Passing a Masters Program Test One Step at a Time

When taking a difficult, important task, Lisa Graff learns to listen and act one step at a time.

By Lisa Graff, Portland, OR

Categories: Abundance, Gratitude

I was getting a Masters degree in Electrical Engineering in the mid '90s while working full time at Intel. I had a choice at the end of the Masters program to write a thesis or take the PhD electrical engineering entrance exam -- an incredibly tough test. It was the choice between a moderate amount of pain for a long time or an extreme amount of pain for a short time. I went for the extreme pain for the short time -- the test. As it came closer to the test, I was pretty worried. It's a serious test -- 3-4 hours for 10 questions. You have to get at least a 70% to pass. Plus, the questions come from all over the electrical engineering department. So, you are guaranteed to get a couple of questions you can't do because you haven't taken the class. With engineering questions, there are long equations for answers.

So I did a lot of studying and a lot of praying for this incredibly tough test. I prayed to know that my intelligence comes from God. I prayed with the thought that God is All and that God is Mind; therefore, God is all intelligence. There is nothing that God doesn't know. God communicates with His children and provides them everything they need. I knew I could trust in God's guidance, and I knew God was with me.

As the date of the test approached, I felt confident that I'd done all the preparation that I could -- both spiritually and practically.

So on the day of the test, I began the exam, and I immediately hit a wall. There were three or four questions I couldn't even start, and there were only 10 questions on the entire exam! My first thought was that I was guaranteed to fail. But, I completed the questions I knew and came back to the ones I didn't. I stared at one of the questions I couldn't begin and just put my pencil down and said, "Father, I don't know where to begin." I just sat there for a while … praying: "I know that all intelligence comes from God and that I have everything that I need." Then the idea of how to start the question came to me, and I worked through that problem, writing down page after page of equations to answer the question. I was sure that there were parts that I missed, but I kept going. Then I looked at the next question, didn't know how to start, put my pencil down, prayed, listened for God's answer, got it, and continued the entire test in this way.

I know that those answers didn't come from me. There was no way. I didn't know how to do them. I literally had no idea. I knew the answers came from God. Several weeks later, I got the results back. One of my professors told me I got a 93% and that it was one of the highest scores on the exam. To truly understand the impact of this, I have to tell you that throughout my engineering courses, I never scored the highest on anything. I was not an A student by any means. But with these exam results, I could have gotten into the PhD program.

I love the idea of listening and progress. You can pray and pray and pray, but at some point, you have to take some action. I listened and then took action. It's like that joke where the guy is standing on top of the house and a boat comes along, and the people tell him to get in. But the guy says no, he's waiting for God's answer. And this happens three times with three boats. Well, the boat was God's answer. I had to listen; I had to pray; and then I had to start writing down the answer. That was the action. I got the direction from God, started it, and was then free to get more direction. I was doing one thing at a time. It was a step-by-step unfoldment of the solution. This is a lesson I remind myself of often. Many times when we pray, I think we want the entire solution gift wrapped and delivered to us. But maybe what we really need is to listen and act -- one step at a time.