In the past, a variety of students have asked questions about the comprehensive exam. Students who passed the exam were asked to respond to some of the more frequently asked questions and their responses are below. Please note that these responses are only from those who passed. For example, in one typical term seven students took the exam and five passed.
How much time did you dedicate to studying for the exam (e.g., hours per day, weeks, months)?
STUDENT 1: I began studying in mid January and didn't stop until I took the tests. I studied approximately 2-3 hours per weeknight and between 5-6 hours on the weekend.
STUDENT 2: I started studying right after the new year and studied up until the first exam. So that would be about 3 months and a week. I put in about 2-3 hours a night on weeknights and 12 hours on Saturday and 6 hours on Sunday.
STUDENT 3: I started studying one day per week in February, and 2-3 days per week in March, and every day as it got close to April 5. I probably put in about 120 hours.
STUDENT 4: I studied for approximately 3 hours per day for about 4 months.
STUDENT 5: I originally planned to start studying in December 1998. However, when I had difficulties arranging for my last class (Biomechanics) it looked as though I wouldn't be able to even take the exams. Therefore, I only superficially studied at this time because I didn't think I would be taking them. I finally was able to "get my ducks in a row" by mid February, so this is when I started studying in earnest. I studied 7 days a week for a minimum of 3 hours per day during this time frame (longer on days off). I had not intended on being so intense, but I lost about 1 1/2 months finalizing my situation.
STUDENT 6: I tried to study 2-3 hours every weeknight (as an average) and 10 hours over the weekend (both days). That was enough for the stats exam, but not nearly enough for the general knowledge exam.
Now that you've taken the exam, how would you study differently? How should I (a new student) study?
STUDENT 1: If I had to take the test again I would: A) Still summarize all of the classes as I did. My goal was to get about a ten-page summary of each class each containing the major topics covered in the class. Not only is it helpful in studying, but also if I had to go back later and look for something, it is much easier to look in the ten-page summary than the entire class notes. B) Study with other people in the class...at least get some other people to pose questions to. This really helps if you are unclear about a topic, helps you to remember the topic better, and you may even ask a question that is on the test *bonus*. C) For the applied portion: Focus on items or tasks that you see everyday, and think of the HF implications to the task and possibly how it could be improved.
STUDENT 2: In studying I basically went over every class hour by hour. I literally spent about 45 minutes on each classroom lecture. I condensed my original notes down to the "gist." I rewrote the most important things and the information that I did not remember in a spiral steno pad and later on index cards. After I completed all the classes except stats I studied off the index cards. For the stats I reviewed my notes and the book. I answered several representative questions from the book (those that had answers in the back). That method worked pretty well for me.
STUDENT 3: The method that worked best for me was this: Start a giant notebook that can contain all your exams and study notes from each class. For each class, go through all the materials, exams, assignments, etc., and come up with lists of questions that you think might be on a comp exam. Focus on questions that were emphasized in class & on exams, or that were topics in more than one class. Talk to other students who have taken the exams, and ask them for more example questions. Work with other students who will take the exam when you do, and exchange example questions with them. Get as many questions as you can. After you have all the questions picked out, go back through each class and document your answers to the questions. One thing I would do differently was try to talk to more students who had taken the exam earlier. I talked to a couple, and they gave me good example questions, but I would have liked to get more.
STUDENT 4: I would have taken the time to outline important/key concepts from each course while I was enrolled in that course instead of waiting until the end of the program. It is very overwhelming to try to identify the concepts and study for so many courses with only a few months time. It would be better to study throughout the program, keeping the comps in mind.
STUDENT 5: If I had to do it over again, I would definitely start studying earlier (like I originally planned). Time management became a critical factor. Some items I wanted to review in depth had to be skimmed. This bothered me because I could very well envision questions on those topics. My basic study plan was this: Re-read all the texts and assigned materials, answer all the chapter questions (especially Research Methods and Statistics), then study from my notes, handouts, and old exams. For Statistics, I also used a book titled "Statistics for the Terrified" by Kranzler & Moursund. The title is actually a misnomer and it has a lot of practice problems. The most benefit for me was re-reading the texts and answering the questions. My note taking is strictly for jogging memory so without re-reading the books, it was difficult to understand them. If I had one word of advice for future students, it would be to complete as many practice questions as possible. For example, don't just review old tests, actually re-take them, then compare them to the answers. I liken this process to taking the GRE. Those study guides with practice questions really helped me. The problem with the comprehensive exams is that they are so global. It comes to a point where one just has to know the material. By this I mean keeping a high level of exposure to the material on a continuing basis. I believe you did a lot of this in Psych 562 by asking a lot of questions to the class that should have been previously learned. I myself recall thinking... "I'm glad I'm not there under the spotlight." Yet at other times, I knew the answer and wondered why no one else did. The bottom line is that practice questions helped tremendously.
STUDENT 6: I originally concentrated on my old class notes and tests, but I quickly learned that that wasn't going to be good enough. I wish I had outlined each chapter with key terms and processes. Then, I would have memorized all this info (for the general knowledge exam) and applied it to real-world things (for the applied exam). For the stats exam, I reviewed all my class notes and the books; I reworked all my old homework, and retook the tests. That really worked for me on the stats/research methods exam.