UNITED STATES—When you go to school there is always that portion of higher education where you are tested on what you know. Whether it is undergraduate, graduate or doctoral, you have homework, no matter how old you are. For me, homework tends to be the most frustrating aspect of pursuing higher education. Why? You have to make the time to do it. When you have a part-time gig, a full-time job and you throw school into the mix it just limits the amount of time that you have.

For me, as an English/Film Studies doctoral student the amount of reading I have in a given week is gargantuan. I mean I thought the readings I did as an undergraduate and graduate student was intense, no, doctoral studies is a bit more brutal. I’m easily reading a 1000 plus pages of content EVERY WEEK, not to mention, I have to decipher that content. That is what frustrates me the most about reading material, it is not always easy to decipher the material, especially as a student of English.

If I am able to focus whenever I have readings to do I am great. If I am attempting to cram those readings in with limited time it will hurt me more than it would help me because I’ve lacked the comprehension that I need. Besides getting my homework done, the big problem for me is preparing for mid-terms and tests throughout the semester. For the oddest reasons, professors of a higher caliber really like to toy and test their students by placing them in a situation where you have to figure out what is going to be on a particular exam or the mid-term.

We’ve read a ton of books during the semester, we have analyzed plenty of content that could have been hundreds of pages, and how the hell am I to know PRECISELY what will be on that exam without a hint? You don’t, you really don’t know, and the professors I feel like that notion. They want to see who might be on the same page as them when it comes to critically thinking, but we all don’t possess that tool and it can make the preparation aspect for a big exam so much more frustrating.

Right now, we are in the midst of mid-terms and as a result I have a massive paper that is currently due, in addition to a timed oral exam. Paper writing is not difficult for me, timed exams are though. I must admit that is an actual weakness because when you throw in the element of time, I get stressed about running out of time or moving too slow to complete an exam compared to my counterparts.

As a result, I find myself rushing to try to get an exam done, when I should just take my time and focus on what I need to complete. I second guess my answers and things that I initially had correct, I changed and now I have them wrong. Oral exams can be a difficult because all eyes are on you and I hate being the center of attention especially when I have to showcase my critical assessment of a particular topic. I have gotten significantly better with age, but when the professor makes it crystal clear you have to speak for this specific amount of time WITHOUT going over that becomes a difficult task to say the least.

Yes, a doctoral course/seminar tends to be smaller in class count than other classrooms, but when you’re the center of attention that is never fun, it makes the situation worse when you’re the first person scheduled to go. You feel this immense level of pressure, but at the same time it is an adrenaline rush because those jitters of waiting to go, you don’t have them because you’ve completed your task before everyone else.

I think we all have our tools that we utilize when it comes to completing homework, studying for an exam, a big mid-term, whatever it may be. I have learned over the years that if one approach isn’t working, it is ok to adjust an old approach with something new. The stress can get to you if you allow it, but there are ways to counter it by not placing too much pressure on yourself. Give it your all, cross your fingers and hope for the best.