Edward Morgan, the British penman observed, “As long as learning is connected with earning, as long as certain jobs can only be reached through exams; so we must take this examination system very seriously.”
Ideally, being able to pen appropriate responses in any exam aids candidates to access success in that important exercise which is the central plank of this piece. As I sit and think at the Penman Centre in Nairobi, allow me to contend that candidates poised for exams should give the following areas critical concentration and attention.
- The scope of exams
Exams test the overall understanding of content taught. It explores the scope of what candidates have covered as spelt out in the syllabus objectives. Exam tests the ability to recall facts and ideas. The clever clue abuts on the ability to marshal and express knowledge. KCSE tests high-level skills within the Blooms Taxonomy: Knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Examiners also delve deep into areas poorly performed in the previous exams as brought out in the KNEC reports. Exam can come from Table of Specification (ToS) or the Test Blueprint. This is an ‘a-must-come-areas’. Candidates should also be prepared to tackle the unpredictable nature of exams. In a heroic book titled Everyday Steps to Success, J.M. Thiong’o, a seasoned Mathematics and Physics teacher at Alliance Girls argues that exams require confidence, accurate response, logical arrangement, serious sequence and unity of thought.
- Overcoming fear and panic
The perfect antidote to these psychological conditions is nothing, but plenty of practice and preparation. Ample preparation loosens the rigid rope of tension. Take a realistic test of the exam. Know that a single test is not able to determine how life will pan out. The future buttresses on many exams. It is good to try relaxation techniques. Make your mortal mind to focus on pleasant and sweet scenes. Visualise success. See and seize it. Think of how things will look like when you evince excellence and access success. This is in fine line with the wise words of Napoleon Hill, “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe it can achieve.”
On fear, Evangelist Reinhardt Bonke postulates in his bedazzling book titled Evangelism by Fire that fear is a paralysing force. Its sign is a minus. Fear is the dark room where people develop negatives. Fears are nothing more than states of the mind. For instance, most doctors hardly fall sick because they do not fear diseases, even deadly ones. Then, Zig Ziglar contends that the acrostic FEAR means False Evidence Appearing Real. If Hebrews 11:1 says that faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen then, among pious people, fear is the opposite of faith.
- Appropriate practices before exams
It is advisable to link relevant concepts. It is right to focus on subject of revision. Likewise, it is worth inclining to conceptualisation of content. It is better than just remembering simple facts. It is wise to use multiple senses. Just sit to read, but pen down some brief points you should solidify. It is good to engage in active and productive discussions. It is prudent to press the best buttons, instead of going heavy on memorizing content. Understanding the exam layout and format is the gist of the matter. Some students ignore it. Yet, it is important to focus on nature of questions. For students who are pious, it is not advisable to fast during exams. It is also unwise to eat a heavy a meal immediately before an examination, but it is equally unwise to edge to the exam room on an empty stomach.
- Last minute revision tips
Use revision tools like diagrams to fine-tune final facts. Keep calm and consolidate the existing knowledge rather than trying to learn new topics. Go through summary notes to align important facts. Remain sane and sober. Focus on exam papers. Do not discuss a paper you have just sat for.
- Candidates that annoy examiners
In the best booklet titled Exam Success Tips, churned out by Focus Publishers, Caesar Peraza, talks about nine calibre of candidates that irk examiners. The first one is the road-runner, who does not read the question carefully enough but rushes to answer. The second one is the politician, who may give an answer about how when the answer is why. The third one is the waffler, who spends the examination time writing hogwash or balderdash, and bores the examiner to death. The fourth one is the correspondent, who writes notes to the examiner. The fifth one is the clairvoyant, who thinks that the examiner can understand a page of disconnected figures. The sixth one is the collage-maker, who tries to cover two or more pages with meaningless responses. The seventh one is the abbreviator, whose writing is so difficult to read that marking the script takes twice as long as it should be. This one dotes on sheng slang. The eighth one is the exemplar, who does not give a general point but instead, gives a series of examples from which, presumably, s/he expects the examiner to decipher the answers. The ninth one is the tautologist, who answers the question by repeating it like banks are useful because they are important.
- Some best exam practices
Carry all that you need in the exam room depending on the subject requirement. Read the right raft of rules and regulations. Take a realistic view of the test. Sitting for an exam is not a death sentence or punishment. It is important to crave for peace of mind. Being calm and composed is of great essence. Steady your nerves as you take a deep breath. It is also right to say a prayer for grace and peace. It is advisable to arrive in the exam venue quite early.
Maintain the right sitting posture. Best reading, thinking and writing position. It is important to spend time well on every question. Read and understand them in an in-depth manner. In another treasure-trove titled ‘Secrets to Exam Success’, Otieno J. posits that it is important to consider exam terminologies. It is imperative to form a well-ordered answer in the mind before penning down anything. Essays should be excellent. Draw diagrams and sketch graphs properly. The handwriting has to be neat, tidy and organized. Examiners expect you to write legibly. Doodling and scribbling irks examiners. Good command of English is of essence. Also proof-read your work to correct grievous goofs.
- Best practices during exams
In a good booklet titled ‘How to Study’, Joseph G. Donders issues a stern warning: During the exam do not stay up to late in the night. It is important to have enough winks of deep sleep. Candidates should avoid over-confidence and under-confidence. Just be confident and composed. Shun exam fear and fever. Do not cram. Avoid cheating in exams. It is lack of academic integrity, which is highly punishable. It can put the whole centre in a problem as it can lead to the cancellation of results. When done with a paper, do not review your notes on what you wrote as some candidates erroneously do. The focus should be on the next paper. Do not panic as you revise or even when in the exam room. Arrest anxiety. Worry is wasteful.
- Do this after exams
Forget about the paper you have just sat for. Do not entertain discussions of papers you have sat for. This might dampen your spirit when you come across a question you missed. What you missed should not disturb your peace of mind. Just be optimistic for peerless performance in the next paper. It is healthy to have ample time to relax a bit before you begin preparing for the next papers.
© Victor Ochieng’
The writer rolls out academic, career, leadership; talks and training services.
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