“Let’s abolish the PhD orals”
Studying for orals usually means absorbing scraps of knowledge merely for the sake of having them available, reviewing old notes of readings mercifully forgotten, clawing fearfully through references one really “should” look at—all of this in order to be ready to answer a question that might be asked. One of my professors used to refer to Whitehead’s notion of “inert ideas” as “sodden baggage”; it struck me as a beautiful description, and just the sort of thing one lugs dutifully to an examination and deposits on the way out.
Related: The ProfHacker pens an open letter to new gradate students. There’s some sage advice in the comments section, as well.