Thursday, December 13, 2012

Testing 1, 2, 3..

It's all over.  As of 11:00 a.m. today my first quarter at Chicago Booth has come to an end.  I finished my last final exam this morning and will never again have to understand what a z-score is or how much a government subsidy will need to be in order to incentivize a monopolist to lower their price.  Now that finals are over I can finally do all of the things that I have neglected to do for over a week, such as write cover letters for internship applications, working out, preparing the marketing campaign for a startup I'm working on, sleeping, doing my hair*.

So, how did it all go?  Hmmm...where do I start? The beginning, I guess.  Fall quarter I took four classes, two Monday classes, one Wednesday, and one Friday.  Why is that important?  Because the day of your class determines the day of your final exam; and you guessed it: on Monday I had not one, but two final exams.  I had the privilege of waking up at the butt crack of dawn to a statistics final from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. and finishing my day with a microeconomics final from 11:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. (with a free lunch from Potbelly in the middle. Thank you Booth administration).  Two finals in one day made for a pretty terrible Saturday and Sunday prior.  Before I go further, let me back up.  Back in late October I mentioned that I was working on a case competition that just so happened to be taking place right in the middle of midterms.  Turns out that spending 12 hours working a case and 12 minutes studying for a midterm does not bode well for exam performance.  I pretty much bombed my two exams that week.  The two midterms I'd taken previously (which just so happened to have been stats and econ) weren't disasters but my scores were definitely not Dean's List material.  All of that to say that my final exams were gonna have to carry a very heavy load if I didn't want flunk out of school or lose my fellowship.
The issue was that right after midterms my professors decided to lose their damn minds and go places that basic classes should not go. K, L, MPK, MPL, Rsquared, and p-hat flew by me and I didn't catch any of it.  I knew that it would take time for me to review all of the material and be able to apply it in some intelligible way.  However, my study schedule looked something like this:
While I did start studying prior to midnight before the exam, by Saturday evening I realized that trying to cram 5 weeks worth of new material and relearn 5 weeks worth of stuff I'd "already learned" for two classes was not a good life choice.  I spent over 5 hours alone just figuring out cost curves (go ahead and ask me how much labor and capital are required to produce 100 pens!).  The majority of Sunday I spent trying to figure out statistics.  My professor was kind enough to provide us with previous year's exams to use in our preparation.  However, upon getting to question #3 in the 2005 final exam I soon saw an incongruence:
I went to both the professor's and the TA's Sunday review sessions (on opposite sides of town no less - one at Gleacher, one at Haper Center).  One of them was helpful, but I will not say which one.  After the second review session I stumbled upon some classmates in a group study room and joined them for a marathon review session.  Hell, we even used the white board to work out problems together.  By 9:00 p.m. I still had not been able to work through the entire 2005 statistics final and had yet to do the practice exams for micro. At that point I resigned myself that my stats knowledge was what it was and that it was time to move on to micro.  Over the next 5 hours I got a better handle on price discrimination, production optimization, and monopoly behavior in uncertainty.  I didn't leave school until close to 2:00 a.m and finally crashed by about 2:30.

Less than 5 hours later I was awake and heading back to campus to face my executioner.  I opened the statistics exam booklet at exactly 8:00 a.m. to find that God had smiled down upon me.  The 2012 final was eerily similar to the 2005 final exam (yep, the same one I'd been studying from).  As I went through the questions, section by section I found myself doing little happy dances in my chair each time I knew how to apply the information on my allowed cheat sheets to the exam questions.  While my professor may have been nice enough to give us an exam that was similar to our preparatory materials, he was sadistic enough to make the exam a dense, time consuming ordeal of calculating means and variances of linear combinations and finding standard errors for hypothesis tests.  For the most part I knew what I was doing it just took me a long time to do it. With about an hour to go in the exam I noticed that some people were starting to turn in their exams and leave.
I kept working until time was called.  Although there were a few questions that I had no clue how to do and a couple of others that I forgot how to approach for the 3 hours of the test (WHY COULDN'T I SEE IT WAS A BERNOULLI!!!!), overall I didn't feel bad about the exam at all. I probably got about a 70%.  However, there's this beautiful invention called a curve that turns a 70% into a high B and that's alright by me.

A half hour after completing my stats exam I sat down to my micro economics final.  Once again, much of what I had studied was on the exam.  There were some problems that I knew how to solve but just spaced on (I'm looking at you Stackleberg), but for the most part I felt okay when it was all done.

With all of the studying for stats and micro over the last few days I had neglected to start reviewing for the final that mattered most: competitive strategy.  That midterm was my worst one and it was abysmal. In fact the professor listed my score in the caution zone when it came to grading.  I knew I would have to knock out the final in order to not risk losing my fellowship, let alone get a good grade.  I had missed a lecture toward the end of the quarter due to a recruiting event.  Last night, one of my study group members was kind enough to sit with me for a couple of hours and explain all of the concepts I wasn't quite getting.  I stayed up til 1:00 a.m. working on my cheat sheet for the exam.  Thank sweet baby Jesus I was able to cram 10 weeks worth of notes onto the front and back of an 8.5X11 page because I broke that puppy out by the second question and copied those notes verbatim onto my test.  I quickly figured out that competitive strategy exams are not really difficult when you actually prepare for them.  While finding an exam to not be a Jedi mind trick is great on one hand, on the other it usually makes for a very high mean and an extremely narrow standard deviation.  I've gone over the exam in my head multiple times since this morning trying to figure out which questions I probably lost points on (Replacement Effect, minus 7 points there).

I don't have a final exam on Friday because the professor assigned a final group paper that was due the last week of class.  So now, I'm freeeeeeeeeee!  Grades will be posted by Dec. 21, but until then I'm just going to forget about academics and focus on fun, which means one thing: SKI TRIP!!!!

*Side Note: I really can't stand people who still look good during final exams.  Finals week is the one time where it is acceptable to wear the same sweatshirt for days, throw your hair in the same ratty ponytail everyday, and not wear make.  Looking good just spits in the face of this right and makes those of us who exercise it look bad (well rather worse than we already do). 

3 comments:

a said...

Yup - same exam/class schedule as you, except didn't have the "luck" of a paper for the Friday final. Dreading 12/21, although I know I deserve a solid A in procrastination. Good luck with your grades and a "HURRAH" that this quarter's finished!

missionm said...

Same here.....went for a run after long. Enjoy the break !!

Anonymous said...

What does it really mean when guys are turning their tests in when I'm only a 1/3 of the way finished?