What is this "exam" of which I have been complaining?
no books/references/notes (except the list of about 30 texts)
each of 3 advisors provides a pair of questions
I select one from each pair
The frustration kicks in with the realization that I can more or less predict the questions; I just don't know why the written-exam format. Since this is supposed to be a lead-in to the dissertation proposal, I've come up with a list of texts and an exam rationale. I know how to answer almost everything I can expect to be asked (or I will, once I've finished studying). Like many exams, it's not the exam itself, it's the process of studying that gets you acquainted with the body of knowledge that blah blah blah. So actually sitting down and writing the thing will be no fun, especially since I'm writing to people who will later be reading a much more well-developed version of the same thing in the dissertation proposal and, later in the diss itself. One of my advisors suggested that I might actually use material I write on the exam to spur my thinking about the dissertation proposal, and that's the first valid suggestion I've gotten about why I need to take a timed written exam for the first time in 5 years.
/spewing about exam. In fact, the process of studying has given me an excuse to sit down and actually write down the stuff that's been ricocheting around my head all semester; I wish I had done that sooner (that's what I meant about wishing I could have seriously begun studying earlier). And it's a mark of my interest in the project that I've started to think about what I'll read *after* I'm done with the studying (philosophy! but relevant philosophy!).