Monday, December 24, 2007
We studied 6 core courses in p2, still in the same sections and study groups as in p1. This was a very busy period, and academics took most of our lives.
Corporate Finance Policy (aka Finance 2)
We had a brilliant professor, who taught us (almost) all about options and corporate finance. This was the class to see many paniced faces who had no idea what's going on in class. The professor was so good, that there were no compaints - everybody understood that it's their own damn fault that they don't understand what in god's name is the difference between a short put and a long forward, and between tender offers and right issues. Lucky for us in almost all study groups there was one finance guru who solved the problem sets (or at least we could take the answers from the finance guru of other study group, and reverse engineer the answers). The exam was super difficult - the professor had a vision of 50 average with 25 points standard diviation (so all you need to pass the exam was show up).
Managerial Accounting (Harvard Style)
This course deals with analyzing costs of things, and how to better plan the budgets of corporation. The professor was very much influenced by the case method of HBS, and in every class he intimidated another poor student into spilling the content of the latest case of another failed company somewhere in Argentina or Sweden. The course was quite good, and we even touched some of the more juicy stories of businesses from previous years like the Enron energy fiasco, and Ford's failure to deal with excess capacity.
Processes and Operations Management (POM POM POM)
6-sigma? Queues? Inverntory Management? All of these were taught in an entertaining way, using fun cases like Zara, Shloldice Hospital (for hernias), Ralph Laurence, Xenon and others. The course is built around the smart book "The Goal" (a nice read). We even shot ping pong balls using an XPult catapult (to test its quality).
Strategy (Camel Comedy Club)
Strategy is a pretty abstract term. In order to teach it you must be a very skillful professor. We had one: a very funny and original guy, who gave us the framework to think in a strategic way. 90 minutes of laughter. He used the Cirque de Soleil as an example to Blue Ocean Strategy (an INSEAD invention), the italian mafia (from godfather) as a family business who wants to expand to pharma (should it go to a JV with the other mafia and share resources?), Formula 1 (to explain how to be a center of a business), and the music industry (as an example for industry evolution). In addition we used cases for easyGroup, Apple, Dell, and many more. A fun fun course and I truely learnt a lot. Unfortunately, the Teva case was cancelled (which was the only Israeli company in the menu of p1 and p2).
Foundation of Marketing (or how to market a small grocery store in London, Canada)
This course was not as successful as the others, although we did cover a lot of topics, such as advertisement (using Virgin histerical commercial, and Intel Inside evolution of commercial), branding (using Black&Decker and Wal Mart), and others. For an assignment we had to do a marketing strategy to Jill's Table, a high end grocery store in the middle of London, Ontario (mmm, very large international scale as appropriate to INSEAD). The exam was about the Chinese Li Ning sportsware company, who had to build a brand competing against Adidas and Nike.
Leading Organization (aka LO)
Better than LPG from p1, this course gave us the foundations to think about organizations in 3 percpectives: Strategic Design, Culture, and Political. We did several simulations, last one was a computer simulation in which we had to convince an entire organization to implement a significant change. The most controvercial moment in class was the debate about Milgram's experiment, in which a person had to ask questions another person, and to punish the latter for a failed answer (to teach us about misuse of power). We had a most dreadful group exam, in which for 4 hours we had to write a 22 pages (!!!) paper about a company with problems.
It was busy, but we learnt a lot about business, less quantitative more qualitative, and many many Harvard cases.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Saturday, December 1, 2007
80% of the July promotion (at least those who start at Fonty) want to go for P3 to Singapore, for several reasons: the French winter (vs. The Asian sun), in P4 the recruiting process start so they want to be at Fonty, many wanted in the first place to spend several periods in Asia, and maybe more.
The other direction is non-significant. Students from Singapore want to come to Fonty probably in P4. This result in a massive movement to Singapore. Fonty will probably be empty in P3.
Now, there are limited spaces in each campus (around 260), and the demand is high. So INSEAD asks each student to tell where they want to be in each period, and then select people randomly. Those who registered but did not get in are on the waitlist. In the next month or so people waiver their opportunity to go to Singapore, so almost all the waitlist can also go to Singapore.
Those who go to Singapore will have to find a solution for their appartments in Fonty. Some will simply replace appartments with students who come from Singapore to Fonty. But most has to either continue pay the rent or leave their appartments.
Then there is the accomodation in Singapore. The landlords over there knows exactly how to take advantage of the situation and charge very high prices (for example 1200 Euro/Month for a room). Since there are so many people coming to Singapore in P3 there is a big demand and the price goes through the roof. There are two apartments buildings (Heritage and something else) which are more expensive. However, all the other appartments are far away, and you will need public transportaion.
There are 20 places on the list of MBAs who want to Wharton. For this previlege students must bid points from their elective banks. The lucky ones gets to spend p4 in philadelphia. The number of points deducted from their elective choice in p5 is the points bid by the last person to get in the list.
While in Wharton, students from INSEAD who exchange with Wharton are regular students for the period of 2 month, and they have access to all the facilities and networks as Wharton students. The courses, however, are not as good as p4 at INSEAD, because most of the courses at Wharton are for regular semester, so finding courses only for half a semester is limited.
