Tag Archives: test preparations

The Night Before the Big Game: Comprehensive Exams All or Nothing

In the Funky Winkerbean comic there was a strip that one the the characters made this comment:

“There is no such thing as a “final” exam…if they were they would take you out and shoot you afterward.”

Anyway, the quote may not be exact but it does convey a truth, unless you are living in a country where academic failure is punishable in some way shape or form.  The old Soviet Bloc countries did this well….screw up in Olympic Training Camp and end up picking rotten turnips in a Gulag.  Yummy.

Tomorrow, Tuesday 24 November I take my Comprehensive Exams for my Masters Degree in Military History from American Military University.  It is a venture into the unknown.  In my degree program I performed very well.  I have a 4.0 average in all academic work to this point.  I did very well in Marine Command and Staff College and aced my studies for my Doctor of Ministry. However, this is different, it is one shot, like a World Series appearance.  The rest was regular season stuff, it mattered, but not as much.

The past 7 weeks I have been preparing, unfortunately I really don’t know what for.  The class I believe is taught by the Department Chair, a man from whom I have never taken a course. Thus although I understand the format and expectations I have no earthly idea what he will ask.  I will have to answer four questions in 6 hours.  I’m told that they probably will tie together but it is like going into a game against a pitcher that you have never seen before,  You don’t know his stuff, you don’t know how he works and all you have is your experience and knowledge to face him. As such I am out of my comfort zone with this guy.  In addition I go into the exam at a pretty low point emotionally because of the situation with my parents and just being worn down.  So I will have to dig deep tomorrow to do as well as I want to do.

Despite all of my prior preparation which has included a lot of review and even re-writing of old research papers to put on this site, I am anxious.  My stomach and gastric systems started doing backflips like when I was in California and after my return.  I hardly slept last night and hopefully will not only get to sleep early but actually get some rest before getting an early session of PT in before the exam begins at 0815 and end 6 hours later.  I will be alone with the exam.  A sign will be on my office door warning humanity to stay away.  I can certainly relate to Roger Clemons who said: “If someone met me on a game day, he wouldn’t like me. The days in between, I’m the goodest guy you can find.” For 6 hours tomorrow I will be unlikable.

If I do well I will be celebrating at Gordon Biersch tomorrow night.  If I don’t I will be drowning my sorrows there.  The beer will be the same but the mood a bit different.  It is like Tommy Lasorda once said: “When we win, I’m so happy I eat a lot. When we lose, I’m so depressed, I eat a lot. When we’re rained out, I’m so disappointed I eat a lot.” I can drink happy or sad, I would prefer to celebrate.  It is more fun.

Now I do expect that I will do well.  I want a grade of “Pass With Distinction” versus just a “Pass.”  It will take work and probably drain me as I will not have the time that I normally have to prepare and research my writing.  Heck I take a lot of time to polish what I write here on this site.  I figure if I am lucky that I will have about 65-70 minutes on each question.  I do hope that I can pull it off. But then maybe I need to relax a bit and remember what Bill “Spaceman” Lee said:

“I think about the cosmic snowball theory. A few million years from now the sun will burn out and lose its gravitational pull. The earth will turn into a giant snowball and be hurled through space. When that happens it won’t matter if I get this guy out.”

Maybe I just need to pass the damned thing and get it done with.  Well I need to get ready for bed.  Nothing much more to do. I just gotta go out and do what I’ve worked so long and hard to do. I’ve wanted a Masters in History since my undergrad days. This is for all the marbles.  I hate to lose and will be pissed at me if I do not kick this thing in the ass.  This is my World Series, at least until the next time….Ph.D. anyone?


Padre Steve+


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