From the monthly archives:

February 2010

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Yesterday at the Managerial Accounting study group we drifted at some point on the subject of how the exam methods are different in various countries. This discussion was prompted by a comment from one of our group members from China. We all found the pecularities of examination modes at college/university level, and even more generally, in our respective countries quite interesting.

  • First, the US. The US educational system is permeated with dominance of standardized test. The most notable are  standardized testings at secondary school level, standard tests required for college admission, such as SAT and ACT, graduate level test – GRE, and of course, the last but not the least – GMAT, required for MBA admissions by most business schools not only in the US, but around the world. It’s not a surprise that GMAT takes its origins from the US.

At business schools standardized tests in the form of multiple choice exams seem to be quite prevelant too. So far I have had these exams in one way or another in all of my MBA classes at part-time MBA program at GWSB, except for Business Ethics. Sometimes it was a part of a bigger exam, but it was invariably there.

Outside the common educational sphere one of the well known standardized tests around the world is the IQ test, also originated from the US. Another area of wide application of standardized tests is professional certifications: IT certifications probably take the central stage here with all those credentials sponsored by Microsoft and the likes.

  • Our group mates from China mentioned about Chinese examination system. In their experience the written tests are more common there. But the most amazing thing for me was the students’ approach to those tests. They said that in written exam you “write everything that crosses your mind, and let professor choose the right answer”. I think it is common among students in any country to try to put as much as possible into their answer and see what flies. But curious part about Chinese exam approach was that it sounded like it was a cultural norm and expectation on both side: the eximiner and the examinee. I specifically liked the part “let professor ch0ose the answer”. :-)
  • Russian eximination system at undegraduate level is characterized by dominance of oral tests. At the very least it was especially true in liberal arts disciplines until very recently. Oral exams was bread and butter of the Soviet higher education and has been mostly transfered to the modern Russian educational system. One of my acquaintances from Russia told me how she was able to “talk her way out” at the exams in medical school when she was fuzzy on the subject matter of the question. Pretty much the same principle of saying everything you know that is remotely connected to the question or to the subject and waiting to see what sticks. Professors often try to help students by giving them (in)direct hints to eventually lead the student to the right answer or its resemblance. Depends on how unprepared the student is for the exam.

Adoption of the standardized tests has been happenning slowly in Russia in the recent years. The most remarkable is the introduction of so-called “Uniformed State Exam” for the high school graduates, which can be roughly compared to SAT/CAT tests in that it is going to be accepted as the college admission test. However there is an ongoing struggle going around this exam on various levels of the Russian society due to the actual or perceived shortcomings of its development and execution.

I found this pecularities of examination systems quite interesting. Especially to learn about the Chinese practices, as the other two I have known already. But in Russia, may be less so in China, there is another factor that influences the examination system – bribery. It was present, though on a much smaller scale in the Soviet times. Now it seems to be more blatant and  rampant. Here is the video I watched on recently about this:


Today we had our study group to review and discuss example exam for Managerial Accounting. We were in the meeting for almost 4 hours. First we went very briefly over all the cases we had prepared during the course. This review was very cursory, just to highlight the underlying concepts. We did not delve into actual numbers crunching analysis.

After that we moved to the actual example exam. The answers for the questions in the exam were already in the course pack, only one of us has actually attempted to solve some of the questions without looking into the answers first. I knew if I attempted to do that, four hours would not be enough. So eventually we slid to looking into the answers and discussing them, also correlating the numbers and calculations in the answers with the input information.

A few of the questions did not actually require any calculations. Instead we were asked to draw a diagram of the cost system in the organization or give our opinion/recommendation on making changes to the existing system to better reflect the actual cost allocation.

Our professor in Financial Accounting told us in the last class that Managerial Accounting “does not have any rules”, so in that regard it would be very different and may be somewhat “easier” than Financial Accounting with its quite specific and often stringent rules of presenting and analyzing the data. The example exam had a vivid illustration to that point of having “no rules”. Our favorite question, slightly paraphrased, went like this:

The CEO is considering the performance measure used to evaluate Managers of two company branches.

  1. Why should the performance measures be the same for both branch Managers?
    1. Answer: They conduct the same business, so should be pursuing the same goals. 
  2. Why should the performance measures not be the same for both branch Managers?
    1. Answer: The clienteles are very different in the two branches.

Of course I am not giving you the whole case, and intentionally simplify the situation, but still it is quite indicative of the Managerial Accounting methods and approaches. Either answer goes, as long as you can do proper explanation and justification.

