Exam FAQ's

Is the exam format the same every year?

The final exam will follow the same format as in past years. You can have a look at lots of old exams at the MBS website - http://support.mbs-worldwide.ac.uk. The exam format always includes three parts:

  1. A case question, worth 50% of the exam grade, with the case study distributed a couple of weeks in advance. The questions are not provided in advance, but the nature of the case will probably give you some hints as to the type of questions that you should expect. For example, if the case looks a lot like a political risk problem, you might want to focus more on the second module. The questions that will be asked on the exam are usually more limited in scope than the assignment case questions, but most of the cases have been used for exams in the past;
  2. A theory question, worth 25%, chosen from two alternatives, allows you to demonstrate your understanding of one of the major learning points from one of the modules. There are roughly 5-8 major points covered in each of the modules, (including the workshop, module 3) so the themes tend to be repeated from past exams, even if the form of the question varies a bit. Past exams will give you a lot of help here. As this is an open book exam, you'll have to do more than copy the definition out of the textbook - alternative definitions from readings, modules and class discussions may be needed, and you may be asked for examples from your own experience. It really helps to cross-reference discussion of these themes so that you can find the relevant articles when you're doing the exam;

  3. The critical ability question, worth 25%, and again a choice of two alternative questions, allows you to demonstrate an ability to argue for or against a a particular part of the theory covered in the course. The opinion you present should be well supported by an argument that ties together a chain of reasonable premises, and is well supported by readings and your own experience.

How does the case section of the exam work?

As discussed above, the case question requires that you demonstrate the ability to solve a case problem. The case is distributed in advance, but the question is distributed as part of the exam. The question will probably have multiple parts, so be careful to identify these parts and be careful to address all parts in your answer. Ration your effort so that you have time to cover all parts of the exam, and if your answer significantly exceeds the recommended word limit, you should review the question - the question is designed to limit the scope of your analysis, to focus your answer in the areas that really count. 

There are a lot of readings - which should I focus on?

Everything. Sorry about that, but the readings, the modules and the assigned textbook chapters have been chosen because they are individually and collectively important, and any of the questions can require you to demonstrate understanding that is only really covered in one part of the course material. Even worse, you might be asked to contrast two ideas, and if you can't find the original sources the question will be a lot more work.

The exam is open book right?

The exam is open book, but with the readings, text and modules, there isn't time during the exam to find all of the references you might need unless you are already familiar with each. There is a lot of evidence that people have tried to catch up on their reading during the exam - the occasional paper is handed in with one question answered fairly well during the three hours of the test, but nothing else was attempted. You need to have read and understood all of the material, but you should also have an idea how the material relates to the remainder of the course topics and readings. 

Is there a choice of questions, or are all questions compulsory

The second and third sections allow a choice of one of the two alternative questions. Usually (almost always) these alternatives are chosen from different thematic areas of the course, so if you are lost in one of these areas there's still hope. 

Will all of the modules be covered?

There's a reasonable effort made to distribute the examination questions equally among the four modules. (module 3 is the workshop)

Any general hints?

Aside from the obvious (study hard, take financial analysis instead) a couple of general comments have been contributed by students in the past.

  • use an index to cross-tabulate the contribution to the understanding of the thematic area by different writers - for example, Michael Porter talks about the shortcomings of strategic alliances in the Competitive Advantage of Nations article, while Kenichi Ohmae describes them as a permanent and sustainable strategy. The difference in their view is a good start for an essay;

  • Plan and use your time well. Allocate you effort so that all questions get attention in proportion to the grade available;

  • Read the questions carefully and make sure you identify and answer all parts of the question. A lot of student responses provide detailed discussion of topics not included in the question - impressive, but this does nothing for your grade;

  • Pick an easy question to answer first. For a lot of people the second question is the easiest to answer. If you feel comfortable after 30 minutes that you've covered 25% of the exam and done a good job at it, the rest should be easy;

Good luck with the exam, and if there are any question you would like me to address, email me at mailto:schell@unbc.ca