Preparing for the Qualifying Exam

Preparing for the Qualifying Exam Featured Image

With my qualifying exam coming up in August, I thought it would be fun to talk about how I’m preparing. After all, I’m terrible at tests, so I figured it might be worth taking things a bit more seriously this time around.

Table of Contents

Qualifying Exam Logistics

From my understanding, the qualification exam is a test that forces me to retake three finals at once. Those three topics are based on the core classes I chose in my first year of the program: algorithms, programming languages, and operating systems. Or, as the department website states it:

The Qualifying Examination is based on the material covered in the graduate core areas. Specifically, students need to take the exam in algorithms, either computability and unsolvability or programming languages, and either operating systems or computer architecture.

At this time, I have literally no idea what to expect, and it’s making me kind of nervous. After all, I haven’t been good at studying or taking tests since I got back from industry. In addition, some of the topics are way out of my wheelhouse like proving graph theory in algorithms. In fact, I’m extremely worried about the algorithms portion of the exam. The other two topics are a bit of a tossup.

How to Study for the Qualifying Exam

Here’s my plan. I’m going to launch a new set of posts that target each of the areas that that I’m most worried about. Since the topics are going to be mostly unrelated, I won’t be making a special series for them. However, I do plan to link them here as each new article is published.

In particular, these are topics I plan to study—and hopefully write about:

  • Dynamic Programming
  • Greedy Algorithms
  • Graph Theory
  • RSA Encryption
  • Mutual Exclusion
  • Deadlock Prevention and Avoidance
  • Attribute Grammars
  • Lisp

Of course, I’m sure I’ll dig up plenty more topics as I start studying. That said, I wanted to make sure I had a plan set out. With just two months to go before the exam (at the time of writing), I want to be more prepared than ever.

Wish Me Luck

Usually, I’d write a much longer article, but I don’t really have much else to say. All I know is that I have to get to work if I want to pass this exam. If all goes well, a major weight will be lifted again. In other words, wish me luck!

If you haven’t been following me on this journey, I recommend checking some of the posts that talk about how I got this far:

If you’re reading this post, you’re already a member. That said, I’d appreciate it if you shared this post with your friends. I could use the support!

Journey to a PhD (49 Articles)—Series Navigation

As my current career trajectory shifts away from engineering, I find myself in a peculiar position as a PhD student. As I explore the latest concepts in Computer Science, you can find that journey documented here in my series titled Journey to a PhD.

Jeremy Grifski

Jeremy grew up in a small town where he enjoyed playing soccer and video games, practicing taekwondo, and trading Pokémon cards. Once out of the nest, he pursued a Bachelors in Computer Engineering with a minor in Game Design. After college, he spent about two years writing software for a major engineering company. Then, he earned a master's in Computer Science and Engineering. Today, he pursues a PhD in Engineering Education in order to ultimately land a teaching gig. In his spare time, Jeremy enjoys spending time with his wife, playing Overwatch and Phantasy Star Online 2, practicing trombone, watching Penguins hockey, and traveling the world.

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