A Chronicle of Qualifying Exams in Tweets

Last week, I took my Ph.D. qualifying exams: the final comprehensive test of your knowledge before becoming a Ph.D candidate and beginning the dissertation. My family and friends outside of academia were somewhat confused as to the nature of these exams I had been talking about for months. So, as a fun way to demystify qualifying exams, here’s a run down — in tweets — of the highs and lows I experienced during my exams.

For my Ph.D program, the qualifying exam process involves four written exams, each four hours long, that take place over the course five days.

After weeks of preparation, I was anxious and unable to get to sleep that Sunday night before my first exam. As I walked to take the exam the next morning, I reminded myself that all my studies and my work in recent weeks had prepared me for success. Go, girl!


As I left the building after my first exam, I felt elated. My relief at surviving the first exam unscathed was intense, contributing to my (temporary!) sense of confidence.



This feeling of accomplishment may have been premature. As I struggled to stay on top of my preparation for the next three exams (and my other responsibilities) that afternoon and the following day, exhaustion began to set in.


By the time I had completed my second exam on Wednesday, my only thought was, “I’m only halfway done?” Still, I persevered. When I needed to take a short break to refresh my brain, I dramatically decided I would channel my despair by tuning into a documentary series about WWII on Netflix.

I don’t recall much from the experience of completing exam #3 on Thursday as I was running on coffee fumes, and, for the most part, merely hoping that the words I was writing made some sense.


Luckily, I regained a sense of momentum and renewed energy with the realization that I had only one exam left. I was slow to write the last exam, but as I finished it, I became more and more excited at reaching the end of exam week. I turned in the exam and, despite my lack of sleep, glided blissfully across campus toward my car with a grin.

Once I arrived home, it wasn’t long until my elation turned into exhaustion, to which I could finally give in. Ah, blessed rest.


In another couple of weeks, I’ll meet with my advisory committee. They will offer feedback on my exams and decide whether I passed. Here’s hoping that all those words I wrote made sense!