Secrets Of Academic Excellence
Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth. 2 Timothy 2:15 [AMPC].
On June 7th, 2014, I finished a master’s degree program in Public Administration from the department of Political Science in a University. There are some lessons I learnt about the current educational situation in Nigeria.
I found out that many graduates are unemployed not because there are no jobs. They are unemployed because they are not employable as graduates. They do not have the requisite knowledge and skills as graduates to fit into graduate vacancies.
One of the very obvious defects one can see is the lack of the quest to acquire knowledge. The desire to weed ignorance from their minds is obviously absent. I could imagine the kind of secondary schools they attended. Basic grammatical skills and even spellings were obviously deficient even at the master’s level.
For those of us who schooled at Government College Ughelli, Federal Government College Warri, and the University of Ibadan, the desire to excel academically was a strong motivating factor in studying. We took pride in coming out among the first 10 students out of 140 students in the whole four arms of each class.
You cannot read casually and expect to excel. Reading is different from studying. To study involves looking out for the details; I mean finding details of the subject matter. It involves understanding the gist of the subject, viewing it from all angles, and relating it to what you have known previously and your day-to-day experience.
There is a very expensive medicinal fungus in China called the caterpillar fungus. To harvest it, you have to lie low and carefully search for it. It is very expensive because of the painstaking nature of the work to find it. Knowledge is like precious stones; they are not found on the surface of books, you need to dig deeper to find diamonds or gold. Gold in streams involves painstaking effort to pan the soil scooped up in the search of gold.
I get paid for speaking. What I preach or lecture on are the details people missed out in life. I deliberately put effort to look for what others overlooked. You can’t excel casually in anything. I read up to three different books on the same subject matter, and I will go to the internet to get more information on the subject matter.
I was to preach on ‘The Eagle’ in an Anglican church. I spent six hours on the internet researching on eagles. When I came out with the message, it was a bomb. I have made so much money from that singular effort from sales of the CDs on The Eagle.
When I read for examinations, I can read one subject up to five times over and over again. I do it as if I am using a net to catch fish from a pond. I first go with the wider net and harvest the big ideas and structure of the subject matter. Then I come later with a smaller net to catch the next finer details that I missed out or forgot. By the time I go over it for about five times, I know it very well.
For the last examination results that came out, I scored 6 B’s, 6 A’s and one C—the best in the class, at my age, after 30 years of leaving University and with my very busy schedule of preaching.
You must read with eagerness, and in fact, everything you do must be enthusiastically done. I read until my buttocks ache me. I hate to miss lectures and I follow the lecturer with my eyes as he moves and listen very intensely. I ensure that I sit in the front row. One day, at 55 years of age, I sat on the floor to be able to hear the lecturer well.
You must ensure you take notes and explain them in terms you will understand. Don’t play with note-taking. It is a magical act; just writing what someone is saying connects you to him. The shortest pencil is more valuable than the longest memory. I don’t have a good memory, I forget easily. So, as I read, I take notes. Just the act of writing puts life into the words and brings out details you would have missed on just reading. I can write and write the same points each time I read them until they become part of me.
The next is that I meditate a lot when I am preparing for an examination. I don’t like distractions. I ruminate over what I have read previously. I can take a walk in a field or quiet place. I also regurgitate what I have read and chew them all over in my mind. What I experience is that when I want to sleep at night, I reflect on what I had read and I find out that I dream about them when I sleep.
You must first go through the past question papers; they will give you a framework or skeleton to build knowledge around. After going through the question papers (tested by trial), then read through the work, and attempt to answer the questions. Usually, you might not know much at the first time. Then you go through the work again and try to answer the questions for the second time. Repeat this over and over and you will become a master of that subject.
The next thing that will help you is to discuss the subjects and questions with your colleagues. The more you discuss a topic, the more proficient you will become. Learn to ask questions from your lecturers and your mates.
When preparing for an examination, always tell yourself you will be the best in the class. Don’t read with fear. When I started the master’s program, I was not very confident because the subjects and topics were new to me, and for the fact that I was coming from the sciences to the social sciences. But as my confidence and interest increased, my grades improved.
Parents today want children to jump classes, even when they are not exceptionally brilliant. Parents pay people to write examinations for their children. I know one who would cut corners for his children and his daughter failed out of the university without a degree. I saw a man and someone said he wrote his Primary School Leaving Certificate Examinations for him; no wonder he was having difficulties at the masters level.
There is a bad spirit in Nigeria that causes people to want proceeds without process. We want to falsify election results. We are not patient to drive to the right place before turning, so we drive on the wrong lane. I saw adults cheating in the University. They must have cheated in the primary, secondary, and first-degree examinations. I saw a husband and wife cheating in a bible school where I lectured.
Just to add something, you must find out the best place and time to read. Read the most difficult aspects of the subject when your mind is fresh, and then read the others later. These principles will work in other spheres of life like business and ministry.
There is, most times, nobody better than you; know how, what, why, and when they do what they do to excel, and you will be like them.
God Bless You.