Long exams

  • MSUBioNerd

    Posts: 1813

    Apr 24, 2008 3:37 AM GMT
    Today I took one of the longest exams in my life to date. (If I've been short with anyone recently, I apologize, and point to this damn exam as partial explanation.) It was my dissertation proposal/oral qualifier/comprehensive exam all rolled into one; essentially, I turned in a written draft of what I'm proposing to do as my thesis 2 weeks ago (with an extensive literature review and all my preliminary data on my attempts at this research), and today I spent 3 hours discussing it and verbally answering whatever questions were asked of me. Most of these were related to my proposal, but some were considerably further afield, and at least a few made me feel like I was a blithering idiot because they concerned things I remember learning as a Sophomore in college but couldn't recall now. Then there was the god awful 10 minute wait in the hallway while they discussed whether I passed, and then 20 minutes of me getting feedback after thankfully being told I had. So, overall, 3.5 hours, but now all I have to do is spend the next 3 or so years actually doing all of these experiments and trying to publish the results.

    This is considerably longer than my previous qualifier (I switched schools when one of my two advisors left the previous one 3 years into my grad work, and when I wouldn't have fit all that well in either of the labs without the other one present. I essentially started over after having once made it to ABD status there as well), which was only around 45 minutes long. The longest written exams I've had as true exams, instead of take home exams or term papers or the like, were all 3 hours--the assorted GREs, a slew of AP exams, several of the national math competitions in high school, that sort of thing. A given time writing generally doesn't feel as long as the same amount of time speaking, in part because you're much more on the spot in an oral exam than in a written one, but they're still significant. I know that the MCAT is 6 hours and 45 minutes not including the breaks, so that's obviously way out there, but thank goodness it's one I'll never have to take.

    But I'm now curious: what's the longest exam any of you have taken?
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    Apr 24, 2008 3:40 AM GMT
    My Master's Oral Exams before a board of professors.
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    Apr 24, 2008 3:50 AM GMT
    It must have been the Calif. bar exam, which was over three days, though I don't remember the total number of hours.

    Congratulations, MSUBioNerd! Thank goodness you got the feedback AFTER they told you you passed.
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    Apr 24, 2008 3:53 AM GMT
    congrats!

    the longest exam for me was about 2 hours. but the exams are nothing compared to all the damn prep work and then all the assignments/projects that get heaped on you once you "pass"
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    Apr 24, 2008 5:38 AM GMT
    Entrance exams to the University of the Philippines. I passed (98%) but didn't take the slot because it was on another island and I wasn't ready to leave home yet at 16. heh
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    Apr 24, 2008 11:05 AM GMT
    The Flight Instructor checkride I'm taking in a few weeks. Eight hour oral examination followed by a four hour flight (usually the next day, thank God) is not unheard of.

    Maybe I should've waited to post this until after I finished...
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    Apr 24, 2008 2:35 PM GMT
    Congratulations BioNerd! I'm sure that you are INCREDIBLY relieved.

    As for written exams, I thought that the MCAT was the longest exam and required tons stamina and endurance in order focus on all of the reading passages.

    My thesis defense was the probably the toughest exam of my life because my advisor and I weren't on speaking terms at the time of my defense. (The fact that I was told that I couldn't use the word 'the' in my dissertation because it was an unnecessary word was the straw that broke the camel's back.) I was expecting a beating behind the woodshed and after my 1 hour defense and 2 hour browbeating about EVERYTHING related to isotope geochemistry, I managed to come out relatively unscathed and with a pretty degree hanging in my foyer.

    Again, Congratulations ... even if you are attending the evil empire in my old stomping grounds! icon_razz.gif
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    Apr 24, 2008 3:25 PM GMT
    Congratulations. Yeah, my orals were about the same, although by that time, the thesis topic was pretty well fixed, so the written portion was an all new proposal for a hypothetical project. (Mine was later funded for $500K, but I was gone by then, and somehow never shared in it.)

    I remember being shown a new conference room that was designed with an en suite lavatory and drinking fountain, specifically to prevent examinees from escaping down the hall.

    There are two keys to shortening the exam. 1) Select a diverse committee. No two should be from the same field. That way, they can't gang up on you - they're always uncomfortable because they don't know the answers to the other guy's questions either. 2) Select an exam date when one or more of the committee has a plane to catch - although this usually takes care of itself.

  • BronxvilleNY3...

    Posts: 101

    Apr 24, 2008 3:40 PM GMT
    United State Medical Lisence Examination

    USMLE step 1. 350 multiple-choice questions on computer 8 hour duration

    USMLE step 2 cs. 12 standardized patients ( 11 scored) 8 hours duration

    USMLE step 2 CK. 370 multiple-choice questions on computer 9 hour duration

    USMLE step 3. 480 multiple-choice and 9 clinical simulations (all computerized) 16 hours ( 2 days)

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    Apr 24, 2008 6:18 PM GMT
    mindgarden said ......There are two keys to shortening the exam. 1) Select a diverse committee. No two should be from the same field. That way, they can't gang up on you - they're always uncomfortable because they don't know the answers to the other guy's questions either.