With regard to emloyment, for the July promotion p4 in USA is off season. So there is not much recruitment going on in the campus.
Still, several students each year bid for the place in Wharton.
The past month there was an intensive hunt for appartments in Singapore, many people from the waitlist tried to convince people who are not certain to remove themselves from the list, and planning the 2 month vacation is Asia. They probably forgot how intense INSEAD can be.
I will remain your loyal reporter of the life here at Fontainebleau.
The system works like this: Each student gets 200 points. Each period the students bid points for the electives that they want to take next period. Since some of the electives are too popular, not all students can take them. So out of all the points that remained from previous periods, each student divide them between the courses they want to take (giving most points to the electives they want the most - strategy, strategy).
If a course is not full, no points are deducted. However, if the course is full each student that bid high get in. The number of points deducted for all the students is according to the last student to get in. For example: If there are 100 places, and the 100th student bid 20 points, all the 100 students are deducted 20 points (even if they bid higher). Sometimes though, INSEAD opens a new section if there is a high demand (not guaranteed).
The auction is done per campus. Most classes are given in both campuses. They provide us with all the information about the syllabuses, requirements, and faculty (including rankings of the professors in previous periods - a grade above 4 is considered good).
The 200 points are cummulative throughout the program. If a student is deducted 50 points in the P3 bidding, he will only have 150 points in P4.
In the first week of P3 the students are allowed to drop and add electives as they choose (if there are available places). If the class is full, dropping from a course will result in someone from the waitlist getting in (dropping the course gives you the bidding points back). There is also the possibility to audit a course (meaning to sit in class but not get credit) - if the professor allows it.
Why did INSEAD impose such a complicated system is beyond me, but these are the rules, and we must play accordingly, right?
The P3 Electives
There are 6 groups of electives in the program: Finance, Accounting, Strategy, Marketing, Technology & Operations, and Entrepreneurship. There are also electives in Organizational Behaviour (OB) and Economics.
Most electives are 1 credit, but there are also mini ones for half a credit (and only 8 sessions). In the program you can take 10.5-12.5 elective credits (and you must attend minimum of 2 credits in P5 - meaning that you have to be at INSEAD in that period). More then 12.5 you must pay extra.
There are tons of electives - mostly in P5 - and choosing is hard. In P3 it is recommended to take 3.5 credits. There are also 2 core courses.
Here is a list of some of the electives offered (not all of them):
Finance - If you want a finance career, it is recommended that you take all the finance courses. However, for the numbers-handicaped of us, it is recommended to take two basic courses: Applied Corporate Finance (the cases course, given both in P3 and P4), and Investements (mini, only in P3). International Financial Management is the third course offered.
Entrepreneurship - In P3 INSEAD offers Corporate Entrepreneurship in Fonty, and Business Models in Singapore (no symmetry). Also you can take a project in the industry (Entrepreneurshial Field Study).
Marketing - In P3 or P4 you should take Marketing Driving Strategies, which involves simulations and is supposed to be great.
Strategy - A popular course is given in P3, M&As, Alliances and Corporate Strategy (taught in Fonty by an Israeli professor).
Technology and Operations: The second course (after the core course) is Strategies for Product and Service Development. There are two mini course called Leveraging IT Opportunities and Trends - Part I/II which are given in P3 and P4 respectively (different courses not related).
One last course that I want to describe here is the Negotiations course which is supposed to be great in Singapore (and hopefully in Fontainebleau too).
So what did we have in this period: More courses, less time, more team assignments, less time, more CV preparation, less time, more stress, well you get the picture...
We study 6 courses this period, but 5 of them are only 12 sessions (Foundation of Marketing is the only one with 16). All of the courses together give a much clearer view of the business world.
We do a lot of cases (some from Harvard, some from IMD, and some - yes - from INSEAD). So I got to intimately know various companies so far. Let me name the most well known: Coca Cola, Pepsico, Starbucks, Wal-Mart, Black&Decker, IKEA, IBM, Dell, Apple, Cirque de Soleil, Nintendo, easyJet, American Airlines, Zara, Marks&Spencer, Ralph-Lauren, and the list goes on and on.
We learnt how to analyze business problems with relation to cost measurements, allocation and control; marketing and branding; option pricing; process and bottleneck problems, to name a few.
INSEAD had a very big impact on strategy with the invention of "Blue Ocean Strategy", and you might want to read the book about it (with the same name). For this achievement the Strategy department here at INSEAD is very strong, and the course of Strategy is taught seperately from the Marketing course.
In the Processes and Operations course we had read the book "The Goal" by Dr. Eliyahu Goldratt (an Israeli!), which is written as an easy-reading and demonstrates the constraints theory very effectively. I recommend the book (you will probably have to read it anyhow if you study an MBA), and I enjoyed it very much (it didn't take long to read).
I must say that in most of the courses the level of teaching and the material is at a very high level, and the classes are taught in a interesting and inspiring ways. The professors make tremendous efforts to deliver the material in a fun and effective way (Some of the classes we laugh so hard that you might think it is a stand-up comedy show).
