During the end of my first year of grad school we have to take a comprehensive exam (I am majoring in Microbiology and Immunology) Due to personal problems I failed my exam, now I get to retake it but I am worried that I might not have enough time to prepare well for it, especially that it's an old school type of exam where they ask very detailed questions about anything related to microbiology and immunology not just the things related to my thesis. So if I fail I get dropped out of the program. Any advice what can I do next with my career can I still find a way to continue in Academia?

  • Have you reassessed your commitment to graduate school? For what reasons do you believe it's an appropriate path? Jun 22, 2021 at 13:15

1 Answer 1


First, make sure that the personal problems are settled and, if not, seek professional help if needed.

Beyond that you have, I think, only two options. The first is to beg for an extension to allow time for preparation. An extension might be possible or not. It might be more possible if people can sympathize with your problems.

The other option is to drop everything else possible and prepare. And this is likely necessary even with an extension. Don't let the door close. It will be hard to reopen.

You are in a hard place. There are no guarantees that you will be successful, but "clearing the decks" and hard work will, at least, make success more likely. No magic bullet here.

But there is no information here that allows career advice beyond a failure. You will need to evaluate your situation at that point. But make sure that the personal problems don't continue to affect your prospects.

As to the exam itself, make sure you say sensible things, even when you don't have a precise answer. Try not to say nothing for any given question.

  • 1
    +1 but the two points are not mutually exclusive. You should have a laser focus on preparing even if you get an extension. At this point, you should focus on studying and (to the extent possible) not worry about what may or may not happen.
    – cheersmate
    Jun 22, 2021 at 13:05
  • @cheersmate, yes, of course. Let me edit a bit.
    – Buffy
    Jun 22, 2021 at 13:10

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