Frankly, I did not feel that we used our time in the most productive manner. But it is still probably better than just wasting precious time for exam preparation on writing the blog posts :-) Actually, I am taking this little break from my at-home independent preparation.
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man in anxiety

Today I looked for the first time at the example final exam in the course pack. It really got me anxious. I got the same “numbers anxiety” I had before both of my Financial Accounting exams in the Fall term.

All the concepts that are covered in the exam are pretty much familiar and related to our course work during the module: standard cost system, activity based costing, transfer prices, management control systems, variance analysis, and all other sub-concepts entailed. However we were working on the cases in groups and had all materials available on hand. The actual exam is in closed book/notes format, and we will have to work individually.

The sample exam has total about 20 questions. Our actual one will probably have less, because the example one was designed as take home exam and had 24 hours allowed for completion, whereas our final is going to be in class, only two and a half hours. Still looking at the nature of questions I realize that I will have to review everything we have studied, because none of the questions I was able to answer off the top of my head.

On Saturday we have our study group meeting to discuss and work on the example and to prepare in any way we can for the Managerial Accounting exam. I hope it will help us to formalize and crystalize everything, OK -not everything, but most of what we have learned in the course (hopefully at least something). The time is very short, especially given that I will have to find time for preparation for Global Perspectives too. Admittedly, given its open book format I will spend less time on that preparation than on Accounting.

Professor told us that the exam content: narrative and all accompanying exhibits with numbers, and tables, and diagrams,  will be available to us online 24 hours before the exam. But the actual questions will be revealed only at the exam. We can anticipate the kind of questions based on the example exam, but still actual application of the accounting principles we have learned, and calculations will be done in class. I’d better go to sleep now, to be productive tomorrow for the study group and individual studies.

I already announced to the family, as I usually do before the finals week,  that I would be unavailable and irresponsive for the next few days until the end of exams. Even more coffee and chocolate – the upside of the stressful week in part-time MBA life, I guess :-)

Disclaimer: The pictue at the top of this post is not mine :-). It is from End Anxiety Disorder website


Today was the last day of classes in the first module of the Spring Term for me. Next week we have finals. For me it is Global Perspectives and Managerial Accounting. I have a false sense of confidence about Global Perspectives, mainly because it’s an open notes, books, everything exam. As for Managerial Accounting – I just started to comprehend many of the concepts. However, when it comes to slicing and dicing the actual numbers, I feel mostly at loss. So do most of my classmates most of the time, based on observation and conversations.

Today, for example, we submitted two cases prepared in groups. One of the cases we prepared was so far from the solution which we discussed in class, that I don’t even know where to start. The other one was much closer in final recommendation to the solution presented by professor, but we had chosen different motivation as driving force. I still believe our explanation is a valid alternative. What amazed me was that the write up I prepared for this case was explaining everything in just narrative manner. For me it seemed quite reasonable to do it that way based on the question and the input information. But professor showed us how all this narrative could be quantified. Really amazing how the left and the right sides of the brain can see the same thing from so different angles. As I told the guys jokingly on the break after we had solution for the first case ‘one just has to have a very ‘perverted’ mind to be able to see things that way’ :-)

We had evalutations of the courses in both classes this week. From what I could tell both professors got very highly appraised by my classmates. One of the guys said that Managerial Accounting professor has been his best instructor in the part-time MBA program so far. I would probably concur with that. He is not the only good one I had, and I am not sure you could use superlatives to say “the best”, but he is definetely a very good instructor. So is the Global Perspectives professor by the way. So far this semester my experience with professors is quite good. I hope I won’t get disappointed in the second module of my Spring term MBA program.

Regardless of how good the instructor is, on the Managerial Accounting exam we are still expected to manipulate numbers and this will require some quite “perverted mind”. My group mates suggested to meet this Saturday to prepare for exam. We are going to discuss the example exam from the course pack. It was indicated that the actual exam will be close in format and content to this one. I am going to be at the meeting to tone my brain.

A final joke for the day that I heard today in class. It was actually related to the case, as we compared two subsidiries of the company, one in Italy and the other in Germany:

In Germany everything is prohibited unless explicitely allowed. In Italy everything is allowed, especially if it is prohibited. :-)
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Part-time MBA Students Horror Stories at GWSB

February 24, 2010

Today after the Global Perspectives class I saw in the hallway three of my groupmates who I work with on the Political Risk Analysis paper. From a distance I noticed they had quite an involved conversation. Naturally, I assumed they were discussing our paper, so I joined them. Turned out they were not concerned with […]

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Cheney at George Washington University Hospital

February 23, 2010

Who could know. Yesterday there was a news about former  Vice President Dick Cheney being hospitalized at GWU Hospital. Seems he is doing alright already. I remember when I used to work on the campus of Navy Medical Center in Bethesda a few years ago, once a year in Spring we had the whole campus secured. […]