However, we have a large amounts of readings, and some of the professors use the cold-calling method. Especially in the Managerial Accounting course, in which we have a professor from HBS, who use the case method devoutly. The case method means in practice that for each class you must read a story about a company, and analyse several exhibits in order to answer several questions regarding an issue. Then the class is more of a discussion fascilitated by the professor. The method has proven itself in my eyes as effective, though very strict.
Once the period is over I will give a more thorough review of the different courses, so you will know in advance what to look for.
Saturday, November 3, 2007
Friday, November 2, 2007
Top 10 USA schools according to this ranking (place last year in the brackets)
1. Wharton (1)
2. Columbia (4) - surprised here?
3. Stanford (3)
3. Harvard (2)
6. Chicago GSB (6)
8. NYU Stern (7)
9. Tuck (8)
10. Yale (11)
14. MIT Sloan (10)
17. UCLA Anderson (19)
Top 10 European Schools
5. LBS, UK (5)
7. INSEAD, France/Singapore (8)
11. IE Business School, Spain (-)
13. IMD, Switzerland (14)
15. Cambridge Judge, UK (35)
16. IESE, Spain (13)
18. HEC Paris, France (22)
19. Oxford Said, UK (20)
22. Manchester Business School, UK (22)
24. Esade, Spain
An up trend for European school. Also important is Ceibs from China #11 this year.
INSEAD is ranked 7th in the world, up from #8 last year. MIT Sloan - the other business school I was admitted to is down - #14 this year, a fall from #10 last year. Did I do the right decision here? It seems so.
My third business school was Oxford - up 1 place in #19 in the world. Cambridge (the strong competition) is #15.
I was on the waitlist of London Business School, still at #5 and the best European school according to this ranking. But it is not that clear that it is a better choice than INSEAD as I will show next.
INSEAD - A Further Look
Ok, so INSEAD is up to #7. What other things can we tell from this ranking?
Weighted Salary for INSEAD students is 140K$. 2nd in Europe - IMD is first with 153K$. LBS only third with 135K$. Oxford is not legging behind with 128K$.
Top salaries are for graduates from Stanford (168K$), Cape Town (What? 163K$), Wharton (160K$), and HBS (157K$).
Salary Increase - For LBS it's 122%, INSEAD only 94% (poor us).
You wanna get an increase? Go to Ceibs (159%), Yale (151%), or IE (149%).
Will you get a job after the MBA? According to FT you have a chance of 90% if you graduate from INSEAD - pretty low comparing to all the others. LBS is 96%.
INSEAD is the #6 international school. LBS is only 10. The other top 10 schools are no where to be seen. Do you want an international perspective? Come to INSEAD.
Value for money - INSEAD is the 2nd school among the Top 20 schools, only IMD is above. Oxford not too far behind. LBS is one of the most expensive schools and the worst in the world in that category. Being a one year program pays off.
Reputation - Alumni were asked to rate the schools based on whether they will recruit MBAs from that school. LBS is #5 and INSEAD #6. This is a pretty important category so here is the top 10:
7. Chicago GSB
9. MIT Sloan
Next 10: NYU, Tuck, Duke, Darden, UCLA, Berkeley, IMD, Toronto, Iese, Kenan-Flagler.
Is this the true ranking? From inspecting the results it might as well be. The American schools are sorted pretty much as I would expect, and also the European schools. Less surprising than the real FT ranking.
It seems that INSEAD is a top 10 school again this year in all categories, an excellent value for money, with great employment future and an international exposure.
Last, I did my own ranking based on the criteria I find most important (I know that's weird but it made sense to me): Alumni recommendation-reputation (30%), salary(30%), chance of employment(10%), international(10%) and value(20%).
Here are the results:
3. MIT Sloan
7. Cranfield (Uk)
13. Capetown (South Africa)
14. Chicago GSB
15. Ceibs (China)
17. IE (Spain)
18. Erasmus (Netherland)
20. North Carolina
Told you that INSEAD is number 1 :) .
(I swear that I did not arrange it so INSEAD would be #1. I just picked the most important criteria and put it in Excel. Amazingly INSEAD is the best pick.)
Thursday, October 25, 2007
First of all, you must be on top of things throughout the period. Otherwise it will be difficult to study everything in a few hours.
Most of the courses are closed book, one A4 sheet allowed, so everybody spent their weekend in preparing Cheat Sheets (I have no idea why they call it that way - it is completely legit). Those are word documents in a 5 sized font, with all the material of the course packed in it. (completely worthless in real time).
We got several exams from previous promotions, so we had little time to solve them all.
Basically it is 3 days of studying all day long.
The Exams Themselves
In order to do 5 exams in 3 days you have to be superman. Otherwise you just have to rely on the Z-Curve to do the work for you. The grading policy is that everybody get their grades in a scale (sometime 1-100), and then the professor checks the average and standard deviation. If you are more than 3 standard deviations below the average you failed. Your grade is the number of standard devations you are from the mean. It means that if they give us an easy exam, everybody will get 90, and then if someone gets a 70 he fails the class! so they try to make an exam with an average of 50, and a wide spread of grades.
