I AM a student and, of course, education, examinations and books are an essential part of my adolescence. Like any other school-going child, when exams come, I am beset by stress, pressure and worry, and the need to be diligent.
Recently, students have become obsessed with examination tips.
In the weeks leading up to the Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR) examination recently, my schoolmates were thronging various seminars just to get the latest and most reliable "tips".
In this case, the word "tips" is a mild way of referring to "spotted questions" or "leaked questions".
However, these are anything but reliable.
A friend shared her experience at one of these seminars. The organisers, who run a tuition centre, had sold bound books of spotted questions, which cost more than RM200 each.
Every student who attended the seminar was required to buy a copy. Let's say 250 students registered for the seminar, there are no prizes for guessing how much money was made from the sale of these books alone.
The tuition centre was smart. To protect itself, there was a disclaimer on the back of the book, which said it was not responsible for any false or misleading information. Were these tips accurate?
I jotted down some of the tips just to compare them with the actual exam questions. None of the predictions were true.
My parents and teachers have told me never to believe in tips. I prefer covering all the topics in the syllabus rather than spotting certain chapters.
This way, I feel more confident, knowing that I have all the facts and figures at my fingertips.
Those who depend too much on exam tips fail to fathom the real meaning of examinations. It is one way of assessing the students to see whether they have learnt anything from their lessons in school.
If revision is based only on spotted questions, how can teachers, parents, even students themselves, know whether what is studied is truly understood?
Most, if not all, seminar organisers are more interested in making a quick buck rather than providing education, and spotted questions are their secret weapon.
Seminars are supposed to give tips on how to answer questions, on avoiding common mistakes made by candidates and on the correct ways of studying.
I attended a seminar in February where the facilitator guided us on how to write quality Bahasa Melayu essays, discussed phrases that we could use in our compositions and taught us unique but simple methods of writing a summary.
He did not mention anything about spotted questions until the end of the seminar, when he promoted a PMR workshop, which was to be held in August.
"In this workshop, we are not giving you leaked questions. No. We are giving you leaked answers," he had bragged.
I did not attend the workshop, so I cannot comment on it.
If you ask me for advice on exam preparation, tips would be the last thing I will recommend.
We do not need tips or spotted questions. All we need is a good night's sleep, hard work and continuous motivation. Here are simple methods of obtaining good grades. These are what I call study tips, not exam tips:
NEVER study at the eleventh hour. Flipping through some concise notes is acceptable, but never read the whole book when the exam is just tomorrow.
Studying throughout the year is bliss. When we revise regularly, we can easily transfer information from our short-term memory to our long-term memory.
This is the problem with students nowadays. They only start their revision when the examinations are around the corner. After the examination, they lock their books in a cupboard only to take them out when the next assessment nears;
READING and understanding notes is essential. Mugging them blindly without comprehension is foolish. Of course, we must memorise notes because the Malaysian syllabus is generally based on remembering facts, but it will be easier to memorise if we understand what we are learning;
DO a lot of exercises so that we can recall what we have read and know how the questions are being posed in examinations, and what are the important topics.
That is why reading notes and answering questions are mandatory. We must read our notes first before we do the latter. Some students tend to skip the former and jump straight to the questions. How can we answer the questions if we have not read any notes?;
NEVER burn the midnight oil. Most students like to stay up late and cram in all the information. Exam week is not a time for staying up late.
We should sleep early so that we will have a fresh mind and body for the examinations the next day. The brain functions more efficiently when it gets enough rest;
AVOID studying too much during the exam week. Take some time off to indulge in relaxing activities.
By this, I do not mean hanging out at shopping malls or at cyber cafes. Try listening to music, watch comedy or go through the newspapers.
So, spotted questions? Those are just foolish means of passing the exams. It is not much different from cheating.
Students should just trust themselves and do their best.
C.K., Kajang, Selangor | <a style="text-decoration:none" ="mailto:email@example.com?subject="RE:%20EXAM%20TIPS:%20Proper%20way%20to%20good%20grades"" lj-cmd="LJLink">firstname.lastname@example.org New Straits Times Online Letters to the Editors 30 October 2012