Perfecting the art of examination one of the Best Academic Practices


Conscious candidates who look forward to garnering good grades must know that apart from comprehensive content and memory enhancement strategies, they need to perfect the art of examination.

It is part of the Best Academic Practices: We preach and teach, here and there. KCSE is serious because it comes at the cusp of tertiary education.

What the student will score will determine the course and college.

No wonder, Edward Morgan Forster sagely said, “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, teachers ought to perfect the art of exams as they cover the syllabus in the candidate class.

They should also achieve this important ambit by running an examination system. Candidates should sit for several exams, which should be marked, revised, and analyzed.

Then, subject experts and examiners should come early: to polish pale parts. Therefore, this treatise, permits me to anchor the art of exams on ten critical areas of focus:

Exam preparation, content, depth, and breadth, format, trends, skills, choice of questions, Table of Specifications, seriousness, and science practical.

▪ Proper Preparation for Exams

The exam requires academic, psychological, and spiritual preparation. The place of purpose, prayer, preparation, and persistence — are in the wise words of William Arthur Ward. He talks about four steps to achievement: One, plan purposely.

Two, prepare prayerfully.

Three, proceed positively, and four, pursue persistently. Spiritual preparation means that we acknowledge God and ask Him to give our candidates massive powers of memory and wealth of health.

For the entire examination period, they need to be whole and healthy. The wise man says in Proverbs 21:31:

“The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord.” Moreover, academic preparation comes through cogent content mastery strategies.

Good grasp of content crowns candidates with courage and confidence.

This gives them ample psychological preparation, which in turn wards off the tension that tightens when the examination bell blares.

Plenty of preparation is the perfect antidote for stress, duress, fever, fear, fretting, anxiety, angst, and the pinch of panic.

▪ Building Content for Exams

When a candidate lacks relevant content, s/he finds it difficult to pen appropriate answers in the exam.

That is when a candidate begins looking at the invigilators like a dying lizard, and rolling eyes like a salamander in the exam room.

▪ Exam Depth and Breadth

When answering questions, it is important to consider the marks allotted.

Then, provide a comprehensive response. A good example is this one: When a candidate is to identify a sound pattern employed in an oral poem, pointing out use of assonance or consonance is not enough. That is a shallow response. It is prudent to pluck a line from the poem — illustrate, validate it — and if possible, point out its effectiveness if need be.

▪ Focusing on Setting Trends

Teachers should help candidates focus on trends in the setting and marking of exams. Using English to shed bright light on trends, let us look at Question 3 in English Paper Two.

It is where the Literary/Comprehension Poem alternates with Oral Narratives/Folk tales. In 2018, KNEC tested a poem titled The Man He Killed.

In 2019, they tested a Fairy Tale. The pattern has been quite clear. That means that going by the trends; we can predict the pattern of setting.

▪ Focusing on Exam Format

Every examination paper has a specific format, which should guide candidates on how to conduct extensive and intensive revision. For instance, in History and Government, Paper One tests purely Kenyan history, but Paper Two focuses on Themes in World History.

English Paper One commonly known as Functional Skills, tests various functional write-ups, cloze test/broken passages, and various facets of oral skills like oral poetry, etiquette, interviews, sounds, public delivery, grooming, negotiation skills, listening skills, short forms, intonation (cadence), et cetera. Specifically in question one, a candidate poised for peerless performance should keep abreast with the formats of all manner of documents possibly tested in this section:

Be it an institutional write-up like a memo, study writing like a book review, social text like electronic mail, or personal document like diaries.

While attempting this question, the candidate must adhere to a fixed format, correct tone, absolute economy of words, and conventional use of language.

▪ Honing Examination Skills

Every paper tests some specific skills. Therefore, it behooves candidates to hone those skills to the core. A good example is English, where a student can only score highly when s/he has chiseled a skill like writing. For in order to express oneself in prose form, one requires wonderful writing skills.

▪ Proper Presentation of Responses

Candidates who eventually score quality grades know how to plot responses on paper. The handwriting should be neat, legible, and decipherable. They should sketch graphs properly.

They should draw diagrams properly. There is no way a candidate can write like a retired medical doctor, and at the same time expect to scoop good grades.

▪ Correct Choice of Questions

There are papers, which allow students to choose questions. In this case, they should make a perfect choice. Consider the first question in English Paper Three. A candidate has the large latitude to choose between narratives — started or ended composition.

It can be writing a story that brings out the true meaning of a proverb or saying.

This question can come in the form of an expository, compare and contrast, or argumentative essay. In this case, the candidate must choose the question to attempt.

The same case is applicable in question three — questions based on optional set texts — that is if the teacher has prepared the students in more than one optional set texts.

▪ Exam Tables of Specification

Also known as Test Blueprint (TB), Table of Specification (ToS) is a table that specifies ‘a must come areas’ and skills tested in each topic. It is what KNEC uses to develop assessment areas. Teachers should work closely with students to identify these areas.

▪ Doing all Exams Seriously

They should take every exam seriously. Candidates must steel their strength. They should get rid of every form of laziness that looms large in some exam rooms. They should shun silly mistakes. Leaving blank spaces in any exam depicts that a candidate lacks seriousness, which eventually punctures the tyre of peak performance.

▪ Preparing for Practical Exams

Finally, candidates must know that the practical papers, in any of the subjects, carry huge chunks of marks. Therefore, candidates must blend theoretical with practical knowledge.

By Victor Ochieng’

© Victor Ochieng’

The writer rolls out academic talks in schools. He builds the capacity of teachers on Best Academic Practices. 0704420232

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