If I had completely lost you by now: The grades are completely relative. They give us very very very difficult exams, in order for the average to be 50. It means that not only we did 5 exams in 3 days, we did very fuckin difficult exams as well (pardon my french).
Now, I come from the Technion. I am used to difficult exams. But such a marathon I have never done in my life. Lucky for us we are all in the same boat, so if I had to suffer everybody else had to suffer as well (I am a nice guy, aren't I?). Because the grades are completely relative, I probably had to do miserably horrible in order to fail.
Two funny things about the Z-Scores. They brain-washes us into hoping to get difficult exams. So I heard a girl who was not so strong in Finance actually coming to the professor and asking him to give us a hard exam! People here have completely lost their minds.
Also I heard talks about colluding and doing lowsy on purpose (it's like a prisoner dillema if you think about it). Of course it was a joke, but a funny one (of course this can never work - this is not a Nash equilibrium. You should probably work on your game theory if you don't understand me).
First Exam - A Group Exam
A group exam is an exam you take with your study group (well, dah!). In the leadership course we were given a case, and we had to sit for four hours and write one paper about all the sheety things that happened in the case. Of course we had to put as much terms from the course as possible, linking to buzz-words, and like any history exam in high school - write as much as possible.
Think that you are given such an assignment to do alone. You would probably finish it without any problems. It's not that hard - read the case for 30 minutes, think for another 10, write 20 pages for 2 hours, check your spelling and you are done (kind of like writing a blog ;)
But if you do it in a group it becomes much more complicated, as 5 people want to write the exact same thing in 5 different ways. Ironically all the ways are completely ok. We had a planning session before the exams and you could hear the shouting from the cubicles in the South Wing! We agreed to some strategy (and of course changed it 180 degrees in the real exam).
We divided ourselves into 3 sub-groups, each group will write about a third of the problem. We were 5 so one of us was left writing alone. We read the case, and sat for half an hour trying to figure the structure of the paper. For each of the 3 topics we assigned as many buzz words as possible. And at last we sat to write (who is going to write on the computer almost ended in a fight, but I was the bigger man). Of course the one person who wrote alone finished earliest.
At last we finished and submitted the paper. I was named before the exam the leader of the group (Because I possess some of Henry Fonda, from "12 angry men", and Ghandi leadership qualities. Ohh sorry I fell asleep for a second, because I was the first in alpha bethical order). What can I say, leadership sucks (Maybe this is what they have tried to teach me in this leadership course). I had to come 10 minutes earlier to take the case, and stay 30 minutes after we were done to wait for the assisstant to come and pick up our paper (I was starving).
It was all part a very big scheme. First Nikos, the professor from economics, told us not to worry too much because the exam is going to be piece of cake, and we will finish it in half the time. Of course I did not study for this one (priorities). 2 and a half hours in the exam I was still trying to figure out what the hell is Cournot equilibrium (he specifically said he would require us to calculate the damn things).
Then in Finance we got a question about call stock options. Did we not study enough material in the course that the professor could ask questions about stuff that we ACTUALLY DID learn? I recall that he specifically told us that options are for Finance 2. I calculated the points - 18 points out of a 100 for something we learnt nothing about. Of course the question could be solved by pure simple (or not so simple) logic.
I knew that the accounting exam is going to be the hardest (call it a hunch or a sixth sense). It was. And the thing is that it was the forth one. I had 2 exams on Monday, one finance exam in the morning (not a picnic), and only then came the One. I thought that I was going to fall asleep in the middle of the exam. The professor told us that never tries to trick us on purpose. It is always done by accident. Well, too bad I am not insured because I counted at least 3 accidents in the exam.
And after this one I had the entire evening to study for the statistics exam coming tomorrow. Of course I fell asleep right on the 2006 exam in 22:00. I woke up the next day, rushed out of the house, only to discover 5 minutes into the exam that I have forgotten my statistics tables (you simply cannot calculate anything without them). So I improvised (Donald Trump would have been proud). I programmed my calculator to perform the ntegral for the normal distribution (so lucky for me the claculator replaced some of the tables). Superman or not? Of course I screwed the easiest question on the exam (old habit of mine).
Let me summerize (and with that I leave p1 exams behind me for good, thank god for the memories) by saying that doing so many exams in such a short period of time, without any time to prepare is more a mental challenge than an academic one. It doesn't really matter whether you have answered everything right, because everybody is on the same boat. What matters is how much you have actually learnt and will take with you to the next periods. I can proudly say that I survived this week (They should give you a certificate: "Did 5 exams in 3 days and remained sane"). p2 starts, and will go by in a second, and then we have 6 exams in 4 days. A breeze compared to p1 (I am sure...)
I will dedicate this post to summerize the first period academically. Later I will post on some of the more interesting things that you need to know about INSEAD.
We studied 5 courses, and I also studied spanish. I can say that it was very busy. Here is what happened in all 5 courses:
Definitely one of the more difficult courses. The material is complicated, and in the 7 weeks we had to learn about the time value of money, how to valuate companies and projects based on NPV and future cash flows, and how to price risk.
