7 Things To Know Before Attending Your First MBA Exam

Last modified 23 November 2022
Categories: MBA, Study Tips
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
7 Things To Know Before Attending Your First MBA Exam

Summative assessments and exams are an important part of the Master of Business Administration (MBA) experience. They demonstrate that students can apply the theories in a practical sense, and give an indication of their level of understanding. As a student, it’s also an important benchmarking tool which can help you learn where you need to improve throughout your degree. MBA exams can be a daunting part of the assessment process, but those who are informed and prepared should not fret. The below summarises the key information to be aware of before attending your first MBA exam, or any future MBA exams. The advice is specific to AIB MBA exams, but points could be applied across most business schools.

1. Understand what you’re being tested on

While an understanding of your examinable material should go without saying, it’s important to know exactly what could be in the exam. There have been cases where students didn’t realise that a particular chapter of text would be included, and have experienced difficulty as a result. Refer to your Subject Overview guide, in the section titled ‘Information about the examination’ to learn exactly what material should be covered for the exam. 

2. There are both compulsory and elective questions

Before you wonder, “Why would I choose to do elective questions?” – that’s not quite how it works. The MBA exam is made up of both compulsory and elective questions, giving students an element of choice and allowing them to work with their strengths. The elective questions offer students a number of options, with a requirement to choose a certain amount. For example, “You must answer two of the following four questions”. This allows you to choose the two topics you are most confident in, and leave the others, as they are not required.

3. They’re open book exams

This may shock a few readers, but an open book exam definitely does not mean that you don’t need to study. If anything, it means that the breadth of knowledge you are required to have is large, so you should have a good understanding of where the information is located in the textbooks. Depending on the subject, you may also be allowed to bring relevant readings specified in the Subject Overview, which could help contribute to the quality of your answers. Keep in mind that this open book policy means that you’re expected to give quite informed and detailed answers, so it is still very important to prepare accordingly.

4. Questions normally require ‘principles-plus-application’

For those of you who have not yet started your MBA, this may not make a whole lot of sense. Essentially, the MBA exam questions require you to show that you understand the ‘principles’ – such as the concepts, frameworks and theories relevant to the question. Then, you must also demonstrate that you can apply the knowledge to an organisation or situation. This ensures that the academic side of the MBA is fulfilled, but students graduate with a very practical knowledge.

5. Preparation is essential

While adequate preparation has been touched on in other points, we think it’s so important that it deserves to be highlighted. A good preparation tactic is to draft answers to likely questions. You can create a plan in note form, outlining how you would likely answer a question. Acronyms and diagrams can be very helpful in preparation too, as these associations will help with recall. It’s also wise to identify a range of examples that you can use in exam answers to demonstrate ‘application’, just as you would if you were preparing for a job interview. Lastly, don’t forget to prepare your essential materials – you must bring photo ID, and the relevant textbooks to your MBA exam.

6. Your reading time is your friend

In every MBA exam, you should be allocated a set period of time for reading the exam questions and taking any notes on a separate piece of paper. This is your opportunity to read the exam’s instructions carefully, as well as starting to gather and plan thoughts, in order to answer the questions. It’s recommended that you underline the key parts of each question, to ensure that you understand it completely. You can also consult your textbook as required during this time.

7. There are time allocations for each question

Each question in the MBA exam has a recommended time allocation. There are cases where you will spend less time than this allocation, but also cases where you will go overtime. If that is the case towards the end of the exam, remember that you will usually get more marks by writing something about a new, unanswered question, rather than trying to tidy a complete question. In other words, try to answer the other questions in note form, and you should at least get a few marks for those efforts. 

What do you think?

Do you have any other MBA exam tips to add to the list? I’d love to hear from students who can share their experiences for first-timers, or those relatively new to the MBA.

This article was written by Laura Hutton on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB.   

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