Tips from the Faculty
Exam Content areas students should focus on:
- Will contain 3 examiners in 3 major content areas explained below – questions will cover one content area at a time
- Basic and applied nutrition: nutrients: food sources (general), function, toxicities, deficiencies; dietary guidelines and DRIs (describe generally, understand how these are developed), life stage nutrient needs, food safety; application of nutrition principles to food choices and intake, and to lifestyle practices
- Nutritional biochemistry and metabolism– general chemistry principles (polarity, bond types), chemical structure of macronutrients, detailed digestion and absorption of macronutrients, energy producing metabolic pathways, role of micronutrients in energy metabolism and key physiological processes
- Research design and process– study designs used to investigate role of nutrition and health, nutrition assessment methods (ABCDs), statistical tests appropriate to simple study designs (t-test, anova)”, nutritional epidemiology, able to design a research study about nutrition, able to analyze a research study in nutrition using statistics
Suggestions for preparing for the exam:
- DO NOT prepare for exam, rather prepare for being ready to be a PhD candidate.
- Take this seriously. Many faculty are willing to help prepare the student, but much of the studying needs to be completed independently by the student.
- Students should meet with committee members several weeks or months prior to the exam to receive specific guidance on topic areas, unless there is other guidance provided to both the student and the committee members.
- Study with other peers. Form a study group of 2-4 to study and practice orally. Quiz each other. Do mock examinations that included practicing writing on the board.
- Review qualifying examination tips from previous students.
- Identify examining committee early and meet with them to identify specific areas to focus on.
- Identify teaching assistant opportunities in class content areas that would like to review further on.
- Critical thinking, synthesizing information from given document/contents.
- Students should demonstrate a working knowledge of the content areas described below. Students should demonstrate the ability to say “I don’t know.” Students should communicate clearly orally and while using the white board. Students should use appropriate academic language and terminology when answering questions.
- The exam is an oral and writing examination. Students are answering questions and explaining concepts through drawing diagrams on the white board. Students should be comfortable writing legibly (neatly and large enough to read) on the white board.
- Students should answer questions with appropriate poise, while standing in front of the committee.
Tips from the Students:
- Building your committee is key—choose professors that you know, trust, and are familiar with— you want to feel supported and this will make communication easier.
- Meet with your committee members 3 months in advance to discuss key topics they’d like you to study—make these topics a priority when studying, but also understand that some questions require critical thinking beyond just defining key topics
- Schedule weekly/biweekly meetings with individual committee members to discuss any questions you have or areas you are having difficulty with
- Study in groups
- Practice using the white board—work on drawing and talking through problems out loud
- Get other students and/or faculty to quiz you each week for 30 minutes
- Have a list of review questions and practice explaining them to a non-nutrition expert as well as a nutrition-expert—the non-nutrition expert will help you practice explaining the difficult concepts and the experts will push you and be able to verify the accuracy of what you say
- Talk it out when you study—saying it in your head is one thing, but being able to orally communicate is more difficult, so repetition helps
- Be able to discuss topics out loud without stumbling over your words, but don’t memorize or you may stumble during the exam
- Borrow or rent the nutrition textbooks used for The Science of Human Nutrition (FSHN 185), Nutritional Biochemistry (FSHN 485), and Nutritional Biochemistry II (FSHN486)
- Schedule a mock Qualifying Exam with professors/students
- Begin scheduling the exam at least 3 months before your anticipated date—professor’s schedules fill up months in advance
- Immediately reserve a room when you have a date confirmed
- Don’t be scared to reschedule if you do not feel you are ready!
- Repeat the question to allow you time to think
- Ask for clarification or rephrasing if you are drawing a blank
- Use the whiteboard to guide you through an answer
- Stick to the topic being asked—the more you deviate from the topic, the more questions can be asked
- Ask your primary advisor to keep track of the time so that each examiner has the same amount of time
- Confirm with your primary advisor as to whether or not food is expected at the exam