Thursday, October 19, 2006

Mid-Term Exams: Discussion and Analysis

Time to shift gears again, folks. I have promised to update my work on pursuing my Masters of Business Administration, and since all my Mid-term grades have come back, it’s time to do a review.

It ain’t pretty.

Now, people who know me will not be surprised to read that I consider myself an intelligent person, smart even. That’s partly because a lot of people have been telling me that I am smart, every so often. Well, in times past that has come back and smacked me, as I have mistaken assumptions I liked for actual knowledge. I thought I had been trying to correct that.

With the Mid-Term exam grades in, here is where I stand in each of my three courses:

Business and Society: The Mid-term grade is the only grade received so far, worth 30% of the total. For that exam, I received a score of 80.5% (80.5 out of a possible 100). Remaining grades to come are my Individual Case Analysis (due October 30, worth 15% of the total grade), my Final Exam (December 2, worth 30% of the total grade), and my Discussion Board grade (posted end-of-semester, worth 25% of the total grade. The professor has said she is pleased with my posts on the Discussion Board (“your discussion posts are great”, she wrote), so at least there I have some hope to raise the numbers. I can get a ‘B’ – not that I want to settle for that – with a 79.8% average the rest of the way, and I can work for an ‘A’ if I can average 94.1% the rest of the way. One thing important about the Business & Society Mid-Term, was that this class used a special browser with which I was less familiar than I thought. What I mean is, I took the recommended practice sessions to get familiar with it, but did not realize what would happen if/when I lost my Internet connection during the test – Roadrunner sucks, by the way. I was way stressed by the time I was able to get back in and finish my exam, so I think I can reasonably say that I did not do my best in part due to unique conditions that should not reoccur. That said, I obviously need to work hard on my Individual Case Analysis, and study more effectively for my Final Exam.

Accounting: And things were going so well! Before the Mid-Term, I had grades as follows:

Quizzes: 90%, 100%, 90%, 90%, and 100% (2% of total grade each)
Assignments: 100%, 96.6%, 96.6% (3% of total grade each)

Discussion: 100% (5% of total grade)

Average before Mid-Term: 232/240 or 96.6%

Mid-Term grade: 72% (216 of 300, 30% of total grade)

Average now: 448/540, or 82.96%

Ouch. The Mid-Term had four “problems”, each of which had several parts. What really slammed me was the first section, where I was shown twelve columns of financial summary data, and twelve companies with a very brief description about them. The problem, worth 60 points out of the total 300 for the test, or 20% of the test grade, was to match up companies with the correct column. Not only that, but to get full credit I had to explain my reasoning for the match.

There are several reasons to be unhappy with that problem. First, it’s easy to get it all or almost-all right, or else all or almost-all wrong. That’s because if you put a company in the wrong column, say company A in column 5 when it belongs in column 6, you not only lose company A but also the company which should have gone into column 5. Further, your remaining choices are predicated on the remaining slots, so one error can easily cascade into other mistakes. Insofar as accountants need to understand how a critical error can cause other errors, I agree that this is a worthwhile and important lesson. However, while this type of problem was briefly touched on in the Learning Resources, it was not addressed in any of the assignments of quizzes, nor even discussed in detail by the test or in discussions. In that light, it does not seem to me reasonable that such a problem should count for 20% of the Mid-term examination. Judging from responses I have read from other students, they had the same trouble I did. There is talk about appealing that question, though in honesty I doubt such an appeal would succeed.

My Accounting class has a dozen grades remaining to be issued, constituting 46% of the total grade. They include two group assignments worth 7% of the total grade, one individual assignment worth 4% of the total grade, five quizzes worth 2% of the total grade each for a collective value of 10% of the total grade, the group Final Report worth 20% of the total grade, a peer evaluation worth 1% of the total grade, a survey of the class worth 1% of the total grade, and the grade for the Discussions worth the last 3% of the total grade. I can get a ‘B’ if I average 76.5% the rest of the way, but an ‘A’ is still possible, but just barely, if I can average 98.2% the rest of the way. There is no Final Exam in this class, so the Group Report and series of assignments and quizzes are very important; I cannot afford to slip up again.

Economics: The Mid-Term exam was the third grade received in the class so far. The other two were quizzes, each worth 2.5% of the total grade. I got a 90 and a 100 for those quizzes. My Mid-Term grade started out as a 96% (96 out of 100), worth 30% of the total grade, but the professor gave everyone a four-point bump, which I am happy to accept. The adjusted 100 grade gives me a 99.2% average to this point in the class, but with 65% of the grades still to come, I know I’d better work hard. Remaining grades to earn in Economics are two more quizzes at 2.5% each, an Industry Analysis paper due November 14 worth 15% of the total grade, the Final Exam (December 3) worth 30% of the total grade, my grade in the Discussions, and my Homework grade. Interesting, that last part – we are not automatically required to turn in our Homework, but the professor may demand it if she has any doubts about whether we have done it. Personally, I like the homework, since the homework is great preparation for the quizzes and exams. I can get a 'B' with an average of 69.7% the rest of the way, which again is below the goal, and I can earn an 'A' with an average of 85.0% the rest of the way.

Analysis: I still consider myself to be a reasonably intelligent man, despite the unfortunate results in two of my three exams. Some of that – I hope – may be due to getting back into studying after so many years in the real world, but I also know that I should be careful to avoid excuses or crutches. I could have done better on those tests, and will just have to man up for the remaining work.

I posted this update in part to vent, but also because I know there are other students going through similar trials. Yes, it really sucks to get a grade worse than you expected, or to have a question hurt you which seems disproportionate to what it should have counted, but that happens in Life, and we all have to pull ourselves back up and press on. A bad grade does not automatically make you stupid, and there are a lot of opportunities to pull things back up. Don’t let the good stuff make you overconfident or the bad stuff depress you, and remember there are a lot of us the same boat. To all my fellow students, press on and remember what you’re working for and why.

1 comment:

Mark L. said...

It ain't that great, but it ain't that bad, either. Pretty typical for the first set of big tests after a long layoff away from school. Just think of it as a "focusing" moment.

The only "B" I got in grad school was in the first semester I went.