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Testing I failed my comp exams

  1. Sep 27, 2012 #1
    I found out today that I failed my written comprehensive exams. I'm devastated, ashamed, and embarrassed. I don't even want to show up on campus tomorrow, let alone see my research advisor or anyone on the comps committee.

    Our Ph.D program allows two attempts, so I can take the exam again in a year, but I don't know how to manage this current academic year. I thought I was going to get started on research, but now I have to fit in studying for the comps.

    Anyone have any advice or words of encouragement? Has anyone here ever failed such an important test?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 27, 2012 #2
    Hi SquareBack, I'm really sad for you and I hope you will put it up together and fight back.
    My advice, for what it's worth (not much), would be to first analyse and make sure you understand what went wrong in your exams.
    Everybody missteps at some point, but failure is ultimately failure to learn from the mistakes/missteps
    So try not to think about you having failed at exams like you (how you are perceived) are (is) what matters most.
    What matters most if you are on a PhD program is what you carve for: you want to understand as deeply as possible what happens around you, and, apparently, there is something important you were missing, so take this opportunity to fix it and go ahead on a strengthened basis
  4. Sep 27, 2012 #3


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    Staff: Mentor

    How did the others who took the exam make out? Do you know what the overall failure rate was?
  5. Sep 28, 2012 #4
    Some passed at the doctoral level, some (like myself) passed at the Masters level, and some failed altogether.
  6. Sep 28, 2012 #5
    Oli, frankly, I believe my nearly debilitating test anxiety did me in. I don't think it was a lack of preparation. I just can't stay calm and focused when I take exams.
  7. Sep 28, 2012 #6


    Staff: Mentor

    i know the pain, it happened to me when going for my masters in CS. I wasn't allowed to take orals and when I asked why was told the commitee decided who could take them. Later I learned the commitee was really one prof the dept chairman who was mad that I had made the case and transferred in 3 grad courses from another school earlier in the year meaning I only needed 2 more courses to get my degree (I had 4 prior with experience).

    My adjunct prof told me that that would be enough to deny me the right to orals and that they has an unwritten rule to flunk a certain % of students. It gives the school a certain level of academic rigor to do that and I guess I was the patsy. Also I was a parttime student fulltime programmer and that was held against me too as the student view was I had lots of time to do my homework at work.

    Long story short was I took the exam again six months later answering question on courses I never took and passed with flying colors (actually I never knew what I got wrong only that I passed).

    My suggestion is to get back to work, find out what you did wrong and focus 50% of your studies in those areas, and the other 50% on refreshing yourself with the other courses. Its critical that you find out what you did wrong and maybe find a mentor who can help you past that. Also when studying pretend like you're going to be teaching the course to someone, so you must have the answers and must anticipate the questions. When taking the test think again like a teacher and explain the problem to the tester in writing.

    Lastly, if its formulas that you tend to forget then memorize them and write them down first thing when you start the test or on the cheat sheet is they allow one page of notes per course for the test. You could check with your friends to get their sheets as well and see if you've forgotten anything.

    Remember this test is not the end of the road, the race is still on and you will succeed but you must train and imagine yourself as a successful physicist in a few months.
  8. Sep 28, 2012 #7
    I see, well if you have anxiety issues that are to the point of being a handicap, there is medication for it<br/>
    When I was eleven, or maybe twelve, I was quite troubled myself, though it wasn't a problem for exams, I was not sleeping at night, things like that.
    So we saw a psychologist who had me take medications during that year and it worked like a charm.
    Trouble is, it was a disaster for my grades as I basically stopped caring about anything and wasn't paying attention at school anymore, not doing homework etc.
    So, I don't know, maybe you can find something 'in the middle' that let you relax, but not too much :)
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