We had some group work (somewhat limited), and plenty of exercises and readinings. I can say that this is the course where I heard a lot of complaints from the other students about the way that our professor taught it. I guess that like in all places some of the professors are not as good as the others.
The math requirement was limited, and the challnge was more understanding the concepts. Some of the students have a lot of experience in the area, so when they asked questions it was last Chinese for me. And there were some classes in which I felt completely lost (especially when the professor put some English letters on the slides without explaining what they were). But overall I think that I have taken from the course what I should have.
We had a great professor for that course. Every lecture was like a stand-up comedy show. It was a very basic course in micro economics. If you had seen supply and demand, monompoly pricing, and oligopoly games you should hae exempted from the course, because it was really slow. The professor was very afraid to confuse us with derivatives (of straight lines - it is very simple), so he insisted on explaining everything with "Marginal" this and "Marginal" that. For me it's more confusing, but the subject is easy to begin with.
I can say that I have studied a basic course in microeconomics before, and it had been much more difficult than our course.
The more interesting part was the Game Theory part. We learnt about Dominant strategies, Nash equilibrium and more. I will dedicate a seperate post to this part of the studies.
Here we arrived to the least pleasant course. Now I understand why I wouldn't want to be an accountant. The professor was very good, and he brought from his experience to teach us how to interpret financial statements, and how managers tend to manipulate them. The goals of the course were to understand company valuation and managerial decision making. The excelent professor made the subject interesting, but challenging. It is definitely not intuitive.
However, the professor uses cases and he cold called us on class - so we had to be perfectly prepared to every class. This was very tiring, and he managed to hijack our time form the other courses. Also he did not let us into class if we came late (even by 5 seconds). He said "You are late you have to leave), and then you had to turn around, no arguments, and walk out the amphi. He actually came to class 5 minutes ahead of time, stared at the clock, and the second it turned 15, he started the lecture and you could not enter.
This is a breeze if you have some background in probability and/or statistics. This is hell if you are a lawyer (ot have no background). It is a very basic course in statistics, but with a lot of material covered (binomial, poisson and normal distributions, hypothesis testing and p-values, and linear regression).
Some of us were bored half the time, while the other stared at the slides without understanding what's going on.
The professor did his best to narrow the gaps. The course material is very original. I don't want to spoil it for you, so I won't say much, but as an example they tried to teach us what is sampling, so they brought M&Ms bags, and we tried to see if the number of red M&Ms in the bag is indeed 1/6 of the bag like the company promised. So everyone got a bag of M&M and we actually counted the number of each color. Than with the data we assessed whether the company is not so accurate (and the company is indeed not accurate). A brilliant experiment to understand this subject.
Also the professor tried to show us how newspaper and other sources manipulate the data they present to us in polls. The most famous is what happened in Florida in the Bush-Gore elections, but plenty of other examples were given (there was a competition of who brings the most radical manipulation from the most well-known source).
Moreover, we did some surveys and the professor showed how he can bias our answers with the way that he asks the questions. Very intertaining. At one time he gave us a list of words such as "Probable", "Possible", "Likely", "Slightly", and we should have put a percentage for each word that an event will occur. For instance I said that if the event is probable to occur, it means that it will occur in 90%, and if there it has slight chances it means 20%. Other students gave completely different numbers, and the most extreme, a girl in my class gave 10% for probable, and 90% to slightly possible. Go figure! It is amazing how different people think differently sometimes.
Leading People and Groups
I looked forward to the leadership module (you can learn all the other stuff reading books, but this is were you can honestly improve), and came out somewhat disappointed. We covered conflict resolution, negociations, group dynamics, influence, cultural differences and more, but the overall feeling is that we only scratched the surface. We had to write two essays - one at the beginning and one in the end. What can I say, it is completely BS to write that you have learnt something in 1 and a half month. I had to write about my strength and weaknesses as a leader and show what I have learnt. Lucky for me, after 8 school applications (and one blog) I am trained in BSing for several pages.
The most interesting lesson was the feedback lesson. In our study groups each of the 5 of us gave feedback to the other 4 (and received feedback as well). I find it hard to deliver feedback , but I managed to do all right. The other people delivered me the feedback that I expected to hear, but it was an educating experience to hear from people I had known for such a short time about myself. I will definitley take their comments into account in the future.
There were other very fun experiments but I don't want to spoil them for you so I won't continue.
- The academic level is not of a masters degree. Each course by itself is an introduction to a topic.
- The difficulty comes from the time pressure, and the vast information they bombard you with. You must learn these things very fast if you don't want to stay behind.
- INSEAD structure the courses nicely, in the amphi, the readings, and all the courses combined, and by studying so much stuff hopefully all the important pieces of information got through (I will only be able to tell for sure in the future).
- Although we have to invest time for our careers and socially as well, in the last few weeks I was more into the academics. It is hectic!
- The atmosphere was excellent, and people are very smart. All the students came here to study hard and fast, and to have fun in the process.
I will dedicate seperate posts to the exams, and the language courses.
