I struggled with today’s blog post because I have so much to do, but I also have so much to talk about considering how many posts I’ve missed over the past few weeks while trying to catch up with school.
Right now, what’s worrying me is my Preliminary Exam on Oct. 25. The reading List for it is massive (over 100 books, plus Award winning journal articles, a list of several important articles in the field, and reading over several issues of major Rhetoric journals in the field, just to name a few. Last time I took the test, I got sick the week before and wasn’t able to put my best foot forward in terms of doing what I needed to do and structuring the essays (3 in a five (5) hour period) well enough to do as well as I wanted.
2 Fast Reader = 2 Little Information
So, how do you combat this? By being a quick reader, or more accurately, by skimming a lot of the material and remembering key points from the text. There are even students who don’t read the entire book, but are able to “B.S.” their way through based on summaries, abstracts, etc. (and here I’m speaking more about class than the Prelims, but it essentially works the same way).
My problem, as I’ve said before, is that when I read slowly, I retain much more of it for a longer time. The more I skim, the quicker I lose what I’m actually able to comprehend. The Preliminary Exam is a necessary step in the PhD process, but considering that I’m teaching, grading, taking a class (which means reading for the class and watching movies for the class), and generally surviving–paying bills, running errands, etc., it makes it incredibly difficult to go through the myriad of works that are asked of me by the exam.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race (or at least They’re Supposed To)
I’m much better when I get to read slowly and deeply. Right now, I’ve finished rereading 5-6 of my favorite novels just by reading a section (or chapter) or two at night. It depends on my mood: how late it is, how tired I am, what I have to do the next day, how early I need to get up, etc., but I usually average anywhere from 2-3 pages (the usual length of a section) to 10 -15 pages (usual length of a chapter). Over time, this really adds up.
I’ve tried to do this over the summer, but it has been difficult because academic reading requires a whole new set of muscles. To read academically, you have to stop and look for key terms and key points, you have read and engage with the text (usually with a highlighter or by underlining) which adds additional time. Then you also have to untangle the turgid writing of many scholars–again, scholars are in love with the language and many scholars seem to subscribe to the idea that being obtuse is the mark of “smart” person. Many arguments are so dense and the writing so turgid, that it takes so much more effort to untangle their meaning than it does for popular work, so slow and steady means double (sometimes triple) the time and even getting up early to read means that it may take two or three days to unravel a 25-30 page journal article, much less a 250-300 page academic work.
All this means that while I’ve read and been attentive to reading, I’ve read far less than I’m comfortable with for the test given that I really need to pass the test.
The Prelims favor one of two people: 1) those who can read fast (skim) and retain it or 2) those who have massive amounts of time and far fewer responsibilities in order maximize their time for reading. Neither of those are me: in the past two weeks, I have researched and done a presentation and spent the time grading (daily work & Project Proposals). Arrgh!
I can only hope that I might be able to do well on the test by having read the “right” things, but I’m still concerned with 3 weeks to go that I’ve spent far too much time on grading and teaching and not enough on reading for the Prelims–which is not a situation that I wanted to find myself in. Again. Snarf!
Well, thanks for listening to my rambling on about school–have a great day!
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(Sci-Fi) Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
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