PhD Exam Prep: It Begins

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Easing my way into week 1 of exam prep reading. Yes, there are two popular press books on this week’s stack!

It’s time.

Since day one of my PhD program I had spent too many moments fretting over the qualifying exams and doubting how I could ever read, discuss, and write about ~200 books in time. We didn’t read this copiously in the social sciences and I wondered if switching to the humanities was too lofty an ambition.

That was two years ago, and now I’m about to embark on my six month long reading journey. At the beginning of my coursework, I couldn’t have imagined how excited I would be to start reading approximately five books per week until this December. But I totally am!

Most of my academic experience (largely since high school) seemed a kin to perpetually eating a dry salad–you knew it was good for you so you endured through it but the reward was quite delayed and kind of obscure. I was (and still am) a fairly good and consistent student, yet I didn’t always love the experience and process of learning.

I never thought I would look this forward to preparing for such an intellectually intimidating exam. For the first time in all my many years of being in school, I finally feel ownership, direction, and autonomy over my education and intellect. It helps that I can choose most of my books (albeit within academic parameters) and concretely see how most of them will serve my intellectual future.

I’ve been told by professors and friends who are now well past their post-doc years that this study period is a special privilege, and that I’ll never have this opportunity again to dedicate so much time to reading. undoubtedly, I’ll need to remind myself of this privilege when I’m eyes deep in the jungle of dense theory and I feel like giving up.

Study tips and encouragement are most welcome!

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