Prior preparation of candidates enhances peak performance

Mr. Victor Ochieng', Writer and Author. Photo/Courtesy
Mr. Victor Ochieng', Writer and Author. Photo/Courtesy

When the bell blares to mark the last lap for the Form Four Class, the ball game takes a different turn. Secondary schools with a ravenous desire for peak performance in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) begin doing things differently.

Paul Wanyonyi, in his book, “Masterclass KCSE Blue Print: Strategies of Becoming the KCSE Champion You Are Destined to Be,” points out reasons for poor performance. Failure to launch the Form Four program in the nick of time and going all the way to the wire, poor planning, abject failure to address emerging trends in the setting and marking of exams, lack of teamwork in the school, poor exam preparation strategies, failure to nurture character in candidates, failure to address the challenge of weak learners, failure to master the art of exams and poor finishing.

It all begins with forming a formidable academic team.

This team mandated to oversee the candidate class programs must be assembled during the first strategic meeting.

This should bring together the Form Four academic team, student examiners – one per subject, subject champions and group discussion leaders.

The Form Four academic team should collate the class principal, examination officer, monitoring and evaluation team, disciplinary master or mistress, and the ones in charge of motivation, morning preps and games.

Consequently, the academic team should ensure full implementation of the blueprint, create a conducive educational environment, and monitor and evaluate the Form Four programmes.

They should oversee the launch of Terms 1, 2 and 3 Academic Action Plans.

They should ensure there is a timely and in-depth implementation of the curriculum.

They should establish and fill the glaring gaps in teaching and learning.

They should carry out data-driven decisions, set benchmarks for all stakeholders, and update stakeholders on the programme’s progress.

It is prudent to convene a seminar for teachers for the Board of Management (BoM) and Parents’ Association (PA) – at the front end of the year ahead of the launch of the Form Four rigorous programme.

A guest speaker can be cordially invited to equip the dream team for the sake of the thrills and hills ahead.

Among the structural expectations of the seminar should be: Team bonding and team building, analysis of the previous KCSE results, mending of mistakes made in previous exams, laying down expectations, forming a formidable Form Four team, identifying gaps and goofs, developing the Academic Action Plans (AAPs) and timetables, setting of targets, budgeting and brainstorming on resource mobilisation strategies.

This should be followed by an academic seminar for students.

This should be a meeting of minds that brings together the school Principal, Deputy Principal(s), DoS, class principal, Form Four class teachers, subject teachers and the candidates.

Basically, this seminar should help those in attendance set objectives and develop expected outcomes of a well-thought-out teaching, revision and remedial programme.

In this conference, tasks to be undertaken should be spelt out and resources required to be explored to the hilt.

It is the best place to set the discipline and academic expectations that will serve as a good guide during the academic year.

In that pow-wow, students are sensitised to specific academic factors that can help them access success.

The programme implementation strategies are shared.

An audit is done to establish students’ prevailing levels of preparedness for KCSE.

Moreover, the following things have to be done: Creation of an environment that can help candidates evince academic excellence, creation of a positive success-oriented climate, and blending of teaching with the examination system.

Running student-centred programmes instead of teacher-centred ones, addressing emerging trends in the setting and marking of KCSE in all subjects, ensuring students grasp content through intensive reading habits, and focusing on the raft of recommendations splashed in the KNEC reports.

Other essential steps include:

  • Expanding learning time.
  • Dismantling all comfort zones.
  • Creating a mutual desire to make sacrifices.
  • Fattening the head as you cut (reduce size) of the tail.
  • Embracing data-driven decision-making and getting it right in matters of curriculum implementation.

Also, there is the need to have class identities. Let there be a collective class – name, slogan, scripture – to enhance energy, synergy and strategy.

These are the things that knit the class neatly.

Set the targets: School mean (positive deviation), subject means, group discussion targets, number of students to scoop A’s, number of students to be in the top 100 in the nation, last grade to be scored, possible county or national ranking, and the number of students the school can send to the university.

Help students set their individual targets.

Hinge the targets on the students’ Form 3 Promotion Exam.

Let this process be preceded by in-depth data analysis to ascertain the glaring gaps.

Point out areas that require action.

The school target should be the average of the individual target of each student.

Let students set their KCSE targets and targets to be met in the internal exams.

The release of every exam should be followed by a thorough analysis of each student’s target.

Ensure that there is timely completion of the syllabus.

Complete Form 3 syllabus. If possible, start the Form 4 syllabus in Form 3.

Do ability grouping.

Come up with discussion groups.

Increase the number of remedial lessons.

Let students do a few chapters as holiday assignments.

Come up with student-centred programmes for syllabus review purposes.

