After taking the Business Finance examination right after the winter break, we all thought, “Well, Hilary is not quite as busy as the Michaelmas term. Then, where does the popular term #Hellary originate from?” Little did we know, that the first few weeks of February are just the calm before the storm. What waits for us in #Hellary, is a barrage of assignments, immediately followed by the most difficult examinations!
The Hilary term has been miraculous in more ways than one. For once it brought out both the best and the worst in me. I found my typing speed increase from 44 words per minute to over 80 words per minute overnight (something that didn’t happen in my 7.5 years of working with computers and programming), I found my thoughts oscillating from deeply analytical (for example, figuring out the valuation of companies by building financial models) to extreme philosophical realms (for example, what is the meaning of life, how does the MBA education shape the human being in us, or, why at all do we need to take examinations); I found myself sprint from Saïd Business School to the Examination Schools (a distance of 0.8 miles) for submissions in less than 9 minutes, and I developed the super power of switching from thinking and learning about Strategy, to Corporate Valuation, to Macro-economics, to Marketing, to Accounting, all in a matter of split seconds! Now, isn’t that something?
During one of many such philosophical reveries, I happened to ponder at length on the whole tradition of carrying carnations to examinations at Oxford. There is this fun tradition to wear a carnation to examinations at Oxford. The legend goes that the colour of the flower is symbolic of the scholar’s blood as they bleed onto the examination paper: white is for the first exam, red for the last, and pink for any examinations in between. To put things in perspective, I would rather expect the red flower to mark the beginning of exams, since we are already bleeding (well, figuratively) when we appear for the Michaelmas examinations, followed by blue or purple for Hilary (since Hilary makes us bleed black and blue)! Be it writing no less than 7 assignments, or studying for Firms and Markets (Economics) and Accounting, Hilary is one hell of a joyride. Mentioned below are a few things that the Hilary Term taught me:
1) Procrastination is a student’s worst enemy: Time is of essence during the one year MBA at Saïd Business School, and even more so, during the Hilary Term. Some of us (me included) harbour a bestie called Procrastination. We are great at planning, and our initial plan is spread across 3-4 weeks, so that we get a little done every day, and can comfortably ace all our assignments with flying colours. However, we are major slackers when it comes to sticking to that plan, and eventually end up pulling all-nighters a day before the submission deadline. All I can vouch for from my experience during Hilary is that pulling all-nighters is no fun at all, and believe it or not, good assignments cannot be produced during the eleventh hour rush. To top it, the green monster of envy will come and bite you in the rear, when you see some of your non-procrastinator, diligent classmates printing out and submitting all of their assignments way in advance, when you are still stuck with the first one! Jealousy isn’t fun as well, and it gives rise to thousands of other maladies including stress, heartburn, indigestion, insomnia…..the list goes on!
2) It is herculean to aim for a distinction in all the assignments: We had to write no less than 7 assignments during the last 3 weeks of Hilary. People always ask you to aim for the sky, so that you land on the tree-top. However, aiming for a distinction in all of the seven assignments would mean dedicating way more time writing each assignment, which is clearly not possible in the short span of 3 weeks, especially when we need to squeeze in study time for examinations as well. Aiming for a distinction in 2-3 of our favourites among the assignments is a realistic goal, in my opinion, as long as we are confident of pulling in at least a 60 in the others. That’s Strategy 101 for writing assignments for you!
3) Running to the Examination Schools at the eleventh hour maybe good exercise, but it is no fun at all: This ties a bit to point # 1 above. Sometimes we are so tired after writing each assignment that we put off printing it out and submitting it till the last minute. Let me tell you in how many ways that is suicidal. One of my friend’s hard drive crashed the day before the submission deadline, and he had to redo all of the work! Had he just printed the assignment as soon as he had finished writing it, he would have been saved the pain of rewriting it all over again! That reminds me, keeping a copy of the assignments either in Dropbox or Google Docs is a prudent decision. Let’s assume that you’re spared of the unlikely event of your laptop crashing a day before the submission deadline, there are a ton of other things that may go wrong: the printers may stop working, or run out of ink or paper. It is always best to complete (which includes printing and packaging) the assignments a couple of days prior to the submission deadline, and even better walk to the Examination Schools comfortably (unless you are a fitness freak, and wouldn’t mind the sprint).
Boy, should I say how glad I am that #Hellary is over, and that I survived its wrath! For some of my classmates who thoroughly enjoy writing assignments and who have cherry picked those electives for Trinity which do not come with written examinations, Hilary Term marked the end of all examinations. I still have another couple of exams to write in Trinity, and I have every mind to wear a blue carnation, or even a black one (if I can find something like that) with my sub-fusc as I write these exams.Back to top of article