Posted by / Thursday 4 January 2018 / No comments

How I easily passed my WASSCE, you can do the same.

Back in the day, secondary school education culminated, after five years, in the writing of a final examination dubbed G.C.E. Ordinary Levels. This is today called the West African Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE). One could pass or fail as a result of a plethora of reasons.

I was not a particularly brilliant student in High School. In fact, I was a slow learner by nature. Coming from a modest home, and having no special talent in sports, acting or any of the arts (music etc), I knew a lot about my future was going to depend on obtaining good grades at school. After all, education for us, at the time, seemed the surest means to bettering our standard of living. I was not sure then what my career options were.

As l hinted earlier on, my financial circumstances were such that buying all pamphlets and textbooks was out of the possibilities. So I knew I had to be extra careful at how I used my time. Often, as students, we wasted a lot of time without realizing it. One of my strongest points was that I avoided time wasting as much as possible.

Never miss any class if it is within your power to do so
One thing I came to realize then was that, missing classes took me hours back on the subject and gave my mates a leg up on me. Often, students who missed class were left at the mercy of colleagues who thought they understood, to explain to them what was taught in class or were left completely on their own to figure out how to catch up with the rest of the class. Paying attention in class, asking questions and taking notes in my own words opens up my ability to grasp the material far more easily than what a classmate could teach me if I missed a class.

Improvise based on your peculiar circumstance
I borrowed from friends, those essential textbooks my parents could not afford to buy, I either read them very quickly, made notes of vital portions, or I copied the entire textbook into exercise books. At least, I could skip lunch a few times to get exercise books. This might sound like time wasting but when viewed from hind sight, it was not. First of all, those textbooks I decided to copy out were not very voluminous. Aside that by the time I had finished copying a particular textbook, I had practically read through the book once already. This gave me a broad idea of what the various topics were about and what the learning outcomes were.

Have a personal study plan
I also had a study plan, a time table of a sort. I arranged the subjects such that in my private study, I had to study those subjects that were to be taught the next day. Often I read very thoroughly a given topic, made sure I understood it perfectly. How did I know I understood? Well I remember my dad once told me if you could answer 10 questions in high school on a given topic, then consider that topic well understood. 

Prior to reading a topic, I wrote down a few questions. Questions like: what is the topic about? What definitions must I remember? How different is the topic from the previous ones or the next topic? Are there names, dates or places to remember? (Usually for theories or concepts propounded on the topic), are there areas where the concepts cannot apply? What must one do if it does not apply? What are the advantages and what are the disadvantages?  Once I had these questions written down, I tried to answer them as I read the teachers notes first, then the textbook(s) or any supplementary materials I had borrowed from a friend. In addition, once I came back from classes, I revised all that was taught that day before going to sleep. This way, I could remember most of the things I learnt for exams at school long after I left school.

Reading other non-curricula materials
I also read a lot of storybooks (novels). Often I read one novel a week. This novel-reading experience turned out to be more than just enjoying the stories in their plot. It helped me to improve my English tremendously. I realized it became vital in answering comprehension, summary and composition questions. These are areas where general knowledge of the English language is most necessary.

You may not be good in all the subjects
What of those subjects that I did not have a flare for? It is true that some are naturally good at quantitative or subjects involving a considerably good dose of mathematics, while others are good at language(s) and what we called “reading subjects”. I happen to be better at the reading stuffs, although not completely nut at figures. I realized I was good at memorizing texts so I solved algebraic equation, for instance, and wrote the steps to follow in solving it down in words and memorized it. I now followed up by trying my hands at solving other equations using the same steps. With time I noticed that what most students feared about mathematics was nothing to be afraid of. Though a General Arts student, I ended up with a better grade in core mathematics than some science students.

Style of taking down notes
Talking about memorizing, a lot of this had to do with how I took notes when reading. I noticed I was more visual. My notes taking did not therefore follow the traditional methods of simply writing down salient points. I used mind maps with the main topic in the middle and sub topics as branches.

Mindmap, Brainstorm, Idea, Innovation
A sample of a mind map 

Under the mind map above, for example, I wrote the main topic in the middle, where the light bulb is, and then a sentence that summed up every paragraph I read, at the fringes, where the circles are, for easy recollection. This made revising more fun.

This was the strategy that saw me through. Let me notify, that what I shared here with readers is not a silver bullet. It is just a personal approach to studying for high school exams which I adopted under my circumstance. The same strategy could work for someone. Others might need to devise their own means; but at least it worked for me.

Austin Packer is currently a Management Consultant and a Researcher. The Virtual Kollage Team stresses that, this is a personal experience that may or may not work for you. However, it is believed that if it worked for this writer, then it could work for thousands of others. By all means, use this strategy if you want to, but make it yours by modifying where necessary to suit your personal circumstance.

The challenge
Did you use a strategy in secondary school that helped you to easily pass your WASSCE? Share with Virtual Kollage followers, you might be helping a brother or sister. 

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