The Written Exams

Last week I sat three exams for this semester’s modules: Marketing, Operations Management and Modelling & Analysis for Management. Unfortunately I didn’t get a good start to the week as I had been ill the week before, so missed the opportunity to finish my revision plan, and then had to sit the Marketing exam on Monday despite not having fully recovered. However, I was able to complete all three exams, and will find out in a few months how I performed.

In the Marketing exam we had to choose three out of eight questions, with the expectation that each would take around 1 hour to complete. Some of the questions were focused on one specific lesson from the module, whereas others were broader and covered multiple lessons. One of the challenges I found in this exam (and here’s a tip for those sitting it next year) was remembering the key ‘lists’ for each topic. I felt able to write about most of the topics in the course (although to a different standard for each), but for some questions I was unable to recall the specific lists/stages. For example, a question might ask about the application of each of the stages of the new product development cycle, and if I could only remember 6 out of the 9 stages then I would be limiting myself to just two-thirds of the overall marks. Luckily I was able to recall a sufficient number of ‘lists’, but missed the opportunity to choose some of the questions because I could not remember all the specific stages.

The second exam of the week was on Thursday, for Operations Management. The format of this was slightly different to Marketing, with a compulsory question followed by three questions to choose out of six, each of which should take 45 minutes to write. The first question was relatively straightforward to answer because the style of question was similar to that practiced previously (tip for those taking this module this next year – if the format is the same, make sure you complete the second TMA, it will really help prepare you for the exam). The remaining questions covered a number of different topic areas, and like the Marketing exam one of the challenges was being able to recall the main lists for each concept, to allow you to fully respond to the individual questions.

The final exam was on Friday, for the module Modelling and Analysis for Management. Unlike the first two exams, this was open book; however, the recommendation from tutors that “there will not be sufficient time in the exam to read the books to find an answer” was true – time was very limited in this exam. The first of the two sections in the exam was supposed to last 2 hours, with 10 compulsory questions that focussed on a specific topic from the course. Some of these required us to use the mathematical concepts to describe a situation, whereas others were a interpretative question and needed a descriptive answer, often related to the mathematical output from the previous question. The second of the two sections lasted an hour, and had three essay-style questions that discussed a case study that we had been provided with earlier in the semester.

Overall, I feel like I gave the examinations a reasonable attempt, and although I found them difficult, I wouldn’t expect them to be easy given that this is a masters degree! It would be great to hear from other students though – how do you feel you got on?

In my last post I talked about some ideas for preparing for exams, and so I thought it might be useful to provide an updated view now that they are over:

  • Writing with a pen – Although this wasn’t easy, I am relieved to say that it wasn’t a major problem during the exam. I’m still glad I did a small amount of practicing beforehand (in the form of TMAs), but its not something that impeded my ability to answer all the questions.
  • Structuring the answer – I attempted to plan my answers for the first question of the Marketing and Operations Management exams, but found that time passed quickly and I did not get the opportunity to apply a real structure to most of the questions. However, I was able to include most of the desired content, so hopefully any marks lost due to poor structure will be made up for by the content itself.
  • Writing first time – Given the time constraints, there wasn’t much time to be concerned about what order to write the content in, and I usually just wrote based on the structure indicated by the question (eg. “describe how the four techniques…” would lead me to write four paragraphs direct from memory).
  • Introduction and conclusion – My ability to include these depended on the time available; for the first question I included both sections, the second/third questions I only wrote a single concluding line, and then missed both out for the fourth question due to time constraints. However, I’m hoping that the conclusions I did write will have provided a nice close to the question that helps the assessor understand the key points of my answer.
  • Real-Life examples – I had pre-prepared a few examples but found that most of the examples I used actually related to past experiences, or an example in the context of the original question. It was still worthwhile preparing the examples though, as these helped me understand where and how the different concepts had been applied in the past.
  • Time flies – Time was a challenge in all three examinations, and in some cases I had to leave an answer with a few outstanding points to make, just to avoid using up time from the next question. However, I was able to complete all the questions in every exam, so hopefully I will have a good chance of getting a reasonable grade.

