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Every Student Can Succeed: 10 Commandments For Passing Exams
Today, many schools across the globe are engaged in teaching to the test. While some people have attempted to discourage standardized tests (suggesting that they stifle creativity and undermine critical thinking), little is known about the best alternative. To that end, it is critical that students devise strategies through which they can improve their academic performance and pass their exams at their respective levels of education. Here are some of the strategies:
If students have a desire to pass exams, they need to set their priorities straight. Although at lower levels of education many subjects are compulsory, still students should start evaluating them to see which ones carry the most weight toward the profession they intend to pursue. The expectation here is that by the time students reach high school, they are cognizant of the subject combination they plan to take and the ones they plan to drop.
Unfortunately, many students do not receive necessary academic and career guidance in school to be able to make informed decision about their future careers. If one visited any university campus anywhere in the world, one would find out that there are many students out there who are just taking classes with no idea about the major or profession they intend to work toward. This problem is not only for students but also for adults--there are some people who even reach their retirement age and beyond without knowing what they exactly want to become when they grow up.
To my dear students, set your priorities early. At secondary or middle school, you should know what you want to become when you grow up. Are you strong in science subjects? Are you strong in arts subject?Then make informed choices. There are many schools that will not give students a subject combination they desire if students don't have a distinction or credit in their subject combinations.
2. Mathematics, Mathematics And More Mathematics
I would like to encourage every student to get acquainted with the fundamentals of mathematics (addition, subtraction, division and multiplication) and basic math. Students need to know that the knowledge of mathematics is critical to understanding other subjects. In addition, mathematics helps students to get orderly, think critically, solve problems effectively and communicate professionally. Mathematics is part of life. When you want to balance your checkbook, you will need the knowledge of math. When you want to count your chickens before they are hatched, mathematics comes in handy. If you want to enroll in graduate school, remember that your thesis or dissertation will require that you do research. And research requires one to have the knowledge of mathematics.
It is important, therefore, that students acquire the knowledge of mathematics early in their lower classes. I know what you are thinking now: "But Dr. Womujuni, I have a poor background in mathematics!" Exactly! Go back to the drawing board. Go to the nearest library or bookstore and buy mathematics books from primary one to primary seven. Find a primary five pupil or student who is good in math and pay his or her school fees for one year in order for him or her to teach you mathematics. Give yourself six months of mathematics practice, and then come back to me one year later and pay me $1,000,000 for turning you into a good mathematician.
3. English, English and More English
If students want to pass exams, they need to learn the English language (especially in countries where English is the language of education). The British Study Centers (BSC) lists the following reasons why learning the English language is very important: English is the most spoken language in the world; it is the language of science; there are more than 53 countries in the world whose English is their first language; the language is spoken by over 400 million people in the world; English is the language of Media; it is the language of the Internet; it is based on simple alphabet; the language gives everyone a lot of satisfaction; English creates a lot of opportunities for scholarships; and it helps people learn about other cultures.
Mastering the English language comes with practice in reading and writing. My dear students, get accustomed to reading novels, magazines, newspapers, journal articles and other academic documents. Develop the culture of reading and writing. Have a personal journal and write about your everyday experience. I can assure you that this practice will help you enormously by teaching you how to write professionally and speak English correctly and fluently.
In addition, be assertive in class; be the first to raise your hand and answer or ask questions. I know what you are thinking now: "But Dr. Womujuni, ningya kuchumita embogo (I might make grammatical mistakes)." Exactly! You are allowed to make mistakes. We all learn from our mistakes. Keep up the good work.
4. Form Study Groups
Study groups help students learn faster, learn new ideas, improve their grades, sharpen their decision making abilities and improve their self esteem. With the upsurge of social media, students can develop social media platforms in which academic information is exchanged so that they don't have to meet face to face but learn from each other in the comfort of their own homes. These new ideas students learn from each other can fill the academic gaps that might have been created by students missing classes or not grasping what was taught in class.
Study groups also help students take responsibility for their own learning. I remember vividly that our cohort in high school had a very good study group that helped us challenge ourselves and one another by reading ahead of our teachers. This study group also helped us prepare effectively for our presentations in academic seminars and workshop. I reasonably believe that our study group was largely the reason our cohort performed well in our advanced level exams.
5. Use Social Media Sparingly
Social media can be fun, but also, it can be a distraction if it is not used wisely. Students can use social media to do research and find information that would have taken them time and money had they gone to libraries or bookstores to do research. Surprisingly, students prefer to create chat groups that discuss less about academic matters and more about non-academic issues. I'm on several youth platforms, and what I have noticed is that every time an academic topic is introduced, the communication exchanges stop for hours, but when a topic on any public scandal is introduced, it becomes a hot topic. In my view, students should limit the amount of time they spend on social media and concentrate on homework if they want to succeed in school.