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
Monday, October 1, 2007
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Apperantely the courses are run by an independent contractor (or something like that) - I will call them "The Company", and those guys run the language program at INSEAD. On orientation week you do a placement test (if you want) - for 115 Euros, at the language of your choice. The test is written by The Company, and is very hard. If you get 100 you are fluent in that language. Get over 50 and you are basic level, and this is the minimum requirement for the exit level - you are done with languages. Less than 50 and you will have to somehow pass the exam (the difficult exam again) later that year.
Alternatively, you may choose to take the courses offered by The Company on campus (depending on your level, you might need to take courses for 1,2, or even 3 semesters). The courses require payment of around 500 euros per period. If you do those courses you will get much easier exams at the end of each period (passing it is guaranteed, trust me).
The Placement Exam
As I said it is hard. There is definitely a conflict of interests here - the same company who will train you for 1500 euros if you fail the exam is the one writing it. Do you wonder why the exam is hard? I am not saying the The Company and INSEAD is deliberatly doing something unethical, but the doubts still remain. The exam that you do after you study 3 preiods with The Company is much easier and everybody passes it (after we pay so much for it, we had better pass it).
The exam is a written exam. People told me that they studied for 2 month, scored the 51 they needed, but cannot speak or understand a word. The fact that they scored 51 is impressive by itself, as the exam contains all the most isoteric grammatical exceptions, and focuses on vocabulary that no-one knows or needs.
I studied 2 month before coming to INSEAD with a private teacher. I studied most of the needed grammer, but I did not have the time to study the vocabulary well. So I ended with a 31. I managed to save one period. I should have started the Spanish courses in p2 (Beginner 2) with the people who finished Spanish Begginer 1, but the company suggested that we start on p1.
Studying Spanish at INSEAD
First of all I suggest that people learn French in France. I wanted to study an easier language, but it is difficult to live in Fonty without knowing a single word of French.
We were arranged in 2 groups of 6. The teacher is from Spain, and is very nice. From the first lesson she talked with us only in Spanish. So we stare at her in discomfort, and she talks to us completely aware that we do not understand a single word that comes from her mouth. We got used to it during the period, and even manage to assemble a short sentence (a very stuttering one).
We learnt some of the tenses in Spanish (present, future, and a little past), we learnt some vocabulary - nothing exciting. I already knew most of it, so it was 80% complete waste of time (and money). There are 16 lessons of 1 and a half hour stuck in my already busy schedule. It is so nice to have 3 lectures back to back, and then have another 2 Spanish lessons (5 straight if you lost count). Or to have your first lecture at 14:00 but your Spanish lesson is at 9:00 (especially in a cold morning).
We did a quiz in mid term - ungraded. Then at the end of the period we had an oral exam - we had to pick one of 3 topics and talk about it 5-10 minutes in front of the class. Everybody chose to talk about their family. Everybody surprisingly passed.
Then we had a one hour written exam that I finished in 35 minutes (I studied for half an hour). It was pretty easy.
Summary of the first period
I haven't learnt much (but paid much). It was stuck in my schedule, and was 80% waste of time. In my opinion it missed the point. I did not have a lot of time to spend, and would have preffered to not do it at all.
Lucky for me in p2 I have to go through it all over again (Beginner 3 class). And I don't imagine that I will learn much. At the end of p2 we will have another exam, this time covering all the material we have learnt so far. Pass that exam and you are Basic. In my mind I am Basic now. The only reason I had to study his Spanish thing at INSEAD because the pleacement test was too hard (that's my take on it at least). Of course I cannot talk or understand in a reasonable way, but the placement test was a written exam (so no-one actually cares about that).
Tips for next years promotion
Get rid of it before you come here. Study as much as you can in order to get 51 in the placement exam.
Of course think if the costs. If you come here knowing nothing, you will spend 1500 euros and it will take much of your time. Think positive NPV for a second - if you will spend less back home on private lessons, and learn enough to get 51 you don't need The Company and it is much cheaper.
Monday, September 17, 2007
To help you figure out how much money you need, here are some of the things that I spent money on since I came here. It has been almost 4 weeks so you can get a nice estimate. The first 3 weeks we were two here, and in the last week it's only me.
Beside the tuition of course, I spent around 850 euros. That include reloading my student card (photocopies cost 9 cents per page, eating in the restaurabts and bar), paying for the stamps for the Card De Sejour (330 euros), student council (100 euros), 2 books (115 euros), business cards (38 euros), and my Spanish exam (115 euros).
Language tuition of 550 euros awates.
So far I have spent about 300 Euros on food and drinks (including wine). There are 4 supermarkets that I checked: Champion (there is one in every city, including Champagne and Avon), Casino (in Samorau), ACAT (near Champagne - very expensive), and Leader Price (in Rue Grande - Fontainebleau). Except ACAT all are pretty much the same price range.
Food (except for cheese and wine) is generally expensive. You buy with 30-40 euros basic stuff. Be prepared for this expense.
Besides rent, which is 800-1200 euros in general, I paid around 350 Euros so far on expenses for my apartment.
