The agony and the ecstasy of the exam session

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…

Conor Connolly

Executive MBA Midweek Year 1

A nice way to end Business and Society Module.

People often believe that a case presentation has to be presented in the class. However, it is not necessarily true on the UCD Smurfit Full-time MBA.  Our Study Team was the last presenting team in the final class of Business and Society module.

On that day, we were planning to host an awards ceremony in order to celebrate the end of Movember in Dark Horse, a small pub where MBA class organizes social activities. Why should not we move the pub and have the last presentation there?

Finally, our presentation was delivered in Dark Horse. It is a totally new experience for me. The judging panel awarded a few prizes and collect donations for the MOvember. Congratulations to Mo Bros.

This was such a nice way to end the module and celebrate the meaningful event. Is this similar in your class?

Nguyen Thanh Ba.

FT MBA 2014.

Examination time, ‘Yawn’

I write this blog staring down the barrel of 6 exams in 10 days and a welcome week break at the end of it. It occurs to me that this is probably the most relaxed I have ever been (hence the possibility of writing this blog) with a test series starting in a day or so. This is unfortunately not in any way related to my academic preparation for these exams. I attribute this feeling to the nature of the MBA program.

The Smurfit MBA program is not an academic exercise. Exams are approached as a formality and opportunity to express knowledge and learning as opposed to any test that needs to be passed. The courses themselves are structured with exams usually contributing a fraction of overall assessment, and most weight being given to practical projects and reflections, assisting and illustrating course learning.

I think this practicality of the course is what contributes to my confidence. I feel under no compulsion to recite any doctrines or theories but am encouraged to express my opinions on the material we have covered through the modules. Rote learning is seen to be of little benefit and the practical nature of the program has emphasized the development of insights and views which are given a chance to be scribed in an exam setting.

The material presented in class is rarely portrayed as being the final answer on any matter, and the case studies and class discussions have forced us all to form opinions on the module content. Module coordinators have further instilled a confidence that there are few right or wrong answers, with the construction, substantiation and articulation of points of view being of most importance.

To this end, I feel my exam preparation has already been done through the term, with this pre-exam window providing a time to review the massive amounts of material covered and collect my thoughts on pertinent issues. That having been mentioned, I realize I still have a fair bit of ‘collecting my thoughts’ to do, and so I will end the blog here for fear of writing this again next year.

Neil Krige

– Neil Krige, FT MBA 2012/13 (hopefully!)

End of Semester 2

End of term and the exams are just around the corner! Hard to believe that we are two thirds of our way through the programme.  It is now time to crystallise all the learning since January and demonstrate our understanding of the academic concepts in the final exams. Perhaps more important however is the impending commencement of the Capstone or company projects. There was an impressive list of applications with projects for the MBA Consultancy Initiative and I look forward to once again collaborating with colleagues on our chosen project in the summer and practically apply what we have learned throughout the year. For me this is the highlight of the programme and the opportunity to apply our new skills and toolkits to real, day-to-day, and longer-term business problems.

Have noticed some weary looking people in recent weeks in the MBA class, which is testament to the effort  everyone is putting in to contribute to and take from the programme. For many of us, we have put our professional and personal lives on hold for the past year and our families have had to deal with the highs and lows and occasional mood swings.  Some would use the term light at the end of the tunnel to describe the imminent completion of the programme but I feel that that suggests that it was all toil and no reward during the year, which is not true.  The finish line analogy of a long-distance run is more apt as the year has been about pacing oneself with periodic bursts of activity around exams and assignment due dates.

I wish all my classmates the very best of luck in the exams and I would like to thank our lecturers for the effort and commitment they put into the teaching of the modules.

Cathal O'Ceallaigh

-Cathal O’Ceallaigh, FT MBA 2012/13

What’s in a Grade?

To return to university after a gap of ten years since last attending a lecture or class is a daunting experience. To do so in tandem with your 9 to 5 and family responsibilities is bordering on insanity. Six months in to the Executive MBA, I don’t feel less insane for my decision but thankfully I am glad I lost my senses for those moments whilst filling in the Smurfit School application form! Surprisingly however, the satisfaction and benefits of my decision have not been derived from what I had previously assumed.

The decision to attempt to find 480 hours a semester in addition to work and family life was brought back to me in recent weeks, when receiving my semester 1 results. I must admit the most surreal experience of the Executive MBA to date has been waiting to sit an exam in the UCD RDS Exam Hall the week before Christmas with 18 year old first year undergraduates! I never knew I had such levels of ignorance of youth and self-consciousness of my own age in equal measure!

It was not the doing of the exams however that has triggered my reflection but rather the arrival of the results themselves. It has made me revisit why I decided to return to school in the first instance. Most organisations today ask a similar question as to what I did, which centre on the theme of what does success look like in any given situation.

What surprised me the most was the answer that I arrived at. It is very easy once in an academic environment to gauge one’s performance and success based on the quantifiable grade at the end of your module of effort, learning and long hours. This grade takes on a surprising level of significance not just for the student but also their peer group, friends, family and associates. What surprised me about my reflection is that whilst the grades I received were gratifying, they are not the reason that I or my classmates are here.

Each weekend I am surrounded by 21 extremely driven, intelligent, curious and accomplished individuals. In a wider sense there are nearly 100 equally impressive colleagues in the other classes of the 2013 Smurfit MBA Class. The insight, learning and enjoyment we are providing to each other through the facilitation of our lecturers is truly incredible. This is an aspect which may be outlined by numerous institutions as a sales point but it is the experience of this richness of experience on the Executive MBA which is challenging, stretching and ultimately enlightening.

And to the question of what success looks like to me on this MBA, it revolves around a new way of thinking and appreciating issues I face every day and this success is as dependent on my classmates and their contribution to the programme as much as it does my own or that of our lecturers. So to my classmates I say thank you and let’s continue to challenge each other as we make the most of this unique lifetime learning opportunity.

James O'Rourke

– James O’Rourke, EMBA Week-end 2012-14

After the Wake-Up Call

Whilst writing my last blog I had what can only be described as a wake-up call. I had to start looking for a job. The whole class seemed to have undergone a similar epiphany. So much so, Brian, the MBA Career Manager, is a person who is very much on demand. My classmate, David Lawton covers the pressure of going back to work in his latest blog. I’d recommend it.

Strangely, though, job hunting is not the most pressing issue on my mind. What seems to be more pressing for me now is not securing my future but that we’re well over half way through the course. In just one week the last full set of exams will be completed. After that it’s just our international trip, the company project and the final summer term in June. Where has the time gone? It just seems like yesterday that we started out on the journey.

In a state of panic I’m trying to extract as much value as possible from the remainder of the course. Stay tuned to see how I get on. My future career can wait!!

– Donal O’Sullivan

How are we doing?!

When I did my undergraduate degree a few years ago, I remember the dread, panic, cramming, sleepless nights and energy drinks that became the norm in the week approaching the end of term exams.  The difference with the MBA is that this state of feverish work prevails throughout each and every term.

I reckon that there are two primary reasons for this.  The first is that the equivalent volume of information encountered over four years of an undergraduate degree is condensed into a year at Smurfit.

Continue reading How are we doing?!