This timely completion of the syllabus is a content, retention and memory enhancement strategy.

Content is key. Therefore, at the tail-end of the programme, candidates should manifest high levels of content mastery through reduced blank spaces in exams, as they score full marks for each allotted question.

Come up with content review strategies like supervised reading of notes and supervised reading of core-course books.

Encourage guided reading and guided exams.

Let there be group exams and the making of marking schemes.

Focus on topical teaching, review of exams, research-based learning, symposiums, hot sitting sessions and subject-based contests.

For students to garner good grades, teaching and evaluation must be intertwined.

Revision and review of past work must go alongside syllabus coverage.

Head of Departments (HoDs) and Head of Subjects (HoSs) must set aside one lesson per week for every subject to be used for intensive revision purposes.

During remedial lessons, teachers should focus on poorly performed areas in internal exams and class evaluations.

A lot of attention should focus on topics requested by students and the Table of Specification (ToS).

Table of Specification (ToS), also known as a Test Blueprint, is a table that specifies ‘a must come areas’ in examination and skills tested in each topic.

There is an exigent need to address areas identified in the Kenya National Examinations Council (KNEC) reports and the data from examination analysis reports.

This is the spectacular strategy that KNEC uses to develop its assessment area.

By and large, KNEC has ensured that examinations measure adequate sampling of the syllabus content at all levels.

In the whole scheme of things, students should not stroll into the examination room with a bad feeling because they have not been adequately prepared to sit and write exams well.

To fix this bit, identify and fill the gaps related to content mastery, interpretation of exam questions, emerging trends in setting and marking of exams, writing of exams, and mastery of concepts and content in lower forms.

Identify glaring gaps in student motivation.

Run an examination system. The powers-that-be should identify shedloads of examinations to be administered across the year.

The number of complete exams done and always revised equals the school mean.

Develop timetables. Administer exams like the Random Assessment Tests (RATs) and Continuous Assessment Tests (RATs) focusing on Form 1 and 2 contents.

Serve monthly exams that meet Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Let there be exams done by students in groups marked and group results released and revised.

Let there be inter-class competitions and students’ self-evaluation. Let there be the making of marking schemes, where students are issued with mocks to use approved textbooks to come up with appropriate responses.

Administer county mocks as monthly examinations.

Ensure that the past KCSE papers are revised through group discussions, making of marking schemes and remedial teaching.

Come up with prophetic exams set by departments and administered internally.

Let there be quizzes taken from problematic topics and those of ToS.

Focus on topical evaluations done by subject teachers.

Incorporate joint exams done with top schools as monthly examinations.

Over and above, train candidates on the art of examination.

Because students can grasp the content, but the lack of exam techniques can dent academic performance significantly, tutors should teach the art of examination through subject-based seminars and remedial lessons.

Invite guest speakers – subject experts and examiners – to polish pale parts.

The art of exams can also be infused into lessons and examination revision.

Students can also study marking schemes.

As teachers also study and implement recommendations in the KNEC reports.

The art of examination should enshrine emerging trends in the setting marking of KCSE, the examination format, ToS, mistakes students make and penalties, responding to the required breadth and depth.

Encouraging students to pay homage to the marks allotted and points required.

Make them know how to interpret questions and how to plot work on paper.

Helping them see the areas they can score free marks.

In addition, the art of science practical should also take centre stage.

This should be inclined towards a special focus on terms used.

For instance, how to pen procedure of every practical, assemble apparatus and perform the practical, make observations, interpret, and make inferences.

It is good to know possible reagents that accompany the possible practical.

Not forgetting the possible practical questions to anticipate.

Help them know how to plot practical work and how to avoid making silly mistakes in practical exams.

Lastly, develop the homestretch programme. It will involve both the term 3 Action Plan and 60-days academic challenge that the school shall develop once the exam timetable is out.

For candidates to finish as champions, discipline must prevail with great grace and elegance.

Teacher presence must be a common denominator. Consistency is key.

Smart study strategies must be employed.

Every week, let the academic teams carry out data collection to ascertain the class’s academic standing.

Rate the success of the programme(s).

Re-do the ability grouping.

Inform new instructional approaches.

Identify glaring weaknesses inherent in students.

Guide students on how to do a personal academic SWOT analysis.

Help them manage stress and mitigate tension that tightens at the eleventh hour.

Above all, they must know that the exam requires ample academic, psychological, and spiritual preparation.

90% goes to preparation, and 10% goes to waging and winning the war.

The writer rolls our Academic Improvement Talks in Schools. He trains teachers on Effective Management of the candidate Class.

YOU CAN ALSO READ: What next after KCSE?

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Mr. Ochieng' is an editor, orator and author. His contact:


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