How to prepare for an MBA exam – and passing in first attempt

Once you have learned to write academic assignments, gotten used to studying at night, working and training during the day (and sleeping at the meetings at the office – just kidding..), then you are ready for the exams.

The exams are usually something that might seem a bit scary and something that no one really looks forward to!

Scared but excited

I remember the feeling once I realized that I had to know so much by heart and still be able to think and come up with a solution to a case – in 1 hour.

I was scared, but at the same time excited. Excited the way that I am before a triathlon competition.

Sport, business and studying might actually not be that different I think.

Preparation for an important event

You study hard, train hard, spend a lot of time at the office alone working with a new business strategy – you do whatever you can and hope that you have acquired the necessary knowledge, gotten stronger and that the business strategy contains all the crucial elements.

But in the end – it all comes down the moment at the exam, when the gun goes of at the competition and at the meeting with all the executives from your company.

Have you done what you could and are you really ready?

The mental attitude is the key to success – finding your “why”

I am personally thrilled by challenges, competitions and also at the same time surprised how clever I am, how strong I am and how fast I can think in front of executives – when I have to….

At exams and competitions, during important meetings you are filled with adrenaline and others hormones that make to perform. You gotta love that feeling when you know you have performed at your best and delivered!

This way of looking at challenges – such as an exam – is the foundation of success for passing the exams.

It actually starts much earlier than once you have to prepare and read.

You need to start being excited and image the feeling of passing – just like you need to image the face of the executives when they tell you the things that you have prepared are great and works well for the company

Personally I do this a lot to motivate myself and I feel that this is very important to stay focused.

In a way you might call this finding your personal “why” and what should keep you going when it gets tough.

During the winter when it is cold and I am running in the dark I image the feeling of crossing the finish line at my “A-race” of the next season. These feelings of course gets me through the tough sessions, but they also work as motivation and something that I can recall when needed.

When you have worked with these images then it is not difficult to get back to this feeling and forget the pain when you are 6-7 hours into a race and you still have to run 20 km or more.

The same thing goes for exam preparations and other things that you have to prepare for or train to.

It is first of all a mental attitude, then technical preparation and then execution in the end.

This execution is so much easier once you have told your mind that passing and having success is fun.

The technical preparation

When it comes to the technical preparations for the MBA exams there are really no secrets, it is all about keeping a high pace during the work with the assignments that will make you learn what you need to learn and make you ready. Just like any other exams that you have passed before.

Of course you will benefit from following this simple guideline:

Start early by being structured from the beginning with your note taking during the workshops.

Never miss or skip a workshop and be present at each workshop. Valuable information about the exams, the assignments and the preparation are given at the workshops.

Know as much of the financial definitions (ratios/formulas/models) at heart and understand the basics of them. At the exam there is no time for longer reflection about how the financials or operational models might be used.

Get a good study buddy that will keep pushing you and the other way around. There is a lot to read before the exam and having a study buddy will make you feel less alone. You will be able to talk to him/her about how this person understands various models or topics.

Never assume that someone else will provide you with notes that you can benefit from. You might be able to get the notes from someone else, but you will not understand them and be able to use them properly.

Accept that the exams are somehow tough and that you have to be ready – both academic as well as mental and physical. Think like a sportsman the days leading up to the exam. This means getting enough sleep, eat well and staying hydrated. This might sound silly, but in order to think fast for three hours you need to be fresh physically also. Actually a high (or at least a little better than average) fitness level will benefit you at the exam as well as at the office during the long meetings when people are getting tired and jumping to conclusions to end the meeting and get out.

The tips and tricks above might be common sense and I still think that the key is the mental preparation and attitude that will make you study a lot, staying motivated and making it fun.

So my best advise for an MBA candidate, other business professionals or athletes is first of all imagining the feeling of success before starting preparing.

Then once it gets tough – and it will, then everything is easier. This way you will prepare more and I think we all agree that the more you prepare the luckier you get…

Stay tuned for my next article about being part of a group and having a study buddy.