The A-Z of preparing for national exams

In less than one month national examinations will kickoff. Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE) will begin on November 1 while O and A level exams will start on November 4. Are you a candidate? Are you prepared or how are you preparing to ensure that you pass with flying colours?
Preparing early helps students avoid last minute reading and cases of examination fever. / Solomon Asaba
Preparing early helps students avoid last minute reading and cases of examination fever. / Solomon Asaba

In less than one month national examinations will kickoff. Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE) will begin on November 1 while O and A level exams will start on November 4. Are you a candidate? Are you prepared or how are you preparing to ensure that you pass with flying colours? Solomon Asaba answers these questions to help you prepare well for exams and pass with flying colours.

Have enough rest


Preparing for national exams does not mean having sleepless nights. Staying long hours awake to read for exams may actually lead to failure. Alex Mushumba, the head teacher of Remera Martyrs in Giporoso advises candidates to maintain their normal sleep patterns for maximum performance.


“Like any other part of the body, the brain too needs sufficient rest. Well you might have to work harder in this period, but it should not come at the expense of sacrificing your sleep,” he explains.


Mushumba also advises teachers not to pump students with work at the last minute because this could destruct their reading plans.

“When you give students a lot of work at the last minute, they may end up concentrating more on that during their revision. This arises from the habit of some teachers who after getting caught up with time want to churn out everything at the last minute. There should be a break from class work before exams,” he warns.

Revise early and go through past papers

Joyce Kirabo, a teacher and counsellor says that students who start revision early enough and seek appropriate consultation on unclear topics are likely to pass with flying colours.

“Those who want to open their books after seeing that exams are around the corner risk failing. Students should take sufficient time to go through their notes. In case of difficult topics, they can have ample time to consult their teachers,” she explains.

Kirabo further advises that revisiting old papers can facilitate candidates to develop better understanding on question approach. “Some of the questions could be familiar and going through them would allow one to relate with or improve their responses,” she explains.

Avoid spotting

Spotting is a common habit among students when reading for exams. However, Solomon Mukama Apuuli, a teacher at Kigali Christian School in Kibagabaga warns that spotting in national exams is a very unreliable practice.

“You cannot know everything that examiners want to set. It is dangerous to read some areas and neglect others. Those who do it stand the risk of being out spotted,” he warns.

Mukama points out that teachers need to encourage standard approaches and continuous assessment, early enough to discourage students from this habit of spotting.

“Students learn spotting from the way teachers set their tests. If a teacher is fond of setting from only specific areas, he becomes predictable and inculcates the habit of spotting in students,” he adds.

Feed well

Since the examination period is very energy demanding, nutritionists advise that both parents and teachers have to ensure that students meet their nutritional requirements.

Isaac Bikorimana, a nutritionist at Kibagabaga hospital believes that good feeding has a positive impact on performance hence balanced meals should be taken through the entire period.

“At all times, students should ensure that the meals have all the necessary nutrients. A good diet should be made up of all the essential components such as proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and fats. These should be obtained from a combination of foods like eggs, vegetables and fruits. At least one litre of safe drinking water should be taken every day,” he explains.

Bikorimana, however warns candidates about using the examination period as an excuse for overeating.

“Because you are given a lot of attention, you may want to use this time to gorge on everything that you desire. This is totally wrong and could result into complications and some stomach problems,” warns Bikorimana.

Attend all briefing sessions

A few weeks towards examinations, both government and private schools are compelled to hold briefing sessions for students. Unfortunately sometimes students do not take them serious, which affects their performance in the end.

Beatrice Ampire, a teacher at Little Bears Montessori in Kimihurura explains that these sessions give students proper guidance on the materials to use and the kind of attire to avoid carrying into an examination room.

“You wouldn’t want to enter an examination room without the right type of calculator or geometry set. Lack of this information could result into panic in some individuals. Sometimes special counselling is offered by senior examiners and those who miss lose out,” she explains.

Beware of corn artists

It is at times like these that some dubious characters chose to mascaraed as examination officials with an intention of extorting money from students on grounds that they would provide leaked examination papers.

However, Ronald Wandira, a teacher at Riviera High School reiterates that late preparation for exams is like fattening a bull on the market day and students need to avoid falling in the hands of such wrong people.

“It all begins with late preparation. Those who are not well prepared would want to cheat. In the end students would discover that the examinations were not so different from what they learned in class. Besides examiners only follow the syllabus so nothing should really drive a student into cheating,” he explains.

Do not be superstitious

In some cases students are advised to rely on superstitions such as eating a head of a fish or drinking a lot of milk on the eve of the exams.

But Mukama further warns that superstition cannot deliver good performance.

“Well some foods could be nutritious but it is totally wrong to take them because of superstitions. 

Tales like taking a lot of honey during this period have no direct link with performance,” he adds.

Be punctual and engage in discussion groups

Theoneste Ngirowunsanga, a teacher at College APPEC Rukoma in Kamonyi advises students to reach school on time.

“You don’t want to reach when they have already distributed the papers. It is important you come early, prepare, then wait to be called into the examination room,” he explains

Ngirowunsanga advises that students should also take some time to engage in group discussions with their friends.

“Discussing with your colleagues helps you discover many things. It is not always true that the first person to consult should be your school teacher,” Ngirowunsanga adds.

Beware of malaria

Dr Rachna Pande, an internal medicine specialist at Butaro hospital points out that because of stress and long hours of reading at night, students become more prone to mosquito bites, which exposes them to malaria.

She advises that anti-malaria measures should be encouraged months before examinations to ensure that students do not fall ill at the critical moment.

“On top of sleeping under a treated mosquito net, students should make it a point to wear long sleeved clothing to cover most of their body when reading. Mosquito repellants are also crucial at this point and stagnant water should be cleared,” she says.



Emmanuel Ndahiro, a student at GS Rugando
We have been doing a lot of revision in groups especially in the afternoon. When we encounter difficult questions, we ask for assistance from our teachers. Personally, I started preparing at the beginning of the term and now I am ready. My parents are also helping me to keep time.


Lynca Teta, student at St Patrick Kicukiro
There is nothing to worry about exams. Since primary school, we have been sitting similar papers. I expect nothing different from what we have been learning in class. My routine involves doing some revision everyday. Sometimes, I ask for past papers from my friends then go through all of them. With this kind of preparation, I don’t expect any surprises.


Phillip Nsanganira, S6 student at GS Rugando
I have no reason to be tense about the coming national exams. I have been doing a lot of revision and I don’t expect any surprises. Well that feeling of anxiety is always there when entering the examination room, but it does not stop you from going ahead with your papers. I also believe examiners are humans and no one deliberately wants to fail a student.


Joseph Niyezimana, a candidate
To supplement our notes and textbooks, we made some research on Internet. The answers we found were so direct and the good thing is that we managed to find solutions to some difficult questions. Since teachers are busy during this time, we decided to form a discussion group that meets every day.


Patience Hirwa, a student at Apaper Complex School
Of late, I have been doing research from the internet, past papers and other related reading materials, especially on topics that I didn’t master well during class. I think this has prepared me for the final exams. However, students shouldn’t at any point start reading hard during the last hours because this brings about confusion.

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