How candidates can pass national exams

November is fast approaching, and most candidates are in panic. Primary Six candidates will start their exams on November 3, Senior Three on November 11 and Senior Six on November 22.
A teacher guides learners after they consulted him. Now is the time to consult your teacher on academic matters. (Dennis Agaba)
A teacher guides learners after they consulted him. Now is the time to consult your teacher on academic matters. (Dennis Agaba)

November is fast approaching, and most candidates are in panic. Primary Six candidates will start their exams on November 3, Senior Three on November 11 and Senior Six on November 22. Many people believe it is the time for every learner to reap what they sowed: success or failure. In fact some learners, especially the ill-prepared ones have already concluded that they will perform poorly in the highly anticipated national exams. However, experts say it is not too late to pass the upcoming exams – only if you can keep the following pointers in mind.

Think positively, clear school dues

Emmanuel Muvunyi, the deputy director general in charge of examinations at Rwanda Education Board (REB), points out that much as some students think negatively about examiners, the plan of the body is not to fail them.

“Students need to prepare in advance for their papers. Examinations are not set to fail pupils but are just part of a continuous assessment to find out how much each of the students has acquired over time,” Muvunyi says.

He also advises learners in private schools to ensure that they have cleared their school dues and requirements to avoid last minute inconveniences.

“When we plan for the exams, we plan for the students and it is the responsibility of the school to ensure that each student sits for a paper. Sending students back home because of fees is not the best solution. The solution is to work hand-in-hand with the parents to agree on when and how to settle the debts after the exams,” he adds.

Students doing an exam in the past. If one has prepared well for the national exams, there should be no need to worry. (Dennis Agaba)

Crosscheck your notes, be punctual and engage in group discussions

Samuel Nkurunziza, the headmaster of Kagarama Secondary School, explains that much as students need to revise their notes, additional group discussions are more effective.

“We can give you notes but we can’t revise for you. Revising alone helps but inter-school seminars and discussions can help one to compare content with that of students from other schools,” Nkurunziza explains.

Nkurunziza also warns candidates against poor time management to avoid unnecessary panic.

“Many day scholars walk long distances from their homes to school. This means if it starts raining very early in the morning, they risk getting to school late. During this period, therefore, students should leave their homes very early so that they are at the examination room at least 30 minutes in advance,” he says.

Get familiar with past papers

Etienne Uwiringiyimana, who teaches at GS Rwamikomata in Nyaruguru, calls for more revision of past papers to improve one’s question approach.

“Past papers are the best way to guide you on how to approach fresh questions and in the remaining weeks, it makes more sense to give extra time to the question banks,” Uwiringiyimana says.

And yet that does not always guarantee success due to fear and panic. Uwiringiyimana suggests: “Revision should be supplemented with adequate counselling to reduce exam tension. Students should seek help from their teachers whenever they are stuck.”

He also suggests that within the examination rooms, students should read each question more than once in order to comprehend it properly.


Improve your handwriting and avoid using slang

Sometimes brilliant students find problems with examiners because of their handwriting and the continuous use of slangs when writing their exams.

However, David Mwijuka, a geography teacher at GS Nyabisindu in Gatsibo district, observes that students should focus on improving personal handwriting and desist from using slang. “The language used within examinations should be simple and clear so that examiners don’t have to strain a lot. Students should also aim at improving the writing and spellings as exams approach,” Mwijuka says.

Get enough rest, eat well

Claude Ntawiheba, a parent in Kanombe, Kigali, says learners should endeavour to have enough rest in order to sharpen their brains and avoid stress.

“At my home, no candidate gets involved in time consuming activities like house chores. I always ensure that other people (non-candidates) take on the burden and leave the candidates to concentrate,” Ntawiheba says.

Florence Uwizeyimana, a parent of three residing in Nyamirambo, warns that lack of enough rest causes examination fever and stomach upsets.

Avoid reading all night and get enough sleep to avoid dozing during the exam. (Net photo)

But Allan Nsenga, a trader in Kimironko, argues that candidates must feed well if they are to perform well in the exams. “At my home, candidates have the privilege to eat whatever they want to enable them think well,” he says.

Students speak out

Geoffrey Kamasa, a Senior Three candidate at St Patrick School, explains that he is using these last weeks to consult various people on topics he has not yet mastered.

“Of late I’ve been sharing new information with my friends from other schools that perform well at national level, and also, consulting my teachers,” Kamasa explains.

For Catherine Mwiza, a Senior Six student at Group Scholaire Rugando, revision is the best thing to do during such times. “I am using the remaining time to revise as hard as I can. Our teachers have also given us more time to do revision on our own and discuss with friends. This has helped me identify my weakness,” Mwiza says.

