time reversal

the stories of four physicists separated by the whims of fate

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Studying for the Qualifying Exam

August 21st, 2008 by william

For the past month or so I have been studying for a qualifying exam that is part of my Ph.D. program at UI. Over this period of time I been in varying states of panic and fear, and I have come to realize after talking to some of my fellow first-years that this process in not completely dissimilar to the classic Kubler-Ross model for grief. According to the all knowing Wikipedia, the stages of grief are as follows:

1. Denial: “I feel fine.” or “This can’t be happening.”
2. Anger: “Why me? It’s not fair!”
3. Bargaining: “I’ll do anything, can’t you stretch it out? A few more years.”
4. Depression: “I’m so sad, why bother with anything?”
5. Acceptance: “It’s going to be OK.”

The stages for studying for the qualifying exam seem to follow this pattern:
1. Denial: “I am not worried. The test isn’t for a few months.”
2. Anger: “How could I have forgotten so much? Why doesn’t that work?”
3. Bargaining: “OK, I learn some special relativity, then I’ll watch a movie.”
4. Fear: “The test is in a week! I have to figure out this problem right now!”
5. Acceptance: “Just write out the damn integral” or “I have no idea how to do part E, but I think I can do enough to pass”

Sometimes step 4 and 5 may follow a more traditional path if one is not sufficiently motivated/stubborn.
4. Depression: “I am never going to learn all of this by Monday.”
5. Acceptance: “There is always next year!”

The test in on Monday and Tuesday of next week, and right now I am somewhere between Fear and Acceptance. Wish me luck!

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