6. Utilize a 70-20-10 Study Policy
The 70-20-10 study policy postulates that students should be responsible for their own learning 70% of the time. It indicates that teachers are responsible for students' learning 20% of the time. And it reminds students that everybody else including friends, relatives, spiritual directors and others contribute to their learning 10% of the time. Of course this policy might apply effectively to students in upper classes.
With this policy in mind, students will be motivated to reach out to their teachers early and seek information on the syllabus or curriculum so that they can study ahead. They will also be able to find the necessary textbooks and scholastic materials that they need for their courses.
Developing their own learning, builds their confidence and self-esteem necessary to fight stereotypes and misconceptions that are a hindrance to their academic success. We always hear statements such as, "students from rural schools can't perform as well as their counterparts in urban school," and "without good social amenities, students in rural schools cannot prepare well for exams." That is not true. When students take responsibility for their own learning, they work hard to pass their exams regardless of the school they attend. For instance, I attended a small high school, but our high school cohort performed competitively academically with other prestigious high schools in the district because we had a strategy for success.
7. Be a Role Model
If students want to learn and improve their grades, it is essential that they behave in a manner that makes others look at them as examples to be imitated. Some of the good behaviors might include obeying school rules and regulations; respecting teachers and school administrators; being a leader and always being willing to participate in school activities; mentoring young students; being in the right place at the right time; avoiding being idle and disorderly; associating with friends who share their values and want to see them succeed rather than those who want to hold them down. In addition, students should avoid associating with "gunslingers" who like to shoot holes in their dreams with vicious and disparaging remarks. Students should understand that they don't have all the answers; in other words, they should be willing to learn and be corrected where they go wrong. This discipline will translate into academic success and help them improve their grades and consequently pass their exams.
8. Community Service
Students should take some time off from reading books to participate in volunteering for their communities. It is critical that students know that school is not the only place where knowledge is acquired--there is a lot to learn from the community. Community service makes students become contributing members of their community. It teaches students life skills and leadership skills. The gratification that comes from being a contributing member of the community gives students confidence in their ability to succeed in life. It is this confidence emanating from this gratification that will enable every student to complete successfully whatever task he or she is given.
9. Study Plan
A student without a study plan is like a soldier without a battle plan to help him or her capitalize on his or her strengths and exploit his or her enemy's weaknesses. And in case of a surprise attack, that soldier and the entire army could suffer a devastating defeat at the hands of the enemy. A student without a study plan can also be likened to a boxer without a game plan whose negligence could get him knocked out in the first round. Any student who wants to pass exams should have a detailed study plan entailing his or her learning goals and study times throughout the week, month or year. This study plan can also indicate times when he or she is engaged in non-academic activities. What I'm saying is that every student should have a strategy for improving his or her academic performance and be disciplined enough to follow it religiously in order to excel academically.
10. Thou Shall Not Procrastinate
My dear students, do not put off until tomorrow what you can accomplish today. There are some of you out there who wait for the examination time in order to make necessary preparations. Unfortunately what happens is that sometimes you find yourselves overloaded with work, and some of you get so overwhelmed that you procrastinate the more. This "last minute study," or "crash program" is a breeding ground for failure. If you want to do well in your exams, take everyday as an examination day. Don't wait to give a beautiful prayer in the examination room, hoping that God will somehow make a miracle for you so that you can pass without studying hard. That miracle is not going to happen. Thou shall not procrastinate.
So take education very seriously. You have always heard of a saying that "education is a key to success." I would like to add that good education is a key ingredient to a better life. However, this better life will not be served to you on a silver platter--not by your teacher, not by your parent, and certainly not by your significant other. It will come from your hard work. It will come from studying hard to grasp the foundations of early education that can propel you to future successes.
It's from this background that I decided to developed these ten simple commandments for passing exams. These commandments postulate that in order for students to succeed in life, they have to do well in school by passing exams at their respective levels of education. They should set their priorities straight--have an idea of who they want to become when they grow up; get acquainted with the fundamentals of mathematics--math is part of our everyday life; learn to write English correctly and speak fluently; utilize study groups to learn new ideas and fill the gaps of the information they did no grasp in class; use social media wisely--limit the time they spend on social media and focus more on academic work; be responsible for their own learning; be role models in everything they do; participate in community service; develop study plans; and stop procrastinating.