Ten Strategies to Consider When Writing Your Comp Exam

by | June 29, 2012

Here are ten strategies that may foster your success in the Comprehensive Examination:

1. Prepare for the exam—get your systems, reference materials, and timeline in place.

2. Make sure your work and life contexts are situated to help you succeed. Make sure you have enough time this quarter to dedicate to writing the examination. Do not under estimate the work involved and the academic challenge before you.

3. Read all three questions. Determine which one is the hardest, most difficult, or the one you least prefer to do. Write that one first. Choose the next hardest question second. Save the easiest one for last. By the time you get to your third question, you and your brain likely will be very tired.

4. Relax and take deep breaths throughout the process. Breathing deeply periodically will help calm you and provide oxygen to your brain.

5. Keep your APA manual (6th edition) at your side. Read it now and make notes in it, if you find that writing in margins a strategy that is helpful. Become familiar with its contents. Use post-it note tabs that stick out of the manual with a handwritten note regarding what that page contains, e.g., Block Quotations. That way, you will quickly find what you need.

6. Hydrate—drink water. The brain functions more effectively when it is hydrated.

7. Get up and leave your desk every hour and walk around and clear your head for 10 minutes. Don’t plow through, glued to your chair. You won’t be as effective, and you won’t be as efficient, if you force yourself to sit for hours at a time. Give your eyes, your brain, and your body a break.

8. Dissect the questions. Identify the levels embedded in each question. Address each level directly and completely.

9. Pay attention to the verbs in the questions, e.g., describe, analyze, apply, evaluate, synthesize. Do what the verbs tell you to do. Critically analyze the questions and understand and apply Bloom’s Taxonomy.

10. Write well. Consult the Capella Writing Center. It is an excellent resource. Develop ideas thoroughly. Be concise. Make every work count. Use the semi-colon (;) very sparingly. Cite your sources–even when paraphrasing. Follow proper APA guidelines. Make the Comprehensive Examination your best work ever.