Post mortem: Management Accounting

Executive Summary: AARGH! Have I crapped out on TWO of the bastard exams? Management Accounting was a nightmare! Maybe I’m just not cut out for this MBA stuff.

What’s worse is the course wasn’t all that bad: lots of numbers, obviously, but unlike Corporate Finance the concepts of budget-flexing and activity-based costing are mainly commonsensical. Yesterday afternoon I concentrated on variances, since it’s the area I was weakest on, and was determined to choose a ‘variances’ question in Section B today. Of course, there was NO BLOODY VARIANCES QUESTION.

Let’s just say I now know why the Ops Strategy elective has so many people in it: it’s non-examined…

Anyway, the exam starts badly. The Hall’s warmer than yesterday, in the same way the surface of the sun is warmer than an ice cube, but the atmosphere’s a bit locker-room since there’s only one GIRL around (admittedly the one is a hottie, but I don’t function well in 30:1 male dominated situations.) And the paper is REALLY REALLY DIFFICULT.

WBS to MBAs: Ha ha, thought you were starting to enjoy yourselves, did you?

Five choices per question, and every choice A-E is plausible; there’s no knocking aside of obviously wrong choices to increase your chances of guessing correctly. Every question, EVERY question, needs either a detailed act of memory or copious calculation to get right. I doubt I even got 50% here. The essay-type question is easier (maybe, just maybe, I picked up a few points) but there was still very little opportunity to bullshit.

And what you really need in an exam is bullshittability.

What’s odd is that Management Accounting is a bullshittable subject. It’s a lens created by accountants to present a company’s operations in a certain light: it’s as much a strategic and political tool as a reporting mechanism. That’s its whole reason for being. Set people certain targets, contextualise their department in a certain way, demonstrate the method by which advantage is gained, and you’ve got people gaming the system. If you can get them to game it the way you want, you’re onto a winner. You might even make money.

But when the game gets turned back on the gamer – i.e. in an exam – the bullshittability vanishes. Where Corporate Finance yesterday felt borderline but possibly passable, I’m pretty sure quite a few people (including me) will be getting resit invitations (or worse) in the next month or two. Not good.

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