise I might have ended up actually banging my head against a wall and weeping, rather than just wanting to. (Okie, there was maybe a little weeping anyway. But give me a break -- I'd only slept four hours the night before. Upset stomach.) I'm leaving tonight to go to Utah; I'll be there until Monday, working on the conference, meeting with some of my committee members. I want to sound smart when I talk to them! I don't remember anything I've read! Nothing! Kevin asked me what the last book I read was and I didn't know! Argh!

Okie. Calm. Calm! I'm just going to spin myself into a panic again if I keep this up.

I actually really would like to go back to the de Beauvoir today and keep reading, but I don't think that's the best way to calm my nerves. Instead, I'm going to review, to go through as many of the books that I haven't done notes on and do the notes, skimming them, writing down the main characters and interesting points regarding them. I'm hoping that this will make me feel smarter. I could use some feeling smarter. Because right now, I'm feeling not so smart. I'm feeling dumb as a post. A short, stubby post, all alone in a field far away from all the other posts. Weatherbeaten. Pissed on by passing animals. Shit on by passing birds. Knocked halfway out of the ground and about to fall over. The life of a post is no fun, I can tell you that.

Somebody please tell me that other Ph.D. students feel this way before their qualifying exams? Susan sounded so calm and prepared before hers. Maybe because she actually was calm and prepared, and I'm just horribly behind and will fail embarrassingly badly. Argh. Argh!

5 thoughts on “Oh, munchkins. I’m…”

  1. It’s okay, little post. You are experiencing a perfectly natural post traumatic stress. And no wonder, what with all the weatherbeating and scatological treatment from passers-by.

  2. What you feel is perfectly natural, and everybody goes through it. It is the blankness of the experience that is so unnerving. You won’t be asked to tell everything you know. Remember that every encounter/question will be a lead-in to what you thoroughly possess. The questions will trigger your true knowledge, and the answers will follow naturally. Even the most random question will be your easy leg up on the topic. Be confident in what you know and in your capacity to succeed. Don’t let the mystery of the future daunt you. Even the people before you have your success as part of their good will toward you and as part of their own self-images of their own competence. You are going to do exceedingly well, indeed. You are ready for this. Have faith in MM.

  3. First, do not panic! You will do fine. I have faith in you. You have studied hard. You know your subject area. You have thought about it. You have made notes. You are an articulate person who enjoys talking about academic subjects with colleagues and that’s really all the qualifying exam is, right? It’s just some colleagues asking for your wisdom on a variety of topics, most of which you’ve read up on more recently than they have.

    From my own experience of qualifying exams, I have one piece of advice. I suspect that no matter how hard you study and how much you know, your committee will ask something you don’t know. In fact, it’s their job to try to find something you don’t know and they may keep digging until they find it, because part of being an academic is recognizing and admitting the limitations of your own knowledge. They key is to guess, but to admit you’re guessing, to say “I really hadn’t considered that question but my first guess would be …” If you’re wrong, you’ve got the caveat in there. If you’re right, everyone is all the more impressed that you came up with it on the spot. It’s ok not to know everything. No one expects you to know everything. If you get stuck, just admit that your knowledge is limited and do your best to answer the question anyway.

  4. I was thinking today that I ought to explain that I have been on both sides of the table. I was the sweating candidate and the forbidding professor asking the questions. I know you well enough already to know that you can shine in this setting. Also, Laura’s advice is right on, really excellent. Just be honest about what you know and openly speculative if a question throws you. Good luck.

  5. Hee hee. Post-traumatic stress. Thanks for the giggle, Karen. I was needing it.

    And thanks for the support, you guys. I’m getting a lot of “calm down, you’ll be fine” from the other grad students here, which is nice, but doesn’t actually help with the anxieties, oddly enough. I think a lot of it is the mystery of it all — even though they explain the process pretty thoroughly to you, you still don’t know. I don’t think I’ve ever actually had an oral exam before — the closest I got was doing debate in high school. I’m trying to think of it more as a conversation with them, and I do know that they’re on my side, but oh, there’s so much I don’t know, so much I don’t remember. I want another month to study, dangit.

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