Thursday, October 25, 2007

How To Do 5 Exams in 3 Days And Stay Sane

In the previous days we had the final exams. The way that INSEAD organizes it is to put all the exams in 3 days, and let you go for a 4 days vacation. They keep you studying and submitting group assignments until the last minute, so you only have the weekend to study.

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).

Regular Exams
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...)

1 comment:

Darlene said...

People should read this.