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Golden Rule #5: Have an exam day plan

It will help you immensely if you have a plan and know what to expect on your exam day.

  • The morning of:
  • Dress appropriately. This is usually professional or business dress. Look good… Feel good.
  • Eat a small meal. Even if you are nervous, try to eat a small meal. Your exam may be upwards of three hours, so you really need to fuel your brain and body.
  • Ensure that you have reliable transportation to the exam location and that you account for unforeseen delays.
  • Bring some water or juice for yourself - you're going to do lots of talking. However, you are not expected to bring any refreshments for the committee.
  • Get to the exam room with ample to do any preparation or set up. Open the door, turn on the lights, heat or AC, and set up any audio-visual equipment that you may need. After that do not wait in the room, go for a walk and watch your time. Be back to your exam site five minutes before your exam.

During your exam:

  • Understand the time constraints of the exam. Use your watch to keep abreast of time and pace yourself accordingly. Speak slowly, and clearly. Do not cut off any of your examiners when they are speaking (as they are using up time that could be filled with more questions for you!).
  • At the break, leave the exam room and go for a brief walk, or stretch outside, in another hallway, or in the restroom. You are half way there!
  • At the end of the examination, be sure to thank all of your examiners politely for their time, consideration and efforts.

After you pass your exam try to take some time to celebrate with family and friends. It is a big accomplishment, and you should reward yourself for your efforts.

Don't be discouraged if you don't pass the first time. Although the most students pass with no problem, many students receive a "not pass" the first time. Your committee wants you to be the best that you can be, and they may have identified an area or two that you need to concentrate on, building strengths or gaining more knowledge. You may have to take the exam again, or perhaps just TA a class or rewrite a proposal.

Don’t look at a "no pass" as a "vote of no confidence." It’s the responsibility of your committee to make sure that you’re ready to advance to candidacy. The vast majority of those who are required to take the exam a second time pass with no problem.