It’s been four weeks since my last blog post, as I had a few busy weeks at work which put me slightly behind on my studies, leaving little time for writing a blog post. However, I’m almost back on track now, and hope to have completed all the content by the end of this week, which will give me one full week of revision for the Marketing exam and 1.5 weeks for Operations Management and Modelling and Analysis for Management.
As I’ve mentioned before, the assessments for this semester are all in the form of a hand-written exam at Warwick University (or exam centres set up for those students not living in the UK). Given that it has been over 10 years since I last wrote an essay under exam conditions, this is quite daunting – I’ll need to write using a pen for three hours, with no ability to cut and paste!
Luckily, to help prepare for the exams, two of the modules gave us the opportunity to complete a mock exam question as the final Tutor Marked Assignment (TMA). I’ve completed both of these (and received my grade for one of them, which I was very pleased with), and am glad I took the time out to do so. Here are my thoughts following these TMAs, in preparation for the final exams.
Writing with a pen
It may seem like a minor concern, but given that most of my note-taking at work is now carried out using my iPad, I rarely write at length with a pen. Writing intensively was therefore, unsurprisingly, very tiring on my wrist. However, one thing that helped was a change in pen between the two TMAs; for the first TMA I used a ballpoint pen that required a lot of pressure, whereas on the the second TMA I used a rollerball – which was a lot softer and much easier to write with. For those readers who are sitting the exams in a few weeks, it might be worthwhile checking the suitability of your pen beforehand, as it could make a difference on the day; there’s an article here that gives some tips on choosing a pen and writing style if you’re interested (although I don’t think tip 8, ‘Take Breaks’ will be much help here!).
Structuring the answer
Given the time constraints, very little time can be spent thinking about how to approach a question and structure an answer; during my first question I used 10 minutes of the 45 minutes allocated to plan my answer, and then ran out of time when writing it. The lesson I learned for the remaining questions was to very quickly decide an approach in my head, then start writing and build the structure as I was writing the question. Personally I would prefer to get as much of the content on paper as possible to demonstrate my understanding, rather than have a well structured answer that is missing some key points. (If there are any assessors reading this, it would be great to hear your viewpoint in the comments area)
Writing first time
As the assessments for last semester’s modules were typed, it was possible to produce an initial structure, then write content and move it around as required. However, in a written exam the content has to be written in the right order first time, with no opportunity to restructure or reorder. I wasn’t sure how I would manage with this, but it was not as difficult as I expected. Taking a few minutes at the start to consider the overall structure, and then just putting my thoughts onto paper seemed to work quite well. What I did do was pause between each paragraph and think about the messages I wanted to get across in the next paragraph, which I found was a worthwhile use of a minute (and gave my writing hand time to rest).
Introduction and conclusion
For most questions I included an introduction, but not a conclusion (this was originally due to not thinking it was required, and then due to a lack of time). However, I had some very valuable feedback from my assessment tutor (I hope they don’t mind me sharing it here!), which was “… conclusion – this is also a chance to reinforce your answer. Remember, it is the last thing the marker reads before assigning your grade!“. This is a very valid point, and even if only 2 sentences written over a minute, I agree that it will likely help the assessor feel the answer is complete.
The Marketing exam required me to include some examples in the answer, which caught me out slightly – it was not that I was not aware of any examples, but just that I had not thought about them in advance and so had to spend some time choosing suitable ones whilst writing the answer. I’ll definitely need to pre-prepare some examples before the final exam.
I could not believe how quickly the time passed – spending an hour reading a textbook seems to last forever, but the time disappeared quickly whilst working under exam conditions. I’ll be using that to my advantage to hold back nerves at the start of the exam; I can just remember that 3 hours will be over very quickly, and then the module will be finished.
My first exam is in two weeks’ time, and the final exam will be over in less than three weeks, so this will be my last blog post until the exams are over. I’ve finished all the Marketing lessons, and will quickly finish Operations Management and Modelling and Analysis for Management, before starting my revision at the end of this week. Good luck to all those writing assessments at the moment, as well as those who will be doing exams in a few weeks – I hope you found this blog post useful in preparing.