Countdown to the Comps

You'll see fliers in the department at the end of each semester announcing signups for the Comps. Does that mean it's time to sign up and hit the books? Frankly, you should have started well before then. The exams are administered at the beginning of the following semester, and good preparation takes much longer than a few weeks during the break. Besides, professors are hard to track down during the break, and one of your best resources is asking professors for help.

After you take the graduate class that corresponds to a particular exam, it takes about one more semester to prepare thoroughly for the Comps. You'll need to organize the material in your own way, let it sink in, and practice applying it to solve problems. In many fields, you can do this as you take the second semester of the graduate class. Even if that second-semester material is not covered directly on the Comps, learning it will reinforce the concepts you learned in the first semester and give you practice applying that material in context.


Goal exam date Spring 202n Fall 202n
Take first semester graduate class Spring 202(n-1) Fall 202(n-1)
Organize notes, learn theorems, practice problems, consult with other scholars Fall 202(n-1) Spring 202n
Take second semester class, if available Fall 202(n-1) Spring 202n
Sign up for exam December 202(n-1) May 202n
Final review January 202n Summer 202n
Take the exam! February 202n September 202n