Research has demonstrated that short breaks can increase overall productivity. Next time you take a break, instead of playing Angry Birds, try Sporcle. Sometimes, playing ten rounds of Angry Birds feels relaxing, but at other times, it can seem too mindless and not fulfilling. Using Sporcle, one could instead spend five minutes matching countries and flags, identifying elements of the periodic table from their symbols, and determining which lines of dialogue come from Space Balls and which come from Star Wars, which can feel like time well (or better) spent.
Sporcle has the appropriate tagline “Mentally Stimulating Diversions”, which seems very appropriate. Use of Sporcle will not bring you any closer to finishing that paper or blog post you’re supposed to be writing or knocking items off your lengthy to-do list. However, when combined with self-control, it can provide a few much-needed minutes of entertainment that won’t leave you feeling as though you’ve killed brain cells unnecessarily. You didn’t waste time, you tested your general or subject-specific knowledge and improved the likelihood that you, too, will have what it takes to more successfully compete in pub quizzes.
After the IRB process, what more is there to dread about the path ahead, right? Well, between myself and the dissertation process, there is one large hurdle standing in the way, and that is the comprehensive exams. Every PhD program is structured differently, but in my particular program, I have both a qualifying research project to complete as well as comprehensive exams to move on to the next level: PhD Candidate.
Comprehensive exams are tricky. They are at once highly comprehensive (hence the title) but at the same time personal. You spend your time as a PhD student working hard to chart your own research, but there are common goals of the program that also must be met through your coursework. The balance is seen in your comprehensive exam, testing your own self-paced study while addressing the wide variety of information you have soaked up during your in-class time. It feels daunting, but my guess is that you are far better prepared for it than you imagine. So, in the spirit of my own quest to keep on track, I have compiled this list of tips that I am trying to use to prepare for the dreaded December test.