Stress! August 23, 2006Posted by gordonwatts in Uncategorized.
This is the big exam we give to all of our physics graduate students. They all have to pass this exam. The exam is two days long. See that strip of paper on the right hand side of the picture there? That is a list of all the topics they can be tested on. A full year of physics graduate courses and all of their undergraduate courses. Our department will administer the next round of this test mid September of this year. Four students from our particle experiment group will be taking the exam. Good luck!
The common saying is “You’ll never know more physics than you do for this test.” It is totally correct. Henry, Toby, and I tried to help two students working on a qual problem from several years ago. Toby and Henry are senior professors. I’m getting up there. None of us (except maybe Toby) could look at the problem and solve it right off.
I took my qual 15 years ago or so, at the University of Rochester. The thing that motivated me to study was knowing that if I didn’t do so well I’d get an oral exam. I’ve never done well on oral exams, so I studied like heck to make sure I wouldn’t get one!
I remember sitting down to take the test. I looked through all the problems than thought “Holy ****, there is no way!” It felt like I didn’t recognize a thing. I was just about ready to get up and walk out of the room — I think I’d already starting thinking about other career paths. I looked around the room at the other students. Mark Johnson, probably the best student in our class, was right across from me. He’d also just finished looking through the test. His hands were shaking so bad that he could barely write his name on the test. That, I thought, means I have a chance. I managed to pass — without an oral. Later I found out that the shaking in Mark’s had was most likely due to the excessive number of chocolate covered espresso beans he had consumed…
Good luck everyone!