John Ndayisaba, a senior three student at Group Scholaire Rugando, says the trick is to stick to your timetable.

“I have made myself a timetable which I follow to the dot. This has helped me to plan when I read which subject,” he says.

A GLASS OF MILK: Some people argue that candidates should eat well in order to think properly. (Net photo)

Sylvia Simbi, a Senior Six student at Excella school, says she has acquired past papers to get a feel of what the national exam looks like.

“Personally I have been preparing for the coming exams by going through past papers from both our school and also those from other schools. This has helped me to widen my scope of knowledge,” Simbi explains.

Parental involvement

Research shows that during examinations, active participation by parents in their children’s life could be good for candidates. A recent study on the impact of parental involvement on pupil achievement and adjustments in the UK revealed that a range of activities in which parents engage to promote their children’s educational progress such as good parenting at home provides for security, intellectual stimulation and a good self concept.


How prepared are you for exams?

Afissa Uwihoreye, S6 student at GS Rugando

Afissa Uwihoreye

I think I’m not yet very ready but should be in a couple of weeks because I have been reading different books to make sure I don’t miss out anything important. I have also been using the Internet to research widely so I am not scared of the exams.

Josias Mukunziwayo, S3 student at Apaper Complex School

Josias Mukunziwayo

We have been doing a lot of revision privately and discussions among ourselves. Our teachers have also given us various books to read to supplement our notes. Therefore, I’m confident we will pass the exams.

African Niyonkuru, S6 student at GS Rugando

African Niyonkuru

Our teachers have divided us into two groups. During morning prep, bright students take charge of the discussions where everyone shares their weak areas and they are immediately helped. The teachers are also available in case one needs assistance.

Joselyne Mbabazi, S3 student at GS Rugando

Joselyne Mbabazi

I have been working extremely hard from last month so I have no reason to worry about the national exams. I have read most of my notes and continue to consult my colleagues and teachers whenever I’m stuck so I think all will go well.

Remmy Muhire, a S3 student from Apaper Complex School

Remmy Muhire

We have been doing exams for many years and no longer fear them especially if one has prepared well for them. Fortunately, our teachers have given us enough time to revise our books, discuss in groups and consult them in case we need any clarification.

Yvonne Mugireneza, s6 student at GS Rugando

Yvonne Mugireneza

Apart from doing a lot of revision, I normally compare notes with friends from other schools hence broadening my knowledge base. My parents always encourage me to read before going to bed and give me anything I need to help me pass. With all the support from my classmates, teachers and parents, I expect to excel.

Compiled by Lydia Atieno


How to pass exams

1. No limiting belief please

Remove the limiting belief that you can’t pass. Don’t look at the examiner as their enemy. Pass percentage might be low, but students do pass their exams. So, don’t think that you will be in a failure category ever.

2. Understand the structure of the paper

  • First of all, understand the structure of paper – is there any marks allocation for a particular topic?
  • Secondly, if there is marks allocation, is examiner following it? The best thing to do is to review the past five papers.
  • What is the key topic i.e. examiner’s favorite? Study that topic and prepare for it, even if you don’t like it!

3. Taking notes

Prepare for exams by way of ‘notes’ which you can recall quickly at the time of taking an exam. This will help in two manners. First, when you write, you are in better picture of giving your mind instruction through written letters. Secondly, you can revise from your notes instead of opening the book when exam day is near.

4. Remembering / memorizing key ideas and formulae

  • One of the key ideas to memorize ideas e.g. formulae, is to write them in small charts and hang it in front of your bed.
  • See those formulae daily before going to bed and rising up.
  • Use different colours and markers, it will help you recall in your exams.

5. Exam practice

  • Practice mock exam — be your own examiner. Take any past paper and solve it as a mock exam.
  • Solve past papers in the time allocated in exam. Think you are in exam hall and solve the paper accordingly.
  • Check your paper and give yourself marks. See how are you performing in mock exam and be sincere to yourself.

6. Time your paper

  • Here is technique to time your paper: Take total marks and total time. Subtract 10 minutes from the total minutes. Divide the remainder with the marks and you get time per marks. For example if there are 100 marks for a paper and you have 180 minutes. Subtract 10 minutes. This means you have 170 minutes altogether or 1.7 minutes per mark. Make sure that you don’t spend more that 1.7 minutes per mark e.g. if a question is of 10 marks, maximum time you should spend should be 17 minutes.

7. Don’t annoy the examiner

See for spelling errors and writing style. Writing needs to be legible and understandable since the examiner has very little time to check your paper. If your paper is examiner friendly, you are going to attract good marks.



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