| 8. How should I prepare for the exam?
Preparation for the exam begins when a student begins to develop a program of graduate study. Each area of the exam is associated with required and elective courses described in the Ph.D. Program of Study. Be sure that as you build your Ph.D. program, you select courses from each of the areas identified in the program of study relevant to your program strand (K-12, policy, or higher education), including:
- Organizations and Planning (730, 750, 860, and/or 875)
- Program and Instructional Leadership and Management (705, 715, 811, and/or 847)
- Politics, Policy and Finance (830, 831, 840, and/or 870)
- Learning and Diversity (735, 736, 746, 880, and/or 848)
Students do not need to take all of the courses in each strand, but their program should provide them with background knowledge in each of the strands.
If your course of study takes you to more applied courses, you may want to meet with your professors to supplement course content with broader theoretical and empirical review of the literature related to that course content. The exam is designed to assess knowledge of research in the field; ability to communicate in writing; and ability to synthesize, integrate, and apply knowledge to educational organizations, leadership and policy. Foundational knowledge for success on the exam is provided in coursework in the ELPA program. Thus, it is important from the beginning of the program to
- Read assigned coursework critically and carefully, and keep notes from classes as you go through the program
- Build an electronic bibliography of course and outside readings
- Build a personal library of key theoretical, conceptual and empirical research which is readily accessible to you (through organized electronic and/or paper files)
- Approach your studies as a scholar, such as by
- Defining your areas of expertise and interest early in the program and building your knowledge base around these areas
- Striving to understand and distinguish different perspectives and approaches to the work
- Regularly reviewing current journals for research relevant to your area of interest
- Identifying key theoretical or empirical research strands and reading beyond the work offered in classes to build your expertise in these areas
- Attending sessions at professional conferences related to your areas of interest
- Engaging faculty and other students in conversations about your areas of interest
The exam is not designed to require students to build their answer with a specific theoretical lens, but the student should take course content into account when developing their answer. While in some cases the department does accept transfer credits from other institutions, the student is still responsible for the content of courses as offered by the University of Wisconsin-Madison on the exam. Thus, students with transfer credits should review syllabi of associated UW-Madison courses and familiarize themselves with UW-Madison course content prior to taking the exam.
A final step in preparing for the exam is to clear the decks for the two-week administration period of the exam. This might include making arrangements in advance to clear work and personal calendars, making child care arrangements, talking with your professors in current courses or preparing current coursework in advance to avoid major deadlines during the exam administration period, or taking vacation days from work to focus on the exam. The exam is designed to enable working adults to have sufficient time aside from work commitments to successfully complete the requirement, but if you are currently employed, it will require you to identify blocks of time in the evenings and weekends to complete the work.