I think that’s it for exams now, as the remaining modules I have chosen are all assessed by assignment. It was an interesting experience though, and I hope my comments have been useful for those of you taking exams in June.


16 thoughts on “The Written Exams”

  1. Thanks for sharing your experience Matt – as always I benefit from your pioneering in the semester ahead of me. I found much benefit in semester 1 from your insights – and I am really grateful that you have taken the time to share your experience with us.

    I am sure you scored very well in the exams because you set high standards for yourself.


  2. Matt – is there anything different about the way you would have studied for the semester given the exams vs assignment format for the subjects? Thanks


    1. Hi Glen – yes, definitely.

      Firstly, I would have been more focussed on finishing the modules at least 3-4 weeks before the exams, as significant time was needed to revise (and relearn in some cases) the content from the start of the module.

      Secondly, I’d probably take notes in a slightly different way – I was capturing lots of detail in my notes, whereas for revision purposes it would have been more helpful to just capture the key points (such as the lists mentioned above), and then use these to identify areas of the course that I need to review in more detail.

      Hope this is useful for you next year!



      1. Thanks Matt – that will be a change I need to focus on. I did not finish the AFM lessons prior to the exam and had to do lesson 9 during the exam. I will not procrastinate next semester…I will not procrastinate next semester…I will not procrastinate next semester…


      2. I studied the same way as my undergrad, first read highlight yellow then second with pink and any really important gets both so it will be orange. _ I don’t write revision notes per se.


      3. Oh, I found for me personally that writting out revision notes just took up a lot of time and didn’t help my retension as much as the colour coding and reading aloud while considering the application of the content I was reading.


  3. Mirrors my experiences, sick for marketing etc. and time management is critical. The assignment courses I enjoyed the assessment to a greater extent, different pressures but felt better than the three hour crunch of an exam after travelling to exam centre.

    I have moved on to my doctorate but remember well my times at WBS.


    1. Thanks for sharing your views Dave – I agree that writing revision notes can take a lot of time, I might try try the colour coding myself next semester. I agree that the I prefer the assignments to the exams as well. Good luck with your doctorate!


  4. Thanks Matt. I am part of the July 2012 intake and am about to start studying these modules, so your insights are very much welcomed and appreciated 🙂


  5. Matt, great post as always! I agree with all your points about the exams. Your comments about making lists for Marketing is spot on and that was how I approached it. However, you have to wonder, what’s the point of having an exam where the focus is on us memorising lists! I think this is something the school needs to address. It would’ve been much better if the exams were open book so that we don’t have to memorise lists and better spend our time understanding the concepts! Anyway, good luck and enjoy your break before for the next semester. And all the best with the results!


    1. Kevin – very valid points, and I agree with you 100%. Hope you have a good break as well, and all the best with next year’s modules.



  6. Hi Matt,

    It’s interesting to read your blog, very helpful indeed. I just completed the first semester of DLMBA and received an email from the course director stating that the new Batch which will be starting from July’17 which will have a revised curriculum wherein there will be 6 core subjects and 4 electives.
    They have removed Modelling and Analysis for Management as a CORE subject and instead made Innovation and leadership as CoRE subjects based on the feedback of past students.

    Going through the course description of MAM it feels not very useful in the long run, but switching to the new course would mean a delay in course by 6 months (which I do not mind provided I pick subjects which interest me) Also it would mean taking 2 written exams instead of 3 😉

    Could you please describe if MAM was useful to you and is it applicable in real life?


    1. Hi Sahil,

      MAM was a module with very mixed opinions amongst the group – some found it very interesting and others struggled to see the relevance. I would recommend reviewing the module content and seeing how this might apply to your own career – if you have a role or plan a career that might require you to model, forecast, simulate, or analyse results, then I would recommend it.

      Personally I have used some of the content of MAM already, although more in an indirect fashion when asked to work with budgets or think about future plans.

      Hope this helps,



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