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I work hard but still fail in exams! How to change this.


Date Posted: 4/24/2018 6:22:47 AM

Posted By: ESTHER STEVE  Membership Level: Silver  Total Points: 247

Many students will relate to this scenario. Beginning of last year(2017), a form four student came to my office crying. She said she was frustrated after having worked so hard only to score a D- for three consecutive terms. It was her final year and she was afraid the trend would continue. We talked about it for an hour and I walked with her till she did her KCSE. During this year's staff meeting, teachers when analysing the KCSE performance could not understand how the girl managed to get the university passmark.

If you are reading this, congratulations! You have already taken the first step. The fact that you have realised something is wrong tells much about you. The first step in bringing change is realising the need for it and identifying that there is a problem then seeking ways of solving it. There are many students who are not performing and are not bothered to ask why. Some think it's fate and are settled in their comfort zones.
Let us now try to find out where your problem is.
1. Examine your attitude. Do you love all the subjects or you hate some? Having a bad attitude towards any subject will only affect you negatively. You need to appreciate each and every subject for you to perform.
2. Examine your study skills. How do you read?
a. Do you have a study timetable? If NO, this might be a contributing factor. You need a timetable to guide you when revising otherwise you might overlook some subjects and give preference to some.

If YES, Does it include all subjects? Have you balanced the subjects? Is

your timetable arrangement guided by performance in the subjects or you just made one for the sake of it? Which subjects have you allocated morning hours? The subjects you find hard to understand are better studied in the morning when your mind is fresh.
Do you have breaks in your timetable or is it a continuous one? It is wrong to hop from one subject to the other without a break. The 10 minutes break timetable rule should be followed. If you allocate an hour for each subject for example, read for 50 minutes then break for 10 minutes.
What do you do during this break? Depending on where you are, you can walk, engage in fun activities like solving a puzzle, you can draw, write or read a poem... I mean something that thrills you. Something your mind loves to do. If at home, you can take a snack. You however must be disciplined and observe time.
b. Do you have a separate revision exercise book where you summarise your notes? Do you only summarise notes in your exercise books or do you research for additional points from different text and revision books issued in your class?
Are you disciplined enough to summarise notes per topic comprehensively before moving to another one? Summarising notes is very very important. It saves you time when revising for an exam. You should invest in your studies by having a summary book per subject. When summarising, make sure you do a good job. Research from various sources like books and internet if you can to capture all the points.
c. Do you test yourself after studies? I always ask students, if today I gave you a list of questions I will test tomorrow, will you fail? If you revise topic after topic, you will realize it is possible to predict all possible questions from the area. If I teach you definition of fishing, you know I will need you to tell me what it is in the test. The only way a teacher knows you understood the subject is by testing. Why don't you also want to know if you understood before the teacher tests you? When revising, you can make a list of questions and answer them before moving to the next subject. If I am revising on mining,i come across modes of occurrence of minerals, I can write a question in a separate paper or book; explain four ways in which minerals occur. At the end of my session, I will attempt the question without referring to the notes and see if I can remember the four. If I don't, it means I need to revisit the topic. Make it a habit to always test yourself after every topic. You can attempt the questions in the text books at the end of every topic, revision papers or ask a friend or your teacher to assist you.
d. Do you cram or read to understand? Education is fun. If you make a habit of only cramming for exams, you will surely suffer. How on earth do you cram and remember all the content in the subjects? Aim to understand rather than cram. When you understand, though you may not be able to write exactly what is in the book, you can rephrase and get your full points. Try to relate what you read with what happens in real life. For example, if you are learning about factors influencing settlement, after the teacher lists them, try to see if your parents considered any of them when deciding on where to settle. Go ask them and relate to what was taught. That way you will never forget. Even if you forget some, you will always remember why you settled where you are. Try to apply the knowledge you have at home and even teach your parents or siblings. I remember teaching grandmum on how to irrigate our tree tomatoes using bottles. I tell students in Geography for example, significance of fishing, mining, tourism, industrialization and all human Geography topics is the same. People engaged in economic activities for which reasons? To earn income, improve their living standards, earn foreign exchange, employment among others. You do not have to be taught this to know. So make learning fun and try as much as possible to understand rather than cram.

2. Examine your weak and strong areas. Everybody including the genius do have weaknesses and strengths. I am sure there is at least one subject you love and excellent in. They may be many. Then those subjects that pull you down. After identifying the subjects you are weak in, let's move to the next step.
3. In each subject, find out the topics you have trouble grasping. It is rare that you do not understand everything in a subject but if you don't, list all the topics. Ask your peers who are good in those topics to offer assistance. Approach the teachers too. Look for many questions from past papers on those topics. Answer them and have your teacher mark them for you. Some students fear approaching teachers. I am sure there is at least one teacher you are free with. Ask him/ her to help you. For example, the girl who approached me was a bit shy and what I did, when she brought in the answer sheets, I would request the subject teachers to mark for her and arrange for them to help her. I do not encourage students fearing teachers because they are there to help you.

4. Prepare for revision early enough. Some students wait until they are in the class for preps to check the subject scheduled for that session. This is wrong! Prepare for your morning preps before you sleep. Prepare for the evening prep before you go for supper especially for the borders. What do I mean? Get to know which subjects you will be studying that night, which topics, what will you need. For example, if my timetable reads Geography 7.00pm -8.00 pm, I should also know what exactly will I study. Is it a topic? Which one? Will I revise with Question paper? Which paper? Kcse? Mock exam? Form one question paper? My past exam papers in the file? You can find sample exams with marking schemes which can help you very much in your revision.
If I choose a topic " Map work" I definitely will need a map. Before preps begin, I will have borrowed one. I might need to have a revision book probably owned by another student. I will need a geometry set, a thread and a paper edge. I should gather such items long before the preps. You should even have asked your teacher to assist you with questions to help you revise your chosen topic. Failure to do so leads to wastage of time. You start revising and realise you needed a form one book. You are in form four. You rush out to go borrow a book. The Teacher on duty punishes you for moving up and down! Be organized!
5.Familiarise yourself with the mode of testing. Every subject by the way has compulsory topics that must be tested. Do you know them? List all the compulsory topics tested in KCSE per subject. List also the most common areas tested. Work on understanding these areas.
6. Set achievable targets and appreciate any small improvement. Some students give up on themselves after failing to achieve their target. Some usually set unrealistic targets. Unless you seriously have not been reading at all previously, it is a bit hard to jump from a D to an A. I encourage students to start with one grade first. If you are at D Aim to make it a D+. Do your best and you will be surprised to find yourself at a C-. The girl followed this and in every exam she would work for an improvement. If a parent is reading this, please appreciate any improvement and encourage your child to work even more smart.
7. Understand your study pattern. People have different patterns when it comes to personal revision. For example my husband and I are opposites in terms of our study patterns. He just cleared his cifa studies and I am doing my masters. He would wake up early in the morning and sleep early while I wake up late and prefer to extend. He also cannot read under pressure while that works best for me. If you understand better at night, then extend. If not wake up early and read, then sleep early.
8. Finally, do not overwork yourself. You pass by working smart not working hard. You have already heard the story of two men who were told to cut down trees using axes? One was old the other was young and energetic. The young one worked very hard but when evening came, the old man had fell the most trees. Why? Because he sharpened his axe constantly. Sharpen yours also. Research on how to better your studies. Exploit resources in Kenyaplex for example and other sources. I always wish such platforms existed when I was a student.
I hope this will help you better your grades. All the best.

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