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How I scored an a with less than 10 minutes explanation from a friend

  • It was 2003...

    The power goes off, my lamp subdued, my world turn black, and I was afraid, because my study – for tomorrow’s exam – breathe out. I wait for hours for NEPA, now PHCN, to turn on the light, so I should continue my study, but that never happen.

    I go out of my room so that, perhaps, I can use the moonlight rays to read. Still, there’s nothing. I give up at this point. You know, just throw my handout and sleep, deep sleep, snoring out loud.

    The early morning prayers wake me up. It was 5:15 am, and, still, it’s all dim and dark, impossible for me to read.  When the cool, morning opens up its bright light, I grab my material, jump outside, and start reading my hand-out.

    However, my focus wanes. The hand-out is bulky; time is not on my side, and my block off, unable to accommodate the points in the material. So I rushed to brush my teeth and take my bath, and then run to the exam hall to get some help.

    In the exam hall

    I sit close to Abubakar, one of my trusted pals.

    He’s a great guy, easy-going and understanding. I ask him to rescue me. “I’m in trouble,” I begin telling him my nightmare. “I had a blackout yesterday, and didn’t get the chance to read my material. Please help me explain the whole course.”

    “Really? You’re a joke,” he pokes me. “Please, let me practice some more.”

    I tell him that I’m really, really serious, and convince him to explain some core topics to me.

    The 10 minutes explanation

    As Abubakar is explaining, I’m jotting the key points, and letting other discussion to disperse in the air.

    I often ask him to stop and go to the next topic, while he’s in the middle of explanation. Why? Because I get the one thing that matters: The main points/ideas. Let’s move on to the next topic and save time.

    In awe, Abubakar – frequently – looks at me and say, “Please if you already do your reading, let me brush up again.” He thought I’ve already mastered the course, and I’m just here to make fun of him.

    In reality, I’m not.

    When it was almost time to start the exam, I’ll just ask Abubakar to exemplify a concept, and nothing more. The idea is to understand the main points, as quickly as possible, and move on.

    Related: Five amazing exam preparation tips

    Writing the exam

    When the question paper enters into my hand, I quickly scan through it, and, lo and behold, all the questions we discussed appear.

    So I write the exam with confidence and apply some smart writing strategies.

    I open every question with a succinct introduction. The aim is to rehearse the question and briefly introduces the answer so that my Professor will be convinced. The introduction also serves as a roadmap, guiding my Prof. about the main theme that I’ll discuss and the points that I’ll cover.

    For example, one of the questions that appear in the question paper is as follows:

    “With clear examples, discuss the importance of hypothesis in a research.”

    And my introduction looks like this:

    “Hypothesis is one of the core elements in a research. It is a proposal, a “tentative statement” that if true, would validate a fact or phenomenon. To answer this question, I’ll discuss three things: (1) I’ll define hypothesis as a concept in research. (2) I’ll then discuss why hypothesis is necessary in a scientific research. (3) And lastly, I’ll give three practical examples for why hypothesis is important in a research.”  

    Short and succinct!

    As for the body of the article, it looks like this:

    1. What is hypothesis?
    2. Hypothesis as a necessary tool in a scientific research
    3. Examples of hypothesis in research

    Filling each points with ideas and points that support my claims.

    And finally, I conclude my answer by synthesising my main points. So, let’s see if this 10 minutes study supported by this writing hack will help me pass this course.

    The result

    Angry and jealous and marvellous, Abubakar met me as I was entering the school. “You’re a con man,” he told me, his face full of contempt, his eyes full of bombshell. I knew you were mocking me.”

    For me, I really don’t know what he’s talking about. I ask him about three times to clarify what he’s saying. “SOS 301 result has just been placed, and you’re the only one with an A.”

    I’m really amazed!

    I managed to explain to my friend that I didn’t know how it happens, and that I was really empty when I asked him for explanation. He didn’t believe me.

    He tells me he scored a C, and blamed me for not “hijacking his last minutes time to brush up.”


    I’m not a genius or anything close to that, and I’m not saying that a 10 minutes explanation from a course mate will guarantee you an A. The lesson from my story is this:

    Smart reading and writing is the key to scoring high in an exam.

    • For reading, it’s all about understanding the main points.
    • For writing, it’s all about expanding the points with examples and good writing.

    The writing will convince your Prof. that you know what you’re talking about – the one thing your lecturers need to be certain to score you high marks.

    Sad. Very, very sad. I couldn’t explain this to Abubakar back in 2003. But I’m happy that I’m telling this to you now, my beautiful Penprofilers.

    Enjoy your weekends!

    Also check out the following article on how to read faster and smarter.