Ahhh, the ugly monster of accountability and performance evaluation reared its head this week in the form of midterms. As much time (and stress) that the student body plows into these things, they really aren’t that big of a deal. Most of our classes have a fairly even split in the grading: 50% participation, 50% final, with a few adding a “10% midterm” component. In a grading structure where it only really matters if you’re in the top 15% of the class (for “Honors” awards), all grades have zero impact on 85% of the students. Midterms probably only substantially impact the 10 students who are in the margin of Honors.
You’d never know that by this past week, though. I guess that’s the result of a lot of Type-A overachievers given the chance to fill out a scantron. Monday was FRC (Accounting). It wasn’t bad at all, and I was pretty excited about my grade until I realized that the curve at HBS doesn’t leave much room for error. Here’s the distribution chart they handed out:
There wasn’t any type of “do not distribute” disclaimer, so I think I’m OK posting that. Anyway, I only missed a few, but I fell right at the top of the bell curve. Which translates into around 5 / 10 points (or 50%) when you normalize it. Ouch. I guess that’s the beauty (and downfall) of curving. I wish they had made it a bit more challenging… I’m one of those type of people who will probably miss 2-3 problems regardless. Nothing conceptual, but my mind isn’t always in the details.
Wednesday was LEAD, and it was a standard “case” exam… the only non-multiple-choice exam of the week. It was challenging, but mostly because it counted for 0% of our final grade (practice, I guess?) The incentive structure wasn’t strong enough to keep me from being distracted throughout the exam. I wandered over to Google Reader and read through various economics blogs for about one hour of the allotted three. Oops.
Tomorrow is TOM (Ops Mgmt), and it’s the only truly challenging exam of the bunch. Everyone’s a bit worried about it (and studying for hours). But, seriously? Why? Like most of HBS, even the multiple-choice-exams have less to do with cramming facts and more to do with being awake and sharp while the exam is going on. (Thinking about that… there’s probably a huge market here for nootropics.)