Ellen Mackenbach


Diploma in Organisational Leadership




Human Resources



By Ellen Mackenbach

Exam stress

After completing a very motivating and inspiring first module for the Diploma in Organisational Leadership, it is time to go home and relax, but only for a short time. After a few weeks we receive the business case as preparation for the exam.

Although all of us know that taking a formal exam is part of the diploma programme, many are concerned. The reasons vary from not having taken an exam for many, many years; the level of difficulty of the exam; how though are the examiners in their judgement on grading; is my level of English sufficient enough to provide a good answer; to a very basic question: what to wear?

During our first module we had the opportunity to practice some exam cases. This helped a lot in building our confidence. We were also provided the exams of the past years with the exam questions as a means of practice. But what helped us most was the collaboration of the group. We started with a Skype session to explore the business case. A few of us had reviewed the case and prepared some discussion documents. After the first high-level session, we broke up in small teams exploring various topics into more detail. A week later we reconvened by Skype. This was a very quick way of getting everyone up to speed and it builds everyone’s confidence during the process.

As most of us were arriving one or two days in advance of the exam, we took the opportunity to use the conference rooms of Said and meet in person with small groups to have some further detailed discussions. This platform allowed for very open discussions where everyone was comfortable sharing their opinion and asking questions.

Wednesday morning 8 am: it is time!

We are meeting in the business school and are ready to get dressed. The level of stress seems to be low and everyone, especially us from non-English speaking countries, enjoy the dress-up. It is for most of us the first time that we have to get dressed up for an exam. We help each other to make sure bowties are straight and we all can stand the first test of a correct dress code. Pictures are taken and the atmosphere is relaxed. But then we have to wait for a bout 30 minutes before the bus takes us to the exam rooms. Some of us try to remain relaxed with some coffee and a chat, others use the time to go over the materials one more time.

Then we it is time to go by bus to the exam rooms. During this ride, we become more quiet and even for those of us who were pretty relaxed, a level of stress is clearly noticeable.

After the exam there is a big relief. We did it!

Although we don’t know yet whether we passed, I like to thank the professors and staff who helped us get prepared and try to make us as comfortable as possible. Looking back, it is a great experience. Now it is time to prepare for the next exam, but we know the drill and this by itself provides confidence. We can do it!

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