Dear Exams, please be nice!


If you are a student, you have probably heard the statement “I will not let an exam result determine my life” a thousand and one times. Or at least variations of it. You have most likely consoled yourself with such statements after an exam went bad or your report card (MIS WEB) had a D, E or F featured prominently on it. I bet you gave the clichéd examples of Bill Gates, Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs as examples of corporate leaders who did not even get an undergrad degree. Not forgetting the local examples of Despite and Mensah Otabil. It is safe to say that you listen to Suli Breaks a lot huh?

Well sorry to burst your bubble. EXAMS DO MATTER! Yes, a 3 hour paper or a figure scaled on 4.0 does not measure your intelligence or foretell your future. It does not quantify your ambitions neither does it capture your worth. It however does tell a lot about your dedication to a cause. Excelling in it shows how focused you can be on a goal. For getting an A in a course certainly does not come easy. You must put in the hours, literally burn the midnight candle in this Dumsor era, attend lectures when your mates are skipping it to “pick moves” in town, and patronize tutorial sessions led by stuttering TAs who a semester ago were either your roommates or re-siting a UGRC (University of Ghana Required Course).

Exams in our part of the world are usually the first steps towards a life of “success”. Should it be so? Of course not. But until we create that ambience which makes it propitious for the fostering of dropouts, exams remain the stepping stone. It largely determine our mobility through the social classes as well as the various levels of undergraduate study and failing it means a destiny with the ominous fellow called RESIT! So a week to exams turns the whole campus to Zombie Ville. Students walk robotically to reading rooms, hunched with backpacks filled with books they have never opened and PowerPoint slides they only recently downloaded. They stay up late into the night and avoid any non-academic academic activity during the day. The exam period is the only time you will find unused laundry lines on a Friday night!!!

No matter how hard you study for an exam, you can never be a 100% sure of a grade worthy of your input. The hours spent behind Calculus textbooks, minutes passed in lecture halls and the amount of attention paid in class have no definite correlation on your GPA. It largely depends on how lucky you are with questions and the type of food your lecturer ate before marking your papers. Not forgetting the possibility of forgetting a formula you “chewed” or a theorem you studied by rote which escapes your memory moments after you enter the examination hall. But of course there is no substitute for poring over notes and scavenging campus for study groups to tap the collective pool of knowledge brimming in such circles. Oh wait, there is a substitute. Prayer and the Grace of God!

And that is why we become saints in the weeks before exams. Occupying the prayer grounds, shouting out the name of the deity we have forgotten of for months. Raising our hands in the rows of the mosques and reading the Qurans we have allowed to gather dust for weeks . Hoping the last minute information we crammed finds its way word for word on the white paper. Why we anticipate those questions pregnant with a, b, c, d, e, f and g sub questions do not cross our paths and stare us in the face on the day of reckoning. Why our wildest dreams is to be serendipitous in our studying. Why we suddenly become obnoxiously amiable to the smart one who sit next to us during the exams.

So Dear Exams, please play nice!!!

Shafic Osman

Posted by Shafic Osman


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