Going Back to College: No More ‘Exam Fever’

Lunch with classmates - part of going back to college
A lunch discussion with my classmates

I’m at the same age as the average person in our class, which means I have been out of school for about 15 years. That’s a long time.

The 2 things I specifically remember from my college days are the fun I had with friends and the anxiety caused by exams, which I call ‘exam fever.’ While there is plenty of the former here at Fuqua, I will focus on my experience with the latter.

Weighing the Decision

One of my considerations before beginning an MBA was whether or not I still have the ability to get into exam mode and pass a tough course at a competitive school like Fuqua. I had self-doubt, wondering if the money and time I would commit to this program would only result in me getting an ‘F’ in an exam and being shown the door.

In my past school life, I had no other responsibilities apart from studies (and of course maximizing my time at the college cafeteria). Now with an MBA, I would have to balance my family, job, and social life with school. That weighed heavy in the back of my mind, but regardless I decided to take the plunge and enrolled in the Weekend Executive MBA program.

Designed to Facilitate Learning

I passed the first term, which in some ways could be considered a ‘warm up’ for the rest of program. By the end of the second term, having gone through multiple assignments, quizzes and mid-terms, I could safely say that I was over the anxiety of going back to college. How did it change so dramatically in just a span of a few months? The answer lies in what I think makes this program so special and distinguished.

I believe the courses are designed to provide us with tools we can use and to encourage learning, more than simply memorizing material for an exam. I think there is huge benefit when you’re able to study to learn rather than study to merely pass an exam. None of the exams so far have been a memorization competition, but instead focus on how well we can apply concepts developed in the class.

Keys to Success

Make no mistake though, the topics taught in the class are very complex and someone could fail. But in my opinion you would have to be very disengaged during the coursework to do so. The classroom discussion is the most important piece that enables relevant learning, therefore being attentive and active plays an important role. Class discussions are extended online in between our residencies, and they play a vital role in expanding our perspective.

The pace of the course is very fast and therefore it’s easy to fall behind. But thanks to the availability of professors after class and personal & prompt attention to our questions via email, phone, and personal meetings, there is help available to master the concepts. And your classmates can help too—for example the CPAs in the class helping others with accounting.

My experience at Fuqua has been very different from my previous colleges as I finally feel free from exam fever. Kudos to the designers of the course, the program facilitators, and the faculty who have successfully made learning the center of the whole program rather than grade competition. The threat of failing is no longer the driver of education, but instead it’s the thirst for learning.

To summarize, the keys to being successful in exams at Fuqua are:

  1. Abide by every word of the Honor Code.
  2. Focus on learning and not exclusively passing the exams.
  3. Make the most out of class time by being attentive and engaged.
  4. Reach out to the faculty or classmates for help when needed.
Student blogger profile and bio for Parijat, Weekend Executive MBA student at Duke's Fuqua School of Business

Parijat Singh

Weekend Executive MBA, Class of 2016

Current Role I currently work as lead development manager for a large not for profit... Read More

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