Comprehensive Exam Tips


BETHANY, W.Va. - What are comps really like? Probably pretty close to what you are thinking. At Bethany College comprehensive exams are a long-standing tradition to test a student’s knowledge of all of their major classes. Upperclassmen have separate tests depending on their major and spend one part on written exams and the other on an oral examination led by department faculty.

Do you need to study?  At Bethany, you can’t graduate unless you pass your comps. So the bigger question is do you want to risk not graduating because you don’t feel like studying?

I am not a test taker. Really, I’m not good at studying. I like class discussions and writing my opinion on things. So facing a test on everything I’d ever learned was extremely daunting.

What I found most helpful was surrounding myself with people who are better at studying than I am. Two of my best study partners each had totally different majors than I, but we would all set up afternoon and evening meeting times to sit in our house lounge and study.

Another really helpful asset is a study group within your major. It is almost guaranteed that there is probably someone else in your major who is studying for comps as well. So team up, especially to practice for oral exam questions. Also, set up a schedule of what you want to study together as a group. It will help get the ball rolling.

People will tell you that you only need the week before comps to study, but take into consideration how you are as a student. Do you need more time to get organized with your notes and to make flashcards? I did. Are you terrible at making yourself sit down for hours to study? I am. If anything comps, for me, was a really great lesson in learning more about my own study habits. Finally, at twenty-two.

Another tip is to be good to yourself. Do whatever you do to reduce stress the week before and during comprehensives. Whether that means going for a run, taking a nap, doing yoga, eating well. Just make sure you are good to your body and mind. I did not take this advice and I gave myself tonsillitis from all of the stress I was feeling. That knocked out about three essential study days I couldn’t get back.

My biggest point is to prepare for your preparation. Practice studying.  And if you have been paying attention for the last four years, you have to have retained something. So build on that previous knowledge. As my high school math tutor, Gerry, used to say, “know what you know well”.  Good luck!


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