Just Two Weeks to Study for My Qualifying Exam?!
By Dora Farkas
One of my friends got to take off 6 weeks to study for their qualifying exam, but my PI says I should be in the lab until 2 weeks before it. I’m not sure that’s enough time and I’m getting stressed out. Is there any kind of rule that says how much time we should get to study for it?
- D, grad student
The first step is to check whether your department has any guidelines regarding a reading period for qualifying exams. Senior students and your department’s program administrator will probably know if there are any rules in this case.
Most universities leave this situation up to the individual PI’s. If this is the case for you, it is best to look over the course material and make a study plan before talking with your PI. It might also be useful to talk with one of your classmates to talk about the major topics in your course material, and to work out a study plan together.
Once you have a plan, you will have a better idea of how much time you need to study. You might find that 4 weeks will be enough for you, or perhaps you will also need 6 weeks like your friend. If your PI does not like the idea of taking more time off, see if you can reach a reasonable compromise. For example, you could negotiate working half-days starting 6 weeks beforehand, and then take off completely 2 weeks before.
Show your study plan to your PI, and explain how much time you need to prepare well. Remember that it is in your PI’s interest that you pass on your first try, so do not be shy about explaining your needs during this busy time.
Dora Farkas, Ph.D. is the author “The Smart Way to Your Ph.D.:200 Secrets from 100 Graduates,” and the founder of PhDNet, an online community for graduate students and PhDs. You will find links to her book, monthly newsletters, and discussion board on her site. Send your questions to DearDora@benchfly.com and keep an eye out for them in an upcoming issue!
Stay tuned for the next Dear Dora in two weeks! In the meantime, check a few of Dora’s recent posts:
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Submit your questions to Dora at DearDora@benchfly.com, or use the comment box below!