Monday, April 21, 2008

Endurance Test

What is the longest duration exam have you ever given ? If you are one of the participants of PGDSM-MIT then your answer would definitely be............. 8 hours. Yeap, I am just coming after giving a grilling 8 hour exam with a break of 1/2 an hour after 4 hours.

Exams keep happening. I have become immune to exams to some extent. After all I have been giving them since past 17 year ! All the exams are same. But there had been few which really stand out of the league. The first such exam I had was in my 1st year of engineering. The first time when I was exposed to an open book exam. Man! for a person who have been brought up in this Indian education system where exams are treated as WARs, where parents become more nervous then the child on the day of the exam, where exams are signs of your 'Talent' , where you can become a social icon or likewise an outcast on the basis of your exams, where your future can be decided by those crucial 2-3 hrs, where all that matters is to vomit whatever you have memorized a day before without even understanding, open book exams were a change. A pleasant change. Then came the one in 3rd Semester of B.Tech. This one had the concept of Cheat sheet. For those of you who have not been fortunate enough to live such experience, let me explain to you that in this concept you are allowed to take a sheet of paper to the exam which could have anything written on it. But with the condition that it should be hand written. I still remember scribbling all the formula in the finest and smallest hand writing possible on that A4 size sheet. Another fun, just a few days ago I had given a take home exam. Though I had seen my seniors going through it in my engineering days, I escaped the 'treat' at that time (didn't opted for that elective:) But this time I experience it. A whole new experience and what I knew beforehand came true altogether. But these exams had some thing which I will be telling you later towards the end.

My exams at my B.Tech had transformed my thinking from the typical 'Indian Thinking' (Don't ask me to explain that. You know it for yourself) to what I perceive as more broader and global thinking. It might be because most of my professors had the teaching experience or they had been educated in west, so their style differed considerably to general style prevalent in India. Emphasis was more on understanding. They didn't require stories in exams but precise and crisp answers. Well, I am in a B-school now, but obviously, here I could feel and even see that Old Style of Thinking (can't elaborate on that for the obvious reasons ;) But my course association with Virgina Tech just takes me back to where I feel at home. They don't concentrate on quantity but quality and concepts. Exactly like I had in my B.Tech :) In one incident a SPJIMR faculty asked me about how the Prof. from VT take pop quizes and when I told that person that the in a quiz we just had to write literally 3 words for 10 points, (s)he was amazed. I can understand the amazement.

Coming back to the main topic - My today's exam was another diamond to the crown. I would not call it a exam, but an Endurance Test. Its about surviving for 8 hours, as if Prof Sheetz would be asking "Do you have it in you ?". Let me ask those of you who are working, leave apart the student community, have you ever worked continuously frantically for 8 hours ! I bet majority won't even work continuously for 2 hours. Since the exam was of 8 hrs, people were pretty relaxed till the morning. 8hrs - 5 questions....what big deal. But as soon as the question paper was handed to us, I could find that lost look on every face over there. For the first 1.5 hrs I had not typed anything on my laptop. I could hear Prof Sheetz laughing that evil mythological laughter somewhere in my head. I quick look around told me that I was not alone... sense of relief. I got back started typing anything and everything that came to my mind and slowly it started taking shape... Finally I managed to do something, something worthy at the end of 8 hrs... At the end of those 8hrs we walked out of the rooms as if we were all Achilles. The great warriors who have just won a long War. We have done it !

After having all these unique experiences with different type of exams I have realized 1 important fact. They are all baits to trap you. People think, an open book exam means you don't need to study anything. Just learn the contents' location in the book so that you can look it up in exam. Or when you have the cheat sheet, just write the formula and you will sail through easily. And take home exams! what feast... search net, ask friends.... so easy. right ? and 8 hr long have too much time to go through the material, so just relax.... Well! absolutely wrong. I pity those who think these exams make life easy. Yes, they do make life easy as you don't need to memorize and then vomit that stinking material in exam, but these exams requires much greater understanding of the concepts. In all my open book exams so far, I have hardly found a occasion to open the book. They were so conceptual that books can't help you if you have not read them and understood the concepts and if you have then you don't even need the book ! In all those cheat sheet exams hardly ever a formula based question would come.... I still remember I was only being able to track 1 numerical to my cheat sheet in all those exams. And by God, Take Home Exams! they will require you to do indepth research. When even net fails to assist you and when you began to doubt the page rank algorithm that google implements, then its a serious issue. And Finally, long exams like that of today's 8hr marathon...they will make you sit there like fool. You would want to cry, but won't be able to do so. You would try to relax, (hey you have 8 hrs on hand), but won't be able to. When you start counting your sins for which you are being punished, you can understand the severity of situation.
But even after all this, when some prof tomorrow would offer you one of these options in place of the traditional Good Old Style Exam, you would find some idiots falling for the bait and with themselves they take the whole class into the deep dungeon.
As far as I am concerned, I would beg on my knees to have the traditional form of exam... they are much more easier to score!

Sunday, April 20, 2008


This post I wrote in today's guest lecture. It will give you a glimpse of my Management life :)
so here it goes:

I am sitting in a guest lecture on High Maturity Practices taken by the Associate VP of an organization. I am not even trying to listen what he is talking. I don't want to. May be because most of the things he is talking I already know. May be I am half asleep. But there could be one more factor and thats the first impression. He is wearing a business suit. But wearing something and wearing with elegance - there is much difference between the two. So although the gentleman is quite knowledgeable with good communication skills (IITB and IIMA graduate) and is talking sense, but still I don't want to listen to him. I think this is the effect of presentation.
Now he has given us an activity to do in groups on what he has talked about: Process Performance Measure, Control Charts and CAR. We have to apply these concepts on a case study. Now here is another twist. The case was sent to us few days ago. But as hardcore faithful followers of the long set Indian Student Culture, 90% of us haven't read it. And as I mentioned earlier, most of us (take it as all of us) were not grasping to what he was saying - the situation has become very interesting as he wants us to give presentation on our analysis after 30 min.
Various groups are making presentations at present. but let me take you to what has happened during the last 30-45 min. We formed groups in such a way that atleast one person in the group had read the case...There were not many of those species. After that the knowledgeable person bestowed upon us the case gist. And we started working. No one had any clear idea as to what to do (remember none was listening - physically present, mentally absent during the lecture) but everyone was working. Ultimately it boiled down to few things: c- charts, perato charts, Ishikawa Diagram, all drawn on big charts => presentation. Every group has managed to pull this part so far. Now came the presentations. And wow! what presentations. No one knew what had to be done. No one still has any idea, but everyone is making mind blowing presentation. If you are an outsider, it would flatter you. Full of jargons, strategies, cause and effects blah blah........ But if you are at the other side, the side to which I am there, you will see that its all gas. But still impressive. And the lecturer is quite happy.

This is the biggest learning of MBA. Rely on each other to get out of tough situation. Then, presentation matters a lot. Finally, given any topic, you would be able to speak upon it with some jargons here and there such that the poor fellow who is ignorant of this culture can't escape being impressed by you. Its the confidence with which people transmit this gaseous material that all of it seems to be as solid as rock.... Welcome! thats real MBA and I am still learning it