    [A little off topic]
    A diverse committee may be the key to shortening an exam, but passing it is the more important consideration. During my PhD thesis defense, my thesis advisor suddenly interrupted my presentation to announce to everyone that he objected to this portion of my thesis. This was a shock to me as he had never mentioned that he had an objection (in fact, I don't remember that he had objected to anything other than editorial factors). Fortunately another committee member (same field, different approach) responded with: "Well, I think it's a great idea!" They then got into an arguement between themselves that seemed like it went on a very long time, but probably wasn't. It was, however, enough time for me to gather my wits back together and proceed on. At the conclusion of the defense, my thesis advisor said: "You can leave now." As I was leaving, I overheard the two continue their earlier argument.

    I wasn't aware of the detailed protocols of the exam process. So when they said I could leave, I took it literally and went home, fixed a lunch, then came back to my office. After being there a little while my thesis advisor peeked in and said: "Oh, there you are. We were looking all over for you. Congratulations, you passed!" So I guess to my good fortune, the committee member who was arguing on my side of the argument with my thesis advisor probably won the argument.
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    Apr 24, 2008 7:32 PM GMT
    I had 3 committee members from very different chemical fields (a geochemist, an analytical chemist, and an organic chemist specializing in chem separation) which made things rather amusing when it came to our monthly meetings regarding my research project. Granted, it probably helped me in the long haul because I was able to explain (in GREAT detail) the ins and outs of my research since it had to be explained Sesame Street style to certain members of my research committee.

    However, it was also incredibly problematic when my research was going absolutely nowhere for 8 months due to an incredibly OBVIOUS problem that should have been quickly alleviated if another committee member had any knowledge regarding the workings of certain instruments. Not that I'm bitter at all, icon_lol.gif
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    Apr 24, 2008 9:55 PM GMT
    MSUBioNerd saidToday I took one of the longest exams in my life to date. (If I've been short with anyone recently, I apologize, and point to this damn exam as partial explanation.) It was my dissertation proposal/oral qualifier/comprehensive exam all rolled into one; essentially, I turned in a written draft of what I'm proposing to do as my thesis 2 weeks ago (with an extensive literature review and all my preliminary data on my attempts at this research), and today I spent 3 hours discussing it and verbally answering whatever questions were asked of me. Most of these were related to my proposal, but some were considerably further afield, and at least a few made me feel like I was a blithering idiot because they concerned things I remember learning as a Sophomore in college but couldn't recall now. Then there was the god awful 10 minute wait in the hallway while they discussed whether I passed, and then 20 minutes of me getting feedback after thankfully being told I had. So, overall, 3.5 hours, but now all I have to do is spend the next 3 or so years actually doing all of these experiments and trying to publish the results.

    This is considerably longer than my previous qualifier (I switched schools when one of my two advisors left the previous one 3 years into my grad work, and when I wouldn't have fit all that well in either of the labs without the other one present. I essentially started over after having once made it to ABD status there as well), which was only around 45 minutes long. The longest written exams I've had as true exams, instead of take home exams or term papers or the like, were all 3 hours--the assorted GREs, a slew of AP exams, several of the national math competitions in high school, that sort of thing. A given time writing generally doesn't feel as long as the same amount of time speaking, in part because you're much more on the spot in an oral exam than in a written one, but they're still significant. I know that the MCAT is 6 hours and 45 minutes not including the breaks, so that's obviously way out there, but thank goodness it's one I'll never have to take.

    But I'm now curious: what's the longest exam any of you have taken?


    Actually the MCAT has been shortened to 5 hrs 45 min including breaks. Yeah, before it was shortened the total time spent at the testing site was around 8 hrs....NOT FUN
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    Apr 28, 2008 4:36 PM GMT
    Probably my GMAT which I had to write to get into MBA school. I can't remember how long it was but I know there was a break. Must have been at least 4 hours.

    The intimidating aspect of the GMAT in 1984 was the penalization for wrong answers. It really discouraged guessing (it was a multiple choice exam).
  • GQjock

    Posts: 11649

    Apr 28, 2008 9:18 PM GMT
    Yeah...have to say that the MCAT's were grueling
    it's like the test that never ends icon_eek.gif

    and in mine I got the essay portion as the last portion
    I think I went home and slept for 2 days str8
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    Apr 28, 2008 9:22 PM GMT
    the cumulative final for medical-surgical nursing in my previous semester. i didn't finish until 10 minutes before time was called, the exam lasted about 2.5 hours tops. it was PAINFUL, our instructors wrote out questions that made the NCLEX review a breeze.
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    Apr 28, 2008 9:44 PM GMT
    I can definitely sympathize, switching from music performance to mechanical engineering has left me with little tolerance for liberal arts majors who complain about school being too tough.

    I just got done with my junior level exams last week and I'm pretty sure my professors had to be taking bets on which students would crack. The average test scores were all in the 40s and thats out of 100. It was like that all semester too, thank god its over! I hear graduate school is easier though, I hope so.

    Let's all have a nice tall beverage to drown out our sorrows! Slainte.