Monday, January 16, 2017

HOW I BECAME AN A STUDENT (Reflections of a former 'Loafer')

Academics, A Student

You’re a loafer, I heard my Teacher call me. I was in my third year in secondary school then. I can’t remember what I did, but I recall I wasn’t as smart as the other kids_ I mean teens. That came at the backdrop of the struggles I had trying to keep up with the tempo needed to clear the subjects in the curricular (Mathematics especially). Speaking of mathematics, my scores were nothing to write mummy about_ I mean 11/100. I knew my aspirations of making it to the University, Let alone becoming a Pharmacist, was going to remain fantasy if I did nothing drastic. Then, my learning curve was indeed rough (lined with boos and frustrations). It appeared as if I studied harder than anyone else but disappointingly, I failed big time: ouch!  My academic renaissance began taking form the moment I resolved to be an A student. The journey goes like up-down-down-up-down-up-up-up. I gained some valuable insights along they way:

1.   Your attitude will take you farther than your aptitude (and make you last longer as well): The adversity I faced made is a more refined person. It helped me come up with the magic combination: vision, passion, focus, discipline. Set the bar high and rise to it.

2.  Understand the problemaddress the root causeminimize your weaknesses: For example, I was lazy, too hasty (impatient); I overlooked step by step details (illogical), I lacked confidence, I ignored practice that led to an F in Mathematics. This threatened my performance in other courses and put me on the verge of repeating the class. I nailed my deficiencies and things took a dramatic turn northward. 

3.   Devise a smart strategy; Take action

During lectures, pay rapt attention to the points emphasized, to the questions raised before and during the lectures (applicable to practical sessions). You intend to stay ahead but first don’t stay behind. Therefore ask questions if you haven’t clarified what the lecturer/facilitator expects you to know (there are no foolish questions). Attempt answering questions asked, if you can. Capture all you can in your notes, and sort the points based on the importance attached to them in the lecture. If you are perceptive, you will guess likely examination questions. When you get back to your closet, research exhaustively on the lecture topic, explore its wider significance in a relevant context, and relate it to something tangible so that you can have a handle on it. If you are well equipped to furnish your lecturer with satisfactory treatise on the topic, yet explain it clearly to a layperson, you’re good to go. It is important to note that a 20 minutes recap of the day’s lecture notes aids in rapid recall…. Don’t fling your notes away yet !  

Before your begin study, Decide on the courses you are going to study and the timeline(s) allotted for them (at least two uninterrupted hours daily). Stick to this routine unless tests, practical and quizzes demand your attention. Keep your pen and notepad handy and organize your notes and textbooks (including other learning aids) neatly on the table. You would want to get started when seated (not confused). A bubble of silence is golden. Don’t forget to turn off your mobile devices as well!

During study: I strongly recommend the SQW2R technique where ‘S’ = Survey, Q = Question formulation; R= Read; W = Write, and R = Review. I would elaborate on this powerful formula in subsequent posts; however it is important to note that:

  • The above method should be applied intensively throughout the regulation time (lecture period) of semester, whereas more of SQ2R would be adopted during the dine minutes (revision period)…
  • Final revision notes (heavily edited) should be sticky, precise, graphical, less worded and executable.
  • Few days to the exam is not the time for sourcing new information which may not be helpful, or learning complex content that should have been digested earlier on… it is strictly for revision and consolidation 

During exam (Battle time):

‘BE CALM; BE THOROUGH; BE SWIFT; BE RUTHLESS; BE YOURSELF’. I continued by telling my friend that failing would delay her progress drastically, erode her reputation (even self esteem), and affect her pocket adversely (including that of her sponsor if any). By now, it’s expected that you have mastered the course content and you have made a practical forecast of possible exam questions. Here are helpful tips:

  •  Ensure your identification details are clearly printed.
  • Take the time to carefully read and understand the instructions and questions. At the same time, listen attentively for verbal instructions. Understand the scope and sections of the paper. Is it multiple choice or theory; are you to choose questions or answer all?
  • Be aware of time allotted. Decide the pockets of time to be allocated for each question (make sure you create time for reviewing your answers). Allocate more time to questions that would earn you better marks.
  • Attempt all questions selected.
  • Focus on the question(s) you know best and can answer satisfactorily within the allotted time.
  • In theory: Clarity-Order-Relevance-Detail is KEY. Let the point-poaching lines be boldly printed on the script so that the assessor can easily spot them out. Clear writing is a sign of clear thinking
  • When you are done, REVISE THRICE if you can. Keep perfecting your work until you submit your script. I used to be the LAST to submit then…

The disciplines outlined above were my anthem in my undergraduate years, and they reflected in my grades. I’m grateful, I was able to find by feet soon enough to pass by ‘O’ level /admission exams to study Pharmacy and Induct as a Pharmacist…  

My math teacher once hinted that I wouldn’t see the walls of a secondary school. This was due to my flop. He was proven wrong because I graduated with a CGPA of 4.48. A remarkable improvement against the odds.

More light would be shed in subsequent blog posts.  Cheers!!