Feature: Kaylee Redard takes on the Competency Exam

by Jessica Wolfe

Kaylee Redard, a history major nearing graduation, paced in circles in one of Petrocelli’s hallways while waiting for her oral competency exam to begin.  “I was so stressed before I got in there,” she said. “You just have to know everything, you have to basically become an expert on your topic.”  

The stress began early in the semester for Kaylee. While she was able to choose a topic for her oral exam, that wasn’t the case for her written exam. She was required to pick two 300-level classes she had taken, two 200-level classes, and another course unrelated to her concentration. Faculty in the history department would then devise a series of essay prompts based on information from the 300 and 200-level classes, as well as a terminology test for the non-concentration course. There was no study guide or advance warning of what information the test would cover. 

(Photo: Kaylee Redard)

“They let you pick the classes to test on, but you have to relearn everything from those classes,” Kaylee said. “You have to do entire semesters’ worth of work just to study.” 

The written exam was only two hours long, but Kaylee successfully finished and passed that portion of her competency exam. Then, six days later, she had to take the oral exam. 

To prepare, Kaylee studied as much as she possible could. “I had special study sessions in the library,” she said. “I basically camped in the library. I brought a blanket and a pillow and stayed in a study room until the library closed.” 

When the exam finally began, Kaylee realized how well-prepared she was. “Once I got in there, it wasn’t that bad,” she said. “The ideal exam is to have a conversation, rather than the faculty asking constant questions. They wanted to make sure we felt accomplished, like we deserved to graduate.”  

Having successfully passed her competency exams, Kaylee believes she is ready to move forward. She said, “It was a pain in the butt, it was traumatic, but it will help me in my future.” 

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