Maggie called a few weeks ago and asked if I’d be willing to share my experiences of the successfully completing the Comprehensive Exam at the OU SLIS End-of-Program Assessment Orientation. I agreed immediately for two reasons: 1) it is my hope that the sharing of my experiences will help others prepare and pass the exam; 2) there is likely no request Maggie could make that I would deny.
Dr. Kim served as facilitator and sent me a list of eight talking points to guide my presentation (thank you, Dr. Kim :-). The points she sent are italicized; the content I chose to discuss is interspersed (I’ve added a bit more detail in the hopes that the content will make sense to persons other than myself).
1. Introduce yourself:
I began the OU SLIS program in July 2006, took the Comprehensive Exam in June 2008, and graduated in July 2008.
2. Why you chose the option:
Information in Society: Native Peoples of New Mexico was the first course I took in the SLIS program. The goal of this course, taught by Dr. Danny Wallace and Dr. Connie Van Fleet, was to study the distinctions and interrelations between the various types of libraries in the state of New Mexico, i.e., archives, museums, public, state, tribal.
Most of the students enrolled in this course were near the end of the MLIS program (unlike me); therefore, many had already completed the end-of-program requirements, i.e., comps, portfolio, thesis. Believing that I would encounter no better opportunity to poll the experienced, I surveyed my classmates – over the course of several long, intimate bus rides – and received a unanimous recommendation to choose comps over the other two options.
3. Who should choose the option
- Those adept at writing the traditional 5-point paragraph
- Those who do well on essay exams
- Those who actively listen, take good notes, and contemplate the real world application of what they learn in class
- Those who are dedicated enough to set aside a little time each day to study – 90 days prior at the very least
4. Advantages of the option
- Instant camaraderie with those who chose the same option – regardless of whether they took the exam a decade ago or plan to take it next year
- No need to research and write a novella
- No need for an oral presentation
- It’s all over in 4 ½ hours
5. Disadvantages of the option:
- Anxiety and obsession may set in as test day draws near
- If anxiety and obsession set in, sleep may become evasive
- Friends and family may become bored with all the library talk and test-taking tension – and lovingly suggest you find a study buddy
6. Your experience with the option:
- Review materials from the core classes
- Keep up with current events – library serials and library blogs
- Get to know the ALA website – in particular the Bill of Rights, Code of Ethics, and current events on the homepage
- Talk to others who’ve taken the exam to gain both insight and support
- Method I used to determine my preparedness:
- refer to the list of old comps questions
- write out one of the questions
- brainstorm for five minutes
- reread the question to verify it has been addressed and answered properly
- Fall back to English 101:
- write your thesis statement
- make sure the topic sentence of each paragraph refers back to the thesis
- support all generalizations
- Consider evenly dividing the 4 1/2 hours you are allotted to answer three questions by restricting the time you spend on each to 90 minutes
- Consider utilizing the research method. That is, view the question as a research question and restate it as a thesis; support the resulting thesis with several 101-style body paragraphs
- Some questions have a brief introduction to establish context. Read the introduction to begin generating ideas, but be sure that you respond to the question that follows, rather than to the introduction: they aren’t always one and the same
7. If you did it again, what would you do differently?
- worry less
- relax more
- trust in the knowledge I have gained throughout the program
- send a personal thank you note to all of my professors
8. Anything you would like to share
- Consider your health:
- Stay hydrated in order to avoid excessive confusion – but not too hydrated come test day. . . .
- Take regular walks, runs, or bike rides to relieve anxiety, as well as to enhance both memory and confidence
- Consider wearing school colors on test day for a psychological boost :-)
- Best of luck!