The Comps Exam, more formally known as “The Competency Exam” is different in format and positioning (i.e. when you take it) for every Ph.D. program. In my program, the Learning, Design, and Technology Ph.D. program (formally Instructional Systems or INSYS) at Penn State, there are three main advancement points:
- Candidacy Exam
- Competency Exam
- Dissertation Defense
I completed my Candidacy Exam in December 2012, after about a year and a half in the program. I was given a topic to write on, related to the topic I was interested in at the time and fortunately happens to still be my research topic- Goal Orientation Theory, and several questions about the topic. I had to write about that and submit a paper and then discuss it with two members of my committee, including my advisor. It’s crazy to think that I’ve been writing and conducting research on the same topic for two years!
I mentioned my Comps Exam in my November Goals post last month. Well I can officially check that goal off! Not only did I schedule my exam, but I passed it too! Students take the Comps Exam in Ph.D. programs at varying points in their program. I seem to be taking it later than most of my peers (I think?), and have made more progress on my writing and research than some others have prior to the actual exam. I’ve already collected all of my data and have been working on the analysis, while writing my Comps paper (the first three chapters of my dissertation) for several months. While this may seem like a good thing, it was actually very nerve wracking because I was worried that my committee members might not have agreed with my research methodology, how I collected my data, what data I collected, etc… and I really did not want to collect more data for a variety of reasons.
But all went well! I’m thrilled that I had a successful Comps exam and am looking forward to my defense in the Spring. I officially have until March 6, 2015 to pass my defense if I want to walk in the May graduation, so my goal is to defend by late February. If I don’t meet that deadline, it’s not the end of the world, but I work much better with defined deadlines so I’m setting that as a goal for myself moving into 2015.
I took a few pictures while in State College for my exam. I was fortunate to have my Mom join me on the trip. She really took my mind off things and helped me be somewhat less nervous while preparing for the exam. We stayed at two different hotels for the trip. Ready to hear why? Because I was one stay short of being a Diamond Hilton member for 2015. There’s probably no chance of me every gaining that status again so I figured I should enjoy it while it lasts.
When we checked into the Hampton Inn State College I had a sweet note waiting for me from one of the managers. I got to know him while staying there the first two years in my program. I later switched to another property, the Hilton Garden Inn, but I really prefer the Hampton.
The morning of my Comps Exam I drove the less than two miles to downtown State College and parked at my regular spot – Fraiser Parking deck. Parking at Penn State, as with most large universities, is rather inconvenient. There are parking decks (i.e. high rise parking garages) downtown which run parallel to the University Park campus. Those are typically much more centrally located than any student parking options, which are down by the stadium. I haven’t had a student parking pass for nearly two years since I gave up making the long walk from the stadium or waiting for the busses which are often much too packed with loud undergraduate students.
I stopped by “my” Starbucks and made the walk across campus to the Keller Building for my exam. I loved seeing the familiar sights along the way – the Alumni Gardens, my old office, Old Main, etc…I really do love State College.
My exam took place in a rather nondescript sort of room! After everyone left I had to grab this picture. It’s hard to believe that only moments before this was captured, several hours of serious discussion and questioning were taking place!
After my Comps Exam was concluded, Mom and I checked into Hotel #2 – The Nittany Lion Inn!
I’ve always wanted to stay here, and have had drinks in their Whiskers Bar/Cafe for the last few years after classes with friends. Mom treated us to a celebratory stay! I ended up not taking any pictures of our room (though it was beautiful with two canopy beds!) because there was a bit of drama with our set up. Our first room didn’t have heat! Which we discovered after we had unpacked. So we needed to switch rooms, but it end up being a slightly larger room so it all worked out.
The Inn does a wonderful job decorating for Christmas. In fact, they were hanging large wreaths on the front doors when we pulled up! My favorite detail was this Gingerbread House replica of the Inn.
Mom and I ended our visit with a concert at the Bryce Jordan Center – Trans-Siberian Orchestra. After hearing their music for years, I noticed that they had a performance while we were in State College and thought it would be a great way to end our trip – regardless of the outcome. I hoped I would pass Comps, but it certainly wasn’t a given. This ended up being the perfect celebratory trip!