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MBA Hiring Improving, Even if Slightly

February 22, 2010

Being on the student’s bench does not insulate MBA candidates from the reality of the job market. As a matter of fact, they may feel it more than many other graduate students, because the job search is an integral part of the “total MBA experience”. According to many accounts I read on internet, more than […]

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Synetic Theater’s ‘Antony and Cleopatra’-Theater Night Out

February 20, 2010

On Saturday I had a night out with my wife to watch a play ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ by Synetic Theater on Lansburgh Theatre stage  of the Shakespeare Theatre Company. If you are a theater-goer and  have a chance to see only one show while in DC, I would definitely encourage you to go to Synetic’s production. Labeled as […]

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Washington, DC February Snow Storm Aftermath

February 19, 2010
Thumbnail image for Washington, DC February Snow Storm Aftermath

Today I found yet another derivative of apocalypse in relation to the double snow storm that hit Washington, DC area earlier in February. I already expressed my opinion about the use of strong epithets in regards to these storms. However in this case it felt more like an irony than alarmism, so I let it slip. […]

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Back to School from Snow “Mini-vacation”

February 18, 2010

It has been great to get back on campus after a week of cancelled classes. The last week with its snow days and a whole week of missed work and MBA classes has affected most of my classmates in the same way: we slacked down. It was obvious when professor in Global Perspectives asked a […]

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Toyota Scandal – New Case Candidate for MBA Textbooks

February 16, 2010

Update 9/17/2010: I posted a business case write up “Toyota Recalls and Public Relations Management Crisis” which I had prepared for my Business and Public Policy class in summer 2010. With this scandal unravelling in the last 3 weeks about Toyota recalls connected to the sticking accelerator pedal, and speculations about how much and for how […]

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GMAT Test Anniversary – Second Take

February 14, 2010

With all this snow days and hype I almost forgot about one year anniversary of my second attempt on GMAT in preparation for the part-time MBA program. It actually was on February 7-th. In my post about the first taking of the GMAT I already mentioned that the score of 550 that I got that time would […]

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Snowpocalypse, Snowmageddon, Snow Wimps

February 11, 2010

I don’t intend to downplay the serious implications, hazards, and consequences of the double snowstorm that hit the Washington, DC area and the East Cost of the country in these last few days in February. I admit that the massive snowfalls are not very common to this area, and people, as well as local authorities, may feel inadequate and […]

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Washington, DC Snow Storm News (Not)

February 9, 2010

The snow storms battering the Washington, DC area in February are not really even news anymore. It has become sort of boring routine. I don’t even need to put up pictures of the snowfall, as it is just more of the same old. Nothing newsworthy. Anyways, today started the next round of snowfalls in the […]

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Super Bowl 2010 TV Commercials and Biases

February 8, 2010

On Friday morning I checked out my co-workers on their preparedness for the Super Bowl Sunday. I am not following any sports (not even soccer, chess, ice hockey, or cricket), so my main interest was if they were prepared for a good party time. Turned out both of them for one reason or another were not […]

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Blizzard 2010 Washington, DC Area

February 7, 2010

Judging by TV news reports the snowstorm of February 5-6, 2010 was officially christened Blizzard 2010. That was an impressive nature showdown. I actually enjoyed the snow days. Spent Friday afternoon and all day on Saturday at home, with the fireplace cozy chirping, sipping on porto, watching movies with the family, and just taking it easy. As […]

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Big Snowfall in Washington, DC area – Alternative Take

February 5, 2010

Yesterday after a class  I stopped by at the neighborhood supermarket to pick up a few items. The store was quite empty, so were the shelves in produce, dairy, meat, and bread departments. The sight of the empty shelves was quite shocking. Only then I remembered that we were going to have a big snowfall this weekend. The […]

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Moral Hazard in Managerial Accounting

February 4, 2010

Today in class when we were working the case, professor introduced the problem of ‘Moral Hazard’ in Managerial Accounting. To better explain the idea of moral hazard professor brought up an example of rental cars. First he mentioned quite common stuff: people often do not care much about rental cars and drive them rather negligently, if […]

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Open Book Exams at GWSB part-time MBA

February 3, 2010

Today I read an article about technical means of fighting hi-tech and low-tech cheats at exams in universities. One of the conclusions of the author was to allow wider use of open book/open notes exams. This article evoked some of my personal thoughts on the subject. At the time and place where I was doing my undegraduate degree the very […]

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MBA Gala at GWU

February 1, 2010

Update on 4/29/2012. For a more optimistic recount of a more recent MBA Gala experience read: GWU MBA Gala – Second Time’s a Charm I did not really know what to expect from this event when I was going there with my wife last Friday. For some reason the word “gala” implied something rather special to […]

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