Countdown to Comps!

A bit of personal news and blog housekeeping – from today until November 15th, I will be writing my comprehensive exams (aka comps).  Aside from coursework, the comps are the first real step towards getting a PhD – if you pass you are allowed to move forward with a thesis proposal and data collection, but if you fail your time in grad school is cut short and you return to the real world.  Essentially the comps are meant to ensure that you are qualified to perform the other aspects of your PhD, and to eventually become an “expert” in your field.

The comps process varies among universities, and even within departments at a given university.  In my department students are given 3 questions related to their area of study (e.g. exercise physiology, sport psychology, etc), and have one month to respond to whichever 2 they like, each response being limited to 15 pages or less.  This is in contrast to the comps process that Peter went through at Queen’s University, which required that he write papers on three topics over a period of three months.  As with most universities, my comps process will also entail an oral defense of my written work, which is not dissimilar to a thesis defense.  Assuming that I pass both components of the exam, I will be a PhD Candidate (up until now I have simply been a PhD student), and will be able to propose my thesis and move forward with the actual dissertation itself.

I have been preparing for the comps by doing even more reading than usual the past few months, and I’m actually looking forward to having no real responsibilities save for writing for the next month.  I have always found that one of the things I enjoy most about writing this blog is how it forces me to organize my thoughts and arguments on issues related to my research, and I’m hoping that the comps will have a similar effect.

Hopefully I will still have a bit of time for blogging during this process, but there will probably be a bit less new content from me than usual over the next little while.  While I may not have as much time as I’d like for detailed discussions of papers here on the blog for the next 30 days, I will continue to post links to interesting studies on Twitter, so feel free to follow me there to see what I’m reading over the next few weeks.  And of course I will let everyone know how it goes in the end.

Wish me luck!


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6 Responses to Countdown to Comps!

  1. Good luck!
    It’s interesting to hear how different qualifying exams can be in different areas of science. In my program we have 5 committee members, including your PI/advisor. Each member writes up an exam related to a particular part of your research area, and each one takes ~5 hours. I have mine coming up at the end of May.
    I wish I had the option of writing papers instead!
    -Longtime reader/ lurker

  2. Arya Sharma says:

    Good Luck Travis! You’ll do just fine!

  3. Lance Davidson says:

    Best of luck to you, Travis. For intelligent guys like you, these comps are only a formality. This is simply a great time to make connections and organize your thoughts. You’ll tear it up!

  4. Val says:

    Good luck, Travis! I’m sure you’ll do very well.

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  6. Burchard says:

    Last one to uiitzle this is a rotten egg!