Well, I’m qualified. I’m not a masters, yet. I still need to dot some “i”s and cross some “t”s for that. Boy, was it a ride, though. Let me give you some of the highlights.
I started writing my qualifier maybe a year ago, and turned it in six months ago. For four months, my advisor was so busy that he was not able to look at it at all, then when he did he effectively said “hey, wow, this looks pretty good as-is!”
I prepared for my presentation for weeks. I practiced maybe five times leading up to my qualifying exam. When I arranged to get my committee, both of my committee members were pregnant. One a woman directly pregnant, another a man part of a pregnant couple. The man, it turned out, was unable to attend when his wife delivered early, so I was informed he would be replaced by another professor. This professor was well-known for asking very hard, technical questions only tangentially related to one’s presentation matter.
What’s more, I had a bad cold. The day before the exam my cold got so bad that I was worried that I might not be able to think/speak for what I expected to be the hardest presentation of my life thus far. I hesitantly contacted the director of graduate programs, who shrugged and said “just reschedule, It’s fine.”
A week later, I finally did take my exam. By this time I had recovered and practiced five more times, roping in my girlfriend to be my presentation as well as exercise coach. I gave her a couple pages of tangential questions to ask at inopportune times, and after the first few times watching my presentations she came up with her own confusing, irrelevant questions. Just kidding, honey, they were good questions.
The morning of I donned my blazer and dress pants – conveniently matching to look like a suit – and my orange creamsicle undershirt – and walked to my presentation room. The first thing we noticed when my advisor and the committee member who had nearly been replaced with the scary committee member arrived was that the other member was not there yet. Her still being very pregnant, we all wondered if we would need to reschedule again. Fortunately she arrived.
After so much build-up, my presentation was smooth, and none of the questions gave me any trouble. At the end, one committee member apologized ahead of time for asking a very “mean question,” and then posed one that would certainly have thrown me. Fortunately, I had been asked that same question in one of my dozen practice presentations, and I rattled the answer off like it was nothing.
Afterwards, my advisor said the committee members were very impressed, then he said it again an hour later. The next day he brought it up in front of some other folks in my lab. He said that I prepared one standard deviation more than the average PhD student, and it showed.