I think the reality set in after Stephen and I came back to Miami after we visited our families for Christmas. I still had several books to go through, I had to send a final revision of the Prospectus for my dissertation to my advisor, and I had to somehow make time to review-I started reading books for the comprehensive exams last January, and although the notes were there, my memory of even the basic outline of some of the important titles on the bibliography was tentative at best.
Fortunately, most of the other demands on my time were few–far fewer than last semester. Every day, I spent at least some time reading. I never got as far as I wanted to, but progress was made each time. I called it quits every night at 11 p.m. I set the exam dates for this past week. I started to freak out.
I spent the last two weeks reviewing the material, and I honestly had no idea how I was going remember it all, let alone any of it. Even with a full two weeks, I couldn’t go through everything a second time, so I tried to focus on books that seemed to either respond to each other or that otherwise linked up on certain ideas or approaches. I knew that, unlike some of my fellow students, I would be studying until the moment I went in for the last written exam.
I planned each exam on an alternating schedule. I started on Monday with Classics–I wanted to start the week off with the field with the shortest bibliography while I worked out what the testing process was going to feel like. The space in the department is restricted, so about a month in advance, I had to contact the department office and request that a faculty office be set aside. I ended up in the same office for all three exams. I came in early every morning, went to the office, got set up in the faculty space, was presented with the questions, and typed my answers for four hours on a department laptop that was incapable of picking up an Internet connection. It was increasingly difficult, I think, as the week went on. I was losing sleep, every night before a new tests, I wondered if I had worked hard enough of if I would be able to answer the questions. Each time I went in for a test, I was able to pick out several questions among the options presented that I could reliably answer and answer well. After the last test, I stopped at the supermarket on the way home, picked up a bottle of good Chardonnay, came home, and almost immediately went to sleep (under a blanket of cats).
And, quite fortunately, today, my advisor informed me that we will proceed to the oral examination this upcoming Friday.
It is relieving to know that soon, this will be behind me.