Testing, Testing … 1, 2, 3

The office was searing hot. It was 5 pm in the afternoon on a Sunday. The temperature in Cambridge, MA, was approaching 90 degrees and the owners of 5 Cambridge Center chose to conserve energy by turning down the AC during the weekend. Of course, that normally wouldn’t impact anyone since the office was a complete ghost town. I was the only one there, and I was four hours into a strategy exam, trying to figure out how to define “vertical integration”.

A hot office building on a Sunday afternoon may seem like the worst place and time to take a final exam, but I learned the hard way during Term 2 that the most important thing during a final exam is to find a quiet place free from distractions where I can just focus on the exam. I love my son, but getting him a glass of water in the middle of a final can be distracting. Also, having access to printers and copiers can help, too. Some of the exams must be filled in by hand, scanned, and then submitted through the online learning platform. For a previous final exam, I spent half an hour scanning in my answers and accidentally left off the last page. I know the scanner in the office works quickly and flawlessly. Even on a hot Sunday afternoon, I will sacrifice comfort for perfection every time.

Exam Format & Process

The already mentioned strategy exam was the last of three, which completed the term, and for me it was the toughest because it is so abstract. The previous two exams: finance and operations, were challenging in their own rights but more analytical and a little more straightforward for someone like me, with a background in engineering. This was the fourth round of final exams in the Weekend Executive program. Although the specifics have varied from class to class, the format has been very similar. Following the last residency of the term, there is one week of studying followed by approximately one week in which finals are taken remotely.

Some professors establish a time limit for their tests, and it seems that the difficulty of an exam coincides with the amount of time allocated for it. All the exams are generally open book. You may think this sounds easy. However, “open book” at Fuqua means that everything is fair game and the exams are anything but easy. The accounting final for Term 2 took me almost 12 hours to complete, and it was among the most difficult exams I have ever taken.

In addition, by the end of each term, I am usually a little behind on at least one class. This past term, it was finance. I used the one-week study period to catch up and then rolled right into studying for the exam. I completed a sample final and attended a review session that was held remotely via the online learning platform. Then I spent five and a half hours on the exam, and we were allotted six hours for it.

Use Travel Time Wisely

The operations exam had no time limit and was also open book. I tried to decide whether I should dive right in and start taking it or go back to the review material. I had an upcoming business trip to California, and I decided the best way to use the flight time was by reviewing the practice questions for operations. After arriving in Cali, I had an afternoon packed with meetings, followed by dinner with co-workers. I collapsed on the bed at my hotel at 10 pm. At 4 am, I was up and chugging through the operations exam. I spent the next four mornings working on it. As I headed back home to Massachusetts, I spent the five-hour flight double-checking my answers, and then began studying for another exam!

Arturo Fagundo

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Weekend Executive MBA, Class of 2012. Find out more about me...

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