mass failure has become the trend in most examinations especially those conducted by the West African Examination Council (WAEC), National Examination Council (NECO), and the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB).

Over the years, results of various examinations conducted by these bodies in the country have not brought much to cheer for the parents and students due to the poor performance recorded across board.

This trend has been a source of concern to parents who bear so much emotional upset and financial burdens each time their wards sit for the examinations. Equally worried are stakeholders who gather to identify the possible causes and proffer solutions that can possibly reverse the unpleasant trend.

Records have shown that the percentage of candidates in Nigeria that obtained grades 1-6 in at least five subjects including Mathematics and English Language in the West Africa Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) indicated: 27.53 per cent in 2005, 15.56 per cent in 2006, 25.54 per cent in 2007, 13.76 per cent in 2008, 25.99 per cent in 2009 and about 20 per cent in 2010.

Observers are of the opinion that the poor performance of candidates is not always attributed to lack of knowledge and unqualified teachers but that some of the students find it very difficult to sit down and study their books. Rather, they prefer listening to music and browsing internet that will not be of benefit to them.

Deputy Registrar/Controller, Test Development Division of WAEC, Mrs. Olayinka Ajibade, said several factors that are interwoven contribute to candidates’ poor performance in the examinations. She also pointed out that the factors could come into play before, during and after the conduct of the examination.

She mentioned the various factors that could contribute to the low level of attainment of candidates in WASSCE to include negative attitude to learning, inadequate preparation, poor reading culture, poor study habit, inadequate coverage of the syllabus, non-familiarity with test format and requirements, lack of awareness of common pitfall.

Also poor grasp of English Language as a medium of expression, dependence on others for materials needed, possession of unauthorised materials, unsatisfactory behaviour in the examination hall, improper handling of the answer booklet, non-adherence to instructions, lack of examination techniques, rote learning and lack of understanding of the demand of questions, poor layout of work were identified as accounting for the poor results.

Others include inability to tackle numerical questions, poor handling of objective answer sheets, poor tackling of MCQs, poor drawing skills, inadequate exposure to practical activities, failure to review responses, test anxiety linked to registration, anxiety arising from lateness to the hall and infringement of examination rules.

She made this known in Lagos while addressing secondary school final year students at the 2011 Students Academic Success Summit (SASS) organised by the Standard Mandate International (SMI).

However, speaking on the possible remedies she informed the students on the need for them to take responsibility for their actions and develop positive attitude towards learning and examinations, adding that they must have in-depth understanding of concepts rather than memorising them.

She also said the students should study in advance as it will enable them to remember things more easily and that it is good for them to explain what they have read to someone else to reinforce their understanding.

“There is no doubt that we are rewarded in the future for our efforts today. If you prepare adequately, you will walk confidently into the examination hall,” she stressed.

Speaking to the students on the need for them to use their syllabus, she said the primary purpose of a syllabus is to communicate to students what the course is about, the aim, the breadth and depth of the topics to study and the examination scheme.

“Do not rush into answering a question, read through all essay questions carefully before answering any of them, and plan your work. Understand the time implications of examination and budget your time appropriately. In effect, use the time allotted to the paper wisely to allow enough time to answer all parts of the test,” she added.

Similarly, JAMB representative, Mrs. Aisha Dahiru noted that in the recent years, admissions to tertiary institutions in Nigeria especially the universities are becoming more competitive, noting that less than 20 percentage of the applicant are actually admitted to universities because each university must adhere to the carrying capacity and quota as approved by the National Universities Commission (NUC).

Giving the statistics of applicants and those admitted to Nigerian universities from year 2007-2009, she hinted that in 2007, 911,653 applied but only 132,359 were admitted, in 2008; 1,034,060 applied only 120,050 were admitted and in 2009; 1,047,484 applied and 175,368 were admitted which constitute 14.5 percent, 11.6 percent and 16.7 percent respectively.

She identified factors that contribute to students failing the board examination as foundation, pre-examination and examination factors.

Speaking on the foundation factors, she identified these to include all problems associated with the students’ basic education, the formative years of primary and secondary schools, which could be as a result of quality of teachers and family background.

“Students who attend schools that are noted for high academic standards and quality teachers perform better in the examinations than their counterparts not so privileged. It is no secret that the quality of teachers affects the performance of a student in an examination.”

On pre-examination factor she said choice of courses or institutions is one of the factors that contributes to the failure of candidates, arguing that some parents influence their children when it comes to choice of courses and institutions. Inadequate preparation for the examination and the newly introduced post-UTME examination, errors associated with online registration, and wrong subjects combination were also fingered.

“Some parents force their children to go to professional courses like Medicine, Law, Engineering that are difficult for them to pursue. Some of these students are of average intelligence and they are told to go for very competitive courses, they end up taking examinations in subjects that they find difficult to pass.”

Also speaking, the Director of SMI, Nelson Ayodele, said the main goal of the SASS is to drastically reduce the rate of failure in WASSCE, NECO and UTME in the nation now and in the future by providing a regular platform to every state in Nigeria.

He also disclosed that SMI was set up to help students prepare psychologically for their final examinations, stressing, “We discovered that most students failed in examinations not because they do not have an idea of the subject matter in the various subjects but because they are not psychologically inspired to confidently sit for the examination and pass.

“My dear students we do not only want you to be prepared in the areas of instructions and institutional expectations but we also want you to be inspired and fired up to scale through the hurdles of the examination at once.”

Some of the students who spoke with Daily Independent expressed their profound gratitude to the organisers for organising the programme to help them know what is expected of them in the examination hall and how to overcome examination fear.

Olabisi Odumade, a 15-year-old student of Chrisland College and wants to read Law said, she can never participate in examination malpractices because she fears her parents so much that she will always think they are watching her if she eventually does it.

She also said she has learnt about the mistakes that students make while writing examinations, adding that she will amend where necessary.

Also Kelechi Ahanwa, 16, said she has learnt how to prepare better for the examination by reading the syllabus and going through past questions, vowing that she now knows that it is good to read the instructions and questions very well before attempting any question. “I know if I enter the examination hall now, I will be able to write my papers well because I have learnt some key factors that will help me excel and make distinctions in my papers except English Language. I know there is no how you will write English Language and get all the marks. It is not possible,” she added.