As we move through the last set of our exams for Semester 2, I sit back and wonder. These will complete the exams we have to take for our MBA, so … is this the end of my exam life forever?
Having left college in 2003 I always figured that I would end up doing further education at some point. So I never thought of those as my last exams. However, having gotten up from my child-like seat in the cavernous exam hall on Saturday, after squeezing all my knowledge on financing new ventures in to a booklet for the previous 2 hours, I think I might have actually sat the last exam of my life.
Now this isn’t a lament on the differences between rote learning and whatever the other type is. I have been pretty successful in the Irish exam system which I feel sets a high benchmark for success and gave me great technical knowledge that I leveraged in my professional career internationally. This is more the realisation that after an MBA I don’t think there is much more additional education one can pursue to advance your career. True, there are other exams such as the CFA or Series 7 if you want to be an analyst (and there are probably more that I haven’t even thought of). But they are all career specific and not of the lecture/exam format that we love so much.
This is just one more thing to realise whilst doing an MBA; that it is the culmination of a lifelong learning journey. The first exam I can remember sitting was over 30 years ago, as a 6 year old, and I sat exams every year for the next 20 years. I liked exams so much I decided to take the scenic route through my undergrad and stay for an additional year so that I could enjoy the exam experience a few more times!
When I look at the paragraph above I only now realise the sheer volume of exams I must have sat so far in my life. So it is probably high time I do say goodbye to exam life. The path that we take through life and on the road to an MBA takes many forms, but we all have endured the unenjoyable (or enjoyable, if you’re masochistic) experience of exams. This is a global common bond for all students and I guess, like everything, it has to come to an end at some point.
So it is there in an exam hall in the RDS Simmonscourt, on Saturday 13th May 2017, that I close a large chapter in my personal journey – and that of EXAM LIFE.
Traolach O’Connor, Full Time MBA 2016-2017
Exam season is now well and truly under way for all of the MBAs in Smurfit. On the Exec MBA we had four modules this semester, but, as Organisational Behaviour & Decision Making was 100% continuous assessment in the form of two major assignments, we have just three exams ahead of us. These finish up on the 12th of December and then it’s into town for our class Christmas party where hopefully we will be celebrating the successful completion of semester one rather than crying into our drinks.
First up though is Competitive Strategy. Again, there was a large amount of continuous assessment in this subject throughout the semester and as a result we have completed 55% of the marks, leaving 45% left to play for in the exam. It’s an interesting concept itself, as it’s a take-home exam that we have been given a week to complete. I have never done one of these before, but I have been advised that the difficulty is that you actually end up with too much time and therefore keep tweaking it at the expense of studying for other exams until you force yourself to submit it. I have decided to try and learn this lesson and get it completed first and then move on to the other subjects.
Next is Operations and Supply Chain Management, which also had a large amount of continuous assessment throughout the semester meaning that the exam itself accounts for 40% of our overall grade. Its hard to put your finger on this one but the past papers indicate that it’s a mixture of theory and essay based discussion questions so there is a little bit for everyone there. All of that is assuming that you have completed your last assignment, which is due this week also.
Finally, we have the subject that most of us find problematic, Financial Reporting, with 65% still at stake as the remainder was accounted for through continuous assessments. Its simultaneously impressive and worrisome to see the accountants in the class fill out the answers to the in-class exercises in seconds while most of us are still trying to find our calculators. This is not a subject that comes naturally to me but I have been told that it’s a matter of practice. We shall see on Friday…
Executive MBA Midweek Year 1
A glass one-quarter full or three-quarters empty? I argue my MBA study is a now a quarter of the way. I wanted to use this blog as an opportunity to reflect on where I am, what I have learned – as quite frankly I have not had the chance to do so since the beginning of term. Strategy, operations and supply chain, finance and organisation behaviour all mixed together is truly the stuff of fantasy.
As expected, the last eleven weeks of term has been intense and feels like a revolving door of assignments, reading materials and reports. Combine all that with a busy full time job commitment – it truly has felt like a sprint now approaching the finishing line of first semester. Indeed, it has been an interesting journey. The lecturers have been great; my team members have been remarkable making the whole experience much more enjoyable. Coming from a Mathematical Science background where I hardly had any reason to put together a report, I have successfully written one report and collaborated on a few more.
What have I learned in the past few weeks? It is like being thrown in the deep-end, I realise time management is a critical skill for any MBA student. There is ample study material and it is important to prioritise and effectively manage reading, otherwise a candidate may sink quite literally. Organisation behaviour has truly opened my eyes to my soft side; I am now genuinely conscious of respecting how other people feel. Also, I was able to identify strategic and tactical areas of improvement for my company and articulated ideas to the senior management team. The result, more work as I have now been added to a project team to assess and implement opportunities for growth in the organisation.
On the horizon is my exams – I have not done an academic examination in five years so I am sure it would feel like a trip down the memory lane, my old college days. Going to an exam hall with hundreds of other students not knowing what to expect will be interesting. There is one thing in sight that keeps me going, the Christmas break; the much needed lifeline before we go at it again January next year.
EMBA Weekend year 1
It is hard to believe that we are just over half-way through our second semester in Year 1. We are now all settled into our ‘new’ teams and working our way through our submissions and plans for the second half of the term. However this semester is more balanced towards individual assessment rather than group submissions and our first mid-term exam of the course took place on Saturday last in Corporate Finance. The mid-term was worth 20% of our overall grade and was definitely effective in focusing my attention on what we have covered in the module so far.
The Corporate Finance module has taught us many calculations, including how to determine the future and present values of cash flows and the cost of capital for a business. We have also focused on assessing market risk and return, and how to evaluate various investment opportunities for a business.
However as those of you familiar with this area know, there is a lot more to Corporate Finance than formulas and calculations. This was reflected clearly in our mid-term exam of which at least half of the content was based on theory from the module material. One needed to know the functions of financial markets and intermediaries and why market investors are not concerned with individual stock risks, as well as be able to calculate the value of a perpetuity, in order to successfully demonstrate their knowledge gained on the topic.
I found my revision of the module material during the last few weeks invaluable, while not infallible, in clarifying the module concepts and enabling me to embrace the topics we are due to cover in the next part of the term with a much greater appreciation.
We are all busy with the demands of the MBA and it is difficult not to regularly focus on what submissions are due. However this directed module revision has reinforced the importance of taking a point in time during the semester to reflect on my understanding of each module. Mid-term break seems like the perfect time to avail of this opportunity so luckily that is fast approaching.