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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Open notes Strategic management exam costing 9000 pages-was it worth it?

When it was announced that our end term exam would be a single case, that too distributed about 4 days in advance to let us analyze/prepare, I was quite excited about the possibility of using all that in depth company/industry analysis I'd done during my 1 yr industrial training stint. But I did not bargain for my dorm mates and batchmates.

Following the typical engineering mindset of 'Some How in Time', their case analysis began on the previous night. And of course, instead of analyzing and then taking printouts, people began to take wholesale printouts of analyst reports, annual reports, frameworks, XYZ....And this went to such an extent that one of my dorm mates started mechanically demanding an extra copy of whatever people were printing-without even looking at it. Some people's hard written analysis began to be mass forwarded allowing free riding. And of course, more time was spent on hunting up other people's notes/analysis rather than working out the case. I did a guesstimate of the pages lost via this approach. There are 440 first years..even taking conservatively that 50% of them printed out notes...average copies amounting to 50+(thanks to a 35pg summary floating somewhere)..that works out to around 11,000 pages. As very few bothered to do back-back page saving techniques, that would come to around 9000+ pages wasted.

Thankfully, the case questions(given in the exam hall) were both analytical(needing you to think) AND long(thus giving people very little time to search their mass of notes). So although it probably achieved its objective of rewarding those who thought critically about the case, it left a bad taste in my mouth due to the number of printouts wasted.

So how can the system be refined? Maybe permit a case analysis of maximum ...pages to be brought to the exam hall. A fair size would be 10pages(including exhibits/data). That would reduce the superfluous junk being printed, or atleast force people to paraphrase in their own words. Still, the case did give  chance for deep reflection BEFORE the exam itself, thus improving the answer quality for those who sincerely approached it. So I guess it was worth it for those people(small minority though).


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  2. Definitely worth it Anandh. Especially for those who come from a strong tech background and have an affinity for the same (read, me). And yes, quite sad the way the mindless copying was happening.

    But stranger things happened. The buffoon (I hope he reads this) sitting right next to me forgot his copy of the case. He had a huge pile of printouts but not the case and eventually ended up borrowing mine and got it photocopied. All during the exam. And of course he got my in-case notes copied as well.

    I guess it takes all kinds to make a world.