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Tales from Finals

I did everything right. I studied for hours, I went to the review sessions, I did the end-of-term pit dives, everything. Unfortunately, the results for my final exams did not reflect the amount of hours I spent preparing.

(Fortunately, I ran my mouth incessantly in enough classes that I was able to be invited back for a second term.) When I returned from winter break (in the beautiful state of Arkansas)(no really, Arkansas is quite nice!), I not only had to deal with the sting of my exam results, but also had to endure all sorts of crazy stories of how and where people took their last final.

Before I begin, let me give a little information to those who are about to embark on the journey of HBS finals for the first time. Some of the finals you take can be taken “at home.” All you need to do is ensure that you have an internet connection in order to download your final exam case and upload your response, and there is a time limit to how far apart those two events can be from one another. What you do in the time between the upload and download is basically uncontrolled and unmonitored. What really made things potentially crazy was that for both semesters last year, the last final of the term was one of these upload / download take anywhere finals ,so we could get head starts on our breaks without repercussions. And it is in these head starts that our investigation starts.

The first story I heard was the “hungover” story. There really is not much to that since everyone now knows that students come to class hungover (or well on their way to a hangover) all the time, but the fact that being hungover requires things like “alcohol consumption” hints that while I was studying my #$% off, people were partying . . . and yet they still did better than I did on their exams. Problematic? Pathetic.

The next story involved a girl and a guy that had just gotten engaged the night before. Well,love was in the air, not just during the that evening, but all through the night and the next morning as well, if you know what I mean. Let’s just say that his attention was not entirely focused on breaking down ways to motivate employees to perform better.On my desk, I had a carefully-assembled lay-out of all cases and write-ups by date. This guy, on the other hand, was using his desk to “align” both his and his fiancee’s “incentives”.

One guy downloaded the case, fell asleep, and wrote something like, “Leadership is important . . . just like the leadership my LEAD prof. gave us . . . my prof could be the CEO of this company and that would solve the problem . . .” Even though he did not do too hot on his final, I STILL think he outdid me.

Attending board meetings, interviewing, visiting to the dentist, cruising
down the Mass Pike to get to NYC in enough time to do nothing, getting married in India, etc., etc. Tales from the finals of last year were crazy enough, but to see that so many enjoyed themselves so much and managed to do so well on their finals was troublesome. To remedy the situation, I applied some of the most impactful learnings from first semester to the spring term: I stayed out and partied the night before my last final in the 2nd term and, honest-to-goodness, got the best final grade I had all year long!!!!

Happy studying!

Note: I would like to make a disclaimer. First-year students who read this and take these words as advice, please do not yell at me or throw things at me or set me on fire if things do not go right. I am only a messenger of events that took place. Results may vary from student to student, and goodness knows that I certainly did not do any of these things . . . then again, maybe it would have helped considering the records for futility that I set last year during finals.

December 8, 2003
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