2 min read

Comprehensive ExBAM

Comprehensive ExBAM

Happy May Day!

Today I sat my comprehensive exam.

I sat at a laptop with no internet access and wrote 4064 words in four hours expounding most of what I know about Romanticism. There are two parts: written and oral. You only go to the oral if you pass the written. I’ll know whether I did in the next two days.

I’ve been preparing for months, reading and re-reading novels, poetry, non-fiction, secondary material. I did not feel prepared; my practice exams were underwhelming. I can talk about this stuff for hours, and I read swiftly, but I write slowly; I couldn’t seem to adequately complete a question in less than two hours, and I needed to answer three questions in four hours.

I’d been alone in my flat for almost three weeks on account of Stu visiting family in Scotland. I wasn’t feeding myself properly, reading until words blurred into belly pangs. I was really, really scared. I couldn’t seem to make people understand how scared. Of course everyone who loves me knows I live and breathe this stuff, but that only made the very real possibility of failure the more terrifying.

My sister and parents brought me food and a nerve-soothing nephew. My amazing fellow grad students went out to dinner with me and calmed me down after the hash I made of my first practice exam, telling me about their own experiences. My amazing, brilliant, perfect supervisor kept assuring me I’d be fine. Yesterday, when I was in practically a fugue state of fear, Claire and Carlos took turns talking to me on the phone in what felt like a sequence of full body massage for the soul.

I slept fitfully last night in spite of turning in early. I woke at 6:30 and took the morning very slowly. I got to campus in plenty of time. My supervisor — who is literally a goddess from whose steps flowers must surely bloom — supplied me with fruits and nuts and brought me tea during the exam.

And I just sat and wrote.

4064 words, and I keep re-reading what I wrote and thinking, you know, it kind of makes sense? Even the bit where I totally somehow managed to absolutely for real legitimately write Hamilton into my Romanticism comp?


When I stood up my hands were shaking and my legs were jelly and I kept softly laughing to myself about literally nothing. (I think I made a joke about Scott and Hogg playing tennis doubles? My poor committee.) Stu arrived at the airport at roughly the moment I finished the exam. We raced each other home. My supervisor firmly prescribed a beer and no work for the rest of the day. I sneakily managed to file my taxes anyway. (After cuddling my husband. And drinking the beer. And taking a very long nap.)

I don’t know if I passed yet. But I completed it.

That’s got to be something.

Edited to Add: I passed! On to the oral!