2008 February 7
Took, and passed, my prelim on Super Mardi Gras Tuesday. Phew! I’d spent a lot of time studying over the past three weeks.
I felt like I had good mastery of the relevant facts for my prelim, but that my intuitive grasp of my topics could have been a lot better. If you’d asked me in December how I thought the prelim would have turned out, I’d probably have guessed exactly that outcome as well. In the actual exam, I was able to get away with shaky intuition a lot less than I’d have liked, but that’s probably a good thing overall.
While studying, I spent a little time thinking about the best way to improve my intuition for the subjects I’d be tested on, but I didn’t spend too much time thinking along these lines, since it sounds to me like the sort of thing that one can’t really consciously set out to do, by definition. My hope was that the process of studying and building up my factual knowledge would help, and I’d say that it did, but not as much as I’d have liked. I didn’t work out many problems, which might have helped a bit more, but in my experience textbook problems don’t tend to exercise quite the right mental muscle. Maybe there are ways to really build up your intuition quickly, but I certainly don’t know about them.
That all being said, I passed and it’s done, and after some paperwork I’ll be a Master of Astronomy. Time to actually take a bit of a vacation.