Prelims 2: The Revenge
The Preliminary Qualification Test and You: A Survival Guide. "Why do they call it prelims if it takes two years to study for it?" --Anonymous Preparation The prelim exams are carefully constructed and designed to test everything about your field. As such, you should devote at least three hours a week to gaining this knowledge during your first year of preparation, and five to eight hours per week in your second year. The savvy prelim victim can save all this time when he or she realizes that because of a recency effect in memory, everything learned more than two weeks before the test will not remembered, and so an equally successful strategy is to spend the 96 hours before the test gaining this knowledge. The Reading List For historical reasons, the list of papers from which you should draw your references is called the "Reading List". Like the terms "Peer Review" and "Liberal Arts", this harkens back to a simpler time when students actually read the articles on this list. The last Michigan "Preliminator" to attempt to read this was a young Frank Yates. Actually, Frank accidentally read the Social Psychology list. No ill effects resulted, and when others got wind of this, the "Reading" List became an historical anachronism. Choosing the Questions Your choice of questions is of utmost importance. There are several camps in choosing a question. One philosophy is to avoid vaguely-phrased and overly-broad question. A second philosophy is to avoid questions that specifically ask you to compare two narrow aspects of psychology. A third, meta-philosophy embraces both of these philosophies, and attempts to avoid all questions. This being said, the wise prelim writer will choose questions to answer based solely on the identity of the reader. Keep in mind that you have read two introductory articles on the topic, while they are an expert in the field. Choose well, your fate is in their hands. Location, Location, Location An essential factor in performing well is the location you choose to write your answers. You should choose a quiet place, free of distractions, which will allow you to focus on demonstrating your hard-learned knowledge. Here is a short list of previous Michigan Prelim stars and their test-taking locations: Amos Tversky: Rackham Study Hall Ed Smith: Graduate Library Study Hall Steven Yantis: Graduate Library Study Carrel #7-145 Ed Awh: Graduate Library Study Carrel #7-142 Andrea Patalano: Michigan Law Library Anat Geva: The Brown Jug Dan Horn: Casino Windsor Anonymity: Above all, your most important goal as a test-taker should be as follows: UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES ALLOW THE READER TO KNOW YOUR IDENTITY. Paranoia is your friend. Even though policy requires that your answers be identified only by an ID number, any suspicion the reader has of who wrote the answer will only provide them with a wealth of personal experience on which to base their evaluation, and encourage them to personalize the critique in a way that can only be deleterious. The mediocre student will find their grade reflects the reader's expectations of them. The star pupil will be held to an overly strict criteria. Just think, do you wish your grade to be tainted by the stupid question you asked during an MPA talk, or your poor first-semester teacher evaluations? Do you want the grader to remember the time you called them at 2:00 am from jail, or when you claimed in a brown-bag lunch that neuro-imaging doesn't exist? The following methods can be used to increase your anonymity: *Have another student write your answers *Cut-and-Paste text from magazine ads instead of typing *Type with your left hand *"Accidently" place another student's name on your paper, then cross out with #2 pencil *Cite references from other test-takers C.V.s Content: One quickly learns in the scientific community that no thoughts are original. As such, base all content decisions on the advice found in the next section. References: Even more than content, you will be evaluated on the references you cite. This shows that you are able to take others ideas and integrate them together in a way that twists their thoughts and words to mean anything you choose. You should choose these references in order to build a coherent argument about why you understand the topic well, covering the relevant ideas and data. Use the following scale to evaluate your reference list. No answer should be considered finished without a score of at least 10,000 points. (example: Thad Polk is a reader) Score: +1000 for reference to publication of a reader. e.g.: As Polk (1997) states... +500 for reference to reader's advisor or former boss. e.g.: As Newell (1991) proposes.. As Farah (1996) clearly demonstrated... +250 for reference to a reader's friend or former classmate. e.g.: As Lewis (1995) eloquently wrote.... +100 for department Chair. e.g.: As Smith (1978) illuminated.... +50 for other member of department. e.g.: As Reuter-Lorenz (1993) proved.... +50 for a reference to William James, Sigmund Freud, Norm Chomsky, B.F. Skinner, or Mike Posner. e.g.: Even Freud (1904) realized that memory.... +50 for other reference from the "reading" list. e.g.: As Rumelhart (1989) showed.... +1 for any other references. Completion: Now, your are finished. You have shown you can apply knowledge of a field that less than a thousand people on earth care about by writing a document three people will read and two will understand, and none will care about. You have learned valuable lessons. One day, you too will be a reader for preliminary qualifying exams. When that time comes, remember: Read each answer carefully, and be sure to grade all parts of each. Remember that your are trying to show how poorly the writer understands the prelim readings, so look for references to the material from the readinglist where appropriate. Of course, there is no reason to think that you cannot criticize for not including supplementary material as well, where you think it is germane. The exams are graded under the honor code. You are not to discuss the questions you are grading with anyone else. You are free, however, to consult your own notes and readings as your see fit. You are to turn in your grades no more than 96 hours after picking up the answers. As a guideline, each answer should require less than two hours to grade.