Why students fail exams

Doing sufficient revision helps avoid failure during exams. (Net photo)

If I ask, why students fail exams, I will most likely get reasons like lack of diligence and poor preparation. And I quite agree, particularly with all the distractions of this time. Back in the day when our elders were in school, they would enter study mode three months to the date of the exam. During such period of intense preparation, they did practically just three things: sleep, eat and read. Television? No show! Internet? Non-existent.

Don’t blame the students of nowadays. There is a lot going on around 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 way, there are more subtle reasons why students fail exams, and attention needs to be paid to them to reduce the failure rate. The reasons are explained below:


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.


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!


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.

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?

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.

This being said, in what why in your capacity can you help a student in today’s very privileged world to pass his exams?

The writer is a Senior Six student at Nu-Vision High School, Kigali


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