How should I approach a rewrite of my comprehensive exam?

by | April 30, 2012

Podcast Description: Some are going to fail the comprehensive exam on their initial attempt. They will, however, have an opportunity and two weeks in which to rewrite the failed portion of the exam using feedback from the readers.

Transcript: The following presentation is a production of Capella University and is not intended for commercial use.

Welcome to another topic in a series of podcasts regarding aspects of the comprehensive exam and dissertation process.

Every quarter it happens to a certain percentage of Capella learners–they fail their comprehensive examination on the first attempt. But failing the initial attempt at comps does not mean you have failed and are out of the program. Instead, it just means that you are in what is called a “rewrite,” a period of two weeks when you are given an opportunity to improve your original submission. This podcast explains the rewrite process.

The first step in a rewrite is to take stock of your emotions. It is all right to be upset for a short time about failing one or more of the questions. However, you need to get your emotions under control so that you can get back to the task at hand.

The same readers who are comparing your exam to the rubric available to all who are taking comps will also provide feedback about why you failed to get enough points to pass. The key to being successful on the rewrite attempt is to absorb and understand the feedback. The feedback will be much more effective if you have been able to get your emotions under control and if you view the feedback as a helpful resource. The rewrite will go back to the same readers, and they will look very specifically to see if the areas of concern they mentioned have been addressed in the rewrite.

For example, the first section of the rubric focuses on your thinking. Readers will let you know if they think you answered the question completely, whether your researching helped you develop an adequate literature review to support your answers and whether you used Bloom’s cognitive levels as called for in each question. This is the area that especially tests whether you understood, and actually responded to the questions as asked, and whether you were able to synthesize, evaluate, and analyze those journal articles to make sure you were making your strongest arguments.

Another section of the rubric focuses on how well you communicated the ideas you intended to convey. This is where your writing skills will be on full display. Readers might comment on whether you included an introduction (if you did not, then do it on the rewrite), whether your response was organized and whether your writing was clear. If the readers give you examples of problems they found with your grammar, usage and mechanics (which some readers will refer to as GUM), they might even give you a few examples.

So, the rubric looks at both the way you think through a question and the way in which you are able to convey what you have learned to the readers. If you have great research but are not able to demonstrate that to the reader, then you will certainly have to improve your writing skills for the rewrite.

If you receive a notice that you have failed one, two, or all three of the questions, you will have two weeks to complete the rewrite of your comps. Once you have processed any feelings of disappointment, it is important to get back to work. You have only two weeks to complete the rewrite. The second thing you need to do is read the feedback with a determined eye to see what you need to do to pass. The third thing is to set a timeline so you will be done in two weeks. You might want to split up your two weeks in this way: spend the first several days doing additional research, then spend several days reworking and improving your responses, and finally spend at least three or four days re-reading, revising and re-reading again. Reading your comps out loud is one of the best ways to hear the awkward sentences that need to be fixed.

When you go back to the feedback, focus on the readers’ specific concerns. If a reader says you did not answer the question, then go back to the question and figure out what you missed. If the question asks you to compare and contrast, that is what you were supposed to do. If it asks you for a case study, you do not compare and contrast—you provide a case study. You have to understand what the question is asking–and the levels of Bloom’s it is asking you to employ as you respond. That is the first item on the rubric—did you answer the question completely?

If you are feeling really pressed for time on your rewrite, then you might have to make some hard decisions about where you will focus. Go back to the rubric and look at the point potentials for each of the areas to help guide you. You might decide to focus the time answering and refining the question rather than fully addressing APA format.

Above all, use your time and feedback wisely when you need to rewrite your comprehensive exam.

Remember, you bring unique circumstances to your doctoral journey. Follow up with your doctoral advisor for clarification and additional information about the dissertation process.

This presentation has been brought to you by Capella University and may not be re-transmitted or used for any commercial purpose without the expressed written consent of Capella University.

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