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If I ask, why do students fail exams? I expect to get reasons like lack of diligence and poor preparation. And I quite agree, particularly with all the distractions of this time. Back in my own days as a secondary school student, final and qualifying exams like WAEC, GCE and JAMB were taken as projects. Three months to the date of the exam and you enter study mode. During this period of intense preparation, you do practically just three things: Sleep, eat and read. Television? No show! Internet? Non-existent. Don’t blame the students of nowadays. Life is really happening to them. So privileged with much access to learning yet so encumbered with so many distractions because the same access to learning comes with avenues for sheer frivolities. My drift here however is that, either back in the days or now, there are more subtle reasons why students fail exam, and attention needs to be paid to them to reduce the failure figure and rate. The reasons are mentioned below: 1. Not following the trend of exam papers: Examiners are not out to fail students. The purpose of examinations is to test the student’s understanding and knowledge of the subject or topic. And examiners usually leave a trace in the pattern of questions they set from year to year. A careful study of past questions over the past decade will at least guide an observant student as to what form the questions would take in order to prepare accordingly. 2. Not reading “wide” enough: Reading only school notes for a final or entrance exam means the student is at the mercy of her subject teacher’s lessons notes, which may not be comprehensive enough. A good study combination of notes taken in class and usage of recommended textbooks with ample examples, illustrations and exercises will greatly enhance the student’s chances of success. Usage, I mean, not flipping through! 3. Not reading “deep” enough: Passing an exam does not only require seriousness, but it takes some smartness as well. While it is good to cover the syllabus, it may really not do much good to give same focus to every aspect or topic, spreading oneself too thin. Where it applies, it is needful to concentrate more on certain subject aspects likely to form the sections of the exam. For instance, a student about to write the WAEC English exam, for the purpose of excelling, may have to pay more attention to the Comprehension, Summary and Essay writing aspects than say, Lexis and Structure. Why? They form the sections of the English theory exam which take up 60% of the marks. 4. Not interpreting questions rightly: Exam questions could be moderately tricky, and the student must follow through the thoughts of the examiner on each question to give correct answers. It is not enough to understand the topic, you must also be able to apply that understanding to give an appropriate answer to the question asked. And if you have read a question wrongly, how can you answer it rightly? 5. Not articulating answers well: It comes to this most times; from incongruent flow of expression to grave misspellings to illegible handwriting and worst of all bad English, and the examiner develops a headache over a student’s script. To make his (the examiner’s) day instead, the student needs to lay answer points progressively climaxing with the examiner’s predetermined outcome. In mathematics and calculation based topics of other subjects for instance, the examiner doesn’t just want the student to get the answer to the question. He expects her to arrive at it through a step-by-step logical sequence that would leave no one in doubt of her understanding of the question, topic and subject. Did you find this article helpful? Subscribe to our daily Newsletters and share our articles with friends.     About the Writer: Michael Omisore is a professional Editor/Writer and the author of Smart and Brilliant Writing for Senior Secondary School Students. You can follow him on twitter @mdomisore.

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This article was first published on 13th July 2015

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