Qualifying/Comprehensive Exams: You can do this!

Are your qualifying exams coming up? If so, I’m sure you are under quite a bit of stress and pressure. This is normal and apart of the process. For those of you who aren’t familiar with what qualifying exams are, know they are also referred to sometimes as comprehensive exams (or comps). They are exams that demonstrate your core competency in your field as a doctoral student. Failure to pass these exams, result in the dismissal/termination of your doctoral studies. So with that being said, you can see how stressful this is on a doctoral student. To dive a little bit deeper into why this is important, I’d like to break down the structure of the PhD program:

  1. In a doctoral program you will normally complete coursework first.
  2. Upon or during completing your coursework you will take your qualifying exams.
  3. After successful completion of the qualifying exams, you become a PhD Candidate and may move into the doctoral portion of your program.
  4. Next you will do a proposal of your dissertation research (also referred to as a preliminary exam).
  5. Last step is to do your final defense!

Depending upon your program there may be additional items that need to be completed. For instance in my program you must also complete a research examination after passing the qualifying exams before proceeding to Step 4 listed above. You also have another requirement to teach as well.

One thing to note is that you have two chances to pass these qualifying exams so do not fret but do take them very seriously. Here are a few tips that I found to aid in my preparation of the exams:

  • Talk to students who have already taken them and passed
  • If possible, see if you can get any sample exams to look at
  • Any questions you have, make sure to speak with the professor who taught the course
  • Review the slides from the course
  • Review the book from the course
  • Find practice questions to practice with (Use your old exams from the class as well as google or your search engine of choice.)
  • Form a study group with your cohorts
  • Study individually as well
  • Pace yourself (Don’t wait until the last-minute to study!)
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions
  • Don’t compare yourself to others
  • DO NOT PUT THEM OFF¬†(This causes additional unnecessary stress! Take them and get it over with! *Remember you can’t move forward in your program if you don’t.)

The real work relies on you. Know that you can do this! If you do your part in preparing, you are sure to pass them. If for some reason you do not pass them all remember, it is not the end of the world! You have a second chance. You now know what they are looking for and know what you need to do. Keep pushing and share any tips you might have once you successfully complete them. Leave your comments below and don’t forget to subscibe!


2017 Grace Hopper Celebration

Wow! What a high I’m still on from the Grace Hopper Conference! I came, I saw, and I conquered ūüôā

Who is Grace Hopper?


Grace Hopper is considered a pioneer of computer programming. As a computer scientist and admiral, she invented one of the first compiler related tools which led to the development of a programming language called COBOL. See more about Grace Hopper.

About the Grace Hopper Conference

AnitaB.org hosts annually the Grace Hopper Celebration. It is the largest conference held for Women in Computing/Technologists. This year it was held in Orlando, Florida at the Orange County Convention Center for 3 days (October 4-6). There were approximately 18,000+ attendees at the conference. There were keynotes, ABIE awards given, sessions/panels, a career fair, and interviews scheduled/completed for job seekers.

About the Grace Hopper Scholarship

This was my first time attending the conference and I had the privilege of being selected as a Grace Hopper Scholar (see badge above at the very top). I was so excited to receive the scholarship, as it is truly competitive. There were somewhere between 15,000 applicants and out of that number 657 applicants were selected. Out of the 657 applicants, 93 identified as Black or African-American and I was one of them. There were over 500 reviewers who selected the scholars. To my knowledge, I am the first African-American graduate student who has received this honor from North Carolina A&T State University. The scholarship provides many amenities including:

  • Conference Registration
  • Flight
  • Hotel
  • Stipend
  • Meal Card

I encourage you if you’ve never been to attend the conference and also apply for the scholarship.

What you need to know

Be prepared to walk

I walked anywhere from 5-10 miles each day (way to get in my 10k+ steps)! So when you come to this conference bring your walking shoes and also wear comfortable clothing. Also, you may need a sweater for the sessions and keynotes (a bit chilly at times).

Be prepared to network

At a conference as large as this, be prepared to connect with various people¬†from all walks of life. If you are an introvert and not good at getting out of your shell, practice your elevator speech and make it a point to connect with at least 5-10 people per day. You’d be surprised at who may be from your same hometown, state, have similar research interests, or what you may have in common.

Another reason you need to network is that many companies have receptions each night (some invite only). Take full advantage of these opportunities to engage with their staff and of course to have fun too.

Be prepared to learn

As you attend the keynotes, panels, and sessions be prepared to learn. Bring something to write with as you may want to take notes. There are so many nuggets of wisdom shared during the conference as well as inspirational stories. Also if you have interviews scheduled take notes on what answers your interviewer gives you on all the questions you have. You may want to take notes on any questions you need to better answer for your next interview too. Be engaged and present!

Be prepared to get swag

As you pack your suitcase to attend the conference make sure to leave space for the gifts, door prizes, and the swag that may be raffled or given to you during the conference. My suitcase gained an additional 20 pounds of goodies on my return flight home at the airport. Luckily I had room in my suitcase to bring these goodies home.

Upload your Resume to the GHC database

One way to get interviews scheduled, invitations to company receptions, and or events is to load your resume to the GHC database. I did this and I had so many opportunities at the conference as a result. Check your spam folder occasionally as well. Some of my best invitations got lost in spam so check your spam folder prior and during the conference.

Print out your resume and bring it to the conference

Since this was my first time at the conference I only printed out a few copies of my resume (20 to be exact) and I ran out ūüė¶ I would recommend printing anywhere from 50-100 copies of your resume to give out. One touch that may make your resume stand out is adding a photo. Every company that I handed my resume to was impressed with its appearance and loved the fact that I included a photo (this may help in them remembering you). Check out my resume and cv here: www.siobahncday.com.

Send follow-up emails

At the career fair and along the way during the conference, you will give out or receive many business cards. Make sure to follow up with those people via email and reference the conference and or how you met them. People are very impressed with this and it may gain you an interview, internship, or more.

Enjoy Yourself

Lastly, I want to conclude with just to enjoy yourself. You may get overwhelmed at the conference because there is so much going on. That’s normal, however just make sure to be your best self and have fun! Don’t forget to enjoy the moment and take as many pictures, videos, snaps, etc. as you like! Here are a few of my photos from the conference!