Furniture - Don't hesitate and drive to IKEA. It's only 25 minutes from here and is the cheapest. Don't waste your time on stores like BricoMarche. They are more expensive. Almost all you need you can buy there.
Electronic equipment - Go to Carfour. It has a large stock with a variety of products in reasonable prices (computer equipment, kitchen, etc).
Telecom and internet - Here is the big annoyance. Let's start with phone for the apartment. There is a monopoly here, and you will have to go to Orange in France Telecom at Rue Grande. For the worst service you will ever see (large lines, and you will have to come almost every day) and for an outragous price you will get yourself a fixed line. It will cost you 27 euros to install the line (they just have to press a button), and then 16 euros per month for maintenance (if you don't pay and there is a malfunction it will take them two weeks to fix it).
Then there is internet. Again I used Orange, since they have a program without commitment. For 28 Euros per month you get yourself a Livebox and 8M internet. Now here is the catch - it takes them up tp two weeks to install internet on your fixed lines, and then if you are lucky your Livebox will work.
Next we have mobile phone. You can get a prepaid SIM but I did the math and it is not worth it. Again I went to Orange, and you can get a Mobile with two hours and 30 SMS for around 32 Euros per month. Plus you have to pay for the phone 20 Euros.
That's it, enough complaining about Orange. I have spent around 150 Euros on telecom and internet.
So far I have spent around 130 euros on fuel and parking. In Fontainebleau you have to pay for parking everywhere, but in all the other places parking is free.
I have a diesel car, so around every 650 km I have to spend 40 euros for full tank.
For all other expenses I have spent around 400 Euros (Paris, restaurants, gifts, etc).
In total I have spent here around 3000 Euros in 4 weeks (including rent). The price don't include expenses I had made in Israel - flying tickets, tuition, shipping, car leasing, laptop, etc. This is merely for living here in France.
Obviousely a portion of the amount is a one time expenditure in the first month.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Note: Lots of people are reading this blog lately (which is good - keep coming), so the results I have given above are not MY scores. I just picked some arbitrary results.
I won't bore you with the details, but each test is a long set of nerve wrecking, brain sucking questions, designed to sample my patience skills and my cosistency. It reminds me of those newspaper quizes that supposedly do a profound psychological analysis by making you circle the answer that suits you most, then make you sum the scores and provide the results (always hated those).
First of all I don't believe in categorizing people into groups of 8, 16, or 100 categories. The world is not so simple and the models of people brains must be more complicated than that. Just reading the results makes me lough: I fit to at least 3 categories in the MBTI test (which classify you by measuring 4 pairs of characteristics one against the other. And come on - is Judgemental really means "Following schedule"?). I always wondered why people believe in horoscopes: Do they really think that the billions of people in the universe can be divided into only 12 groups, when the commonality is an arbitrary parameter - their birthday? In the same way, I can't believe that companies actually use these profiles when making decisions to hire you. They might as well check your horoscope.
Also, I can retake the test 10 times never to answer the exact same way twice. I mean, there are more than 500 questions in the career leader test. Will I want to have more influence or to earn more benefits? That can change in any given day depending on my mood. And based on questions such as this they derive my career motivations! I admit that when I first read the (10 pages, seriousely) report of the Career Leader exam I was impressed. It actually told stories about myself that I could relate to. But then I got to think about it, and my guess is that if I did the test again, assuming that I cannot remember what I picked the last time, I will get a somewhat different report with stories that I can relate to also. And believe me - the next time I take this test some things will defenitely change! I would like better lifestyle than friends on the job (unlike the last time I took the test - I think).
To summerize (and I know this is not the typical post I put in my blog, but hey - that's my blog and I can write about whatever I want to), the leadership and career fitting tests that we took in the first few weeks may seem very serious, but in my opinion we should be careful when taking them into account.
Saturday, September 8, 2007
"Don't obssess with the grades", told us Dean Fatas last week in the introduction meeting. He said that we all passed the "applications test", so we don't need to worry so much about the tests in INSEAD. This is the moto of the school - grades are not important, and that is why a Z-score policy is apply (the grades are completely relative, in normal distribution). The dean told us that everyone would get good grades and bad grades, simply because no-one is the best in every course. One course you are up, and the other you are down, and that is completely normal (just make sure not to be in the bottom for every course). By the way, the grades are confidential and we are not allowed to reveal them on-campus-recruitment. Some students make it to the dean's list.
This, and the open-door policy at INSEAD, is well reflected in most of the courses. The professors demand highly of us - we can't be late (and we often start at 8:30 - traffic can be really annoying near the obelisque in that hours), we must prepare ourselves before each class (and there is simply no time between classes to prepare), and we can't miss any lecture (this may result in a failing grade). For example, we have a professor that don't let people in if they are late - he starts talking, and 10 seconds afterwards people try to enter, he says to them: "You are late, you have to leave", and that is it! Someone calculated that one lecture cost us something like 150$ (pretty big loss).
However, the attitude is very friendly. We call the professors by their first names, we can come to them with any questions and problems, and some of them are really entertaining and encouraging.
