My current course in the MBA degree is marketing - we started eight weeks ago and I see that I haven't mentioned it once here. Originally I thought that marketing would be the course most foreign to my knowledge and to my orientation, but I have to admit that I have found the lectures both interesting and familiar at times.
We are now approaching the twilight zone in which there are no more lectures in marketing, but another course starts prior to the marketing exam. I wrote about this last year, when organisational behaviour overlapped with economics. Actually this time, it's slightly different as we still have three more marketing lectures during February (the exam is in the first week of March) at the same time as there will be lectures in human resources.
We have finished almost all of the set material and are now beginning to prepare ourselves for the exam. As opposed to the exams in other subjects, the marketing exam is extremely unstructured: one has to write three essays of which only the first has a definite structure. So of course, we have been practicing this structure, trying to commit it to memory. The university's website gives past exams, complete with examiner's solution and good student's solution, and in all of the cases that I have checked, none of the answers to the first question have been in the strict format which has been drilled into us.
This brings up the age old question: are we being taught the subject or are we being taught to pass an exam?
In order to practice, we divided ourselves into groups where each group has done two exercises. I was an enthusiastic participant in the meeting when we did the first exercise but decided to take a back seat for the second exercise and let the others do the work. Big mistake. When I saw the resulting document, I was fairly sure that several sections had been left out and so I decided to do the exercise on my own. This took about an hour - which is the upper limit of time in the exam, although as one gets better, the time is supposed to shorten - and required five pages of handwritten A4 paper. On Friday, the lecturer looked at several groups' answers and made comments; mine was the last to be looked at. After the lecturer looked through the pages, he asked who wrote it. I admitted to this, expecting to hear a list of necessary improvements; instead he said that the work was excellent and exactly what was needed. People in the class (from the other side of the class!) wanted to see my paper. All I have to do know is remember how to write the answers in the exam (the paper was written whilst referring to notes).
Handwriting the answers is supposed to encourage muscle memory - it also prevents the lazy student from copy/pasting answers from other sources. No marks are given for these exercises - they exist solely for the purpose of helping the student revise.
We now have a week and a half without lectures, in which time we are supposed to go over the material a few times and complete another exercise. I'll try to do the exercise this time without referring so much to my notes.