In the first semester we study finance, economics, accounting, statistics and leadership. The first 4 I already encountered at some level during my first degree, but the last one is really new and fun - we watch movies in class, play card games and other fun activities with the purpose of allowing us to figure out what leadership is all about.
The more analytical courses are not that hard. The economics is taught really slowly. The finance we should learn from the book (because it is taught quite dryly). The statistics is quite entertaining (and the math is not hard - it was much harder in Advanced Probability at the Technion). Financial Accounting (not the most interesting subject to say the lease) is actually taught very thoroughly and the professor keeps us occupied and "cold-calls" us - quite bizarre that this way the course is actually digestible.
There is a lot of stuff to read between the classes, and my group found it best to solve exercises together (I like it). You don't have time to breathe (hence why I did not post much lately), but you can figure out what is important from the rest. The thing is that you must prepare for the class BEFORE it actually happens, because the professor might pick on you. Like in first grade, everybody must sit in the same location in all classes (of course I was selected to sit in the front row), and we need to put a sign with our names before us.
As a December 07 student told me: The life at INSEAD is spread across four axes: Academic, Social, Career, and Clubs. You can put the weight only in academics, but you may choose to spread your time in all of those four axes, and might even benefit from it. This is an advice that I intend to keep in mind.
Friday, August 31, 2007
At night, we came to friends' Mint House (a beautiful mansion with several apartments and shared living room, just on the Seine). We saw the Israeli Idol final of yesterday over the internet.
Friday - Lectures, Lectures, and some more Lectures
We had a packed day - 2 courses from 8:30 to 18:30 straight up! First we had the second part of yesterday's lecture. Guess what - our group was picked to present (Boy, this professor really is Murphy). The 3 presentations seemed very professional, and I can really tell that everybody here is really really smart! Great presentation skills.
Then we saw what Keller really did to fix the situation (we were not so far off).
After the funny lecture, and 15 minutes break for lunch, we had the "Culture and Values lecture", really interesting stuff about business ethics, non-profit, and cultural differences. Of course there were some reading to do prior to the lecture, and there was a chinese fellow who did not read it and had the professor all over him.
At night we had a wonderful dinner (organized by Inna, my wife and another partner) with several of the Mint House residents, and other students who simply showed up - lot's of fun. We could discuss the first week, and some differences in cultures.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Well, this is a night to remember. First there was a 30 minutes welcome speaches from the dean, Prof Antonio Fatas, and some other speakers. I liked the speech of the head of alumni , Mr. Daniel Labrecque, who said "When I sat in your places, 25 years ago, there was a guest speaker as well, but I can't remember his name or what he had to say". Basically, he said that it is going to be an intense and interesting year.
After the speeches, there was a cocktail party. We all dressed up in suits (except for some wise guys who decided to come in Bermuda shorts and moccasins). There was champagne and Kir Royale (apparently Kasis with Champagne) - but not enough. Well, after 2 glasses my head spun anyhow.
The intention of the evening was to meet the other students, so they packed the 300 students in a room with no air condition, so after 20 minutes everybody ran outside to the balcony where there was not enough room for everybody.
I am not used to talking to people that I don't know, so I followed the lead of the other students (mostly the Amercian ones - do they teach mingling in school over there?). Basically, you see someone standing alone, or a group of people that has an open space between them, go ahead, shake hands, say your name and where you are from and ask the other gentlemen or women their name and country. Then you can circle through these questions:
- What did you do before you arrived to INSEAD?
- What are your plans after the school?
- When did you arrive to France?
- Where do you live around here?
- What is your section?
I shook a lot of hands (almost like a politician), and put on a smile all night. If I was lucky then the person I was talking to was interesting and we had some common ground, so I could actually enjoy myself in the conversation.
I was impressed with the diversity of the students. I knew it will be like this when I applied, but seeing it with my own eyes was amazing. Almost everybody in the room was born in one place, but lives in another. A lot are managers and consultants, some of them 26 years old with already a rich international backgorund.
This was hard work, and I was exhausted in the end. So we went to the restaurant, where we met a very nice guy from France, who shared his religous and professional point of view. It was the best time of the night.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Monday, August 27, 2007
We went to Paris by train today. The ride takes 35-50 minutes (depending on the train station). You need to know where the train stations are, and what ticket to buy.
The destination in Paris is Gare De Lyon station. The first station is Thomery. 4 minutes later is Fontainebleau-Avon station. In 7 minutes you will be in Bois Le Roi. From there in 35 minutes you are in Paris (through Melun).
The way back is the pretty much the same.
A single two-ways ticket to Paris – Gare De Lyon station – cost 15.20 Euros. Order a ticket of 15.90 Euros and you get a free Metro pass for the entire day! This is really worthwhile. Don’t forget to write your name and the date on the ticket. Also stamp the ticket in a machine that is located on the deck.
From Gare De Lyon station runs Line 1 of the metro, which takes you through Champs D'elise to La Defance. (When you come back to the station go up 1 or two floors to the train station). There is tourist information in the station, where you can get a free map. You can ask around the station, people are mostly friendly and know English surprisingly well.