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Limiting Performance

It is so painful to learn that the outcome of a specific activity is bound to limit an individual in future and perhaps for the rest of one’s life. I was compelled to write this after a conversation which I had with a student who aimed to attain a mere passing mark for a degree qualification. My comment was: “. . . it is unfortunate that getting a mere passing mark such as an average of 50% affects one for the rest of one’s life such as progression and competition on the job market to some extent. . .”

For a significant percentage of learners, career planning seems not to be taken care of. Talking from experience, I had conversations with various learners for the past four years and I have noted that some are offered study courses which were not their first choices.

This is a dilemma in which affected individuals have limited choice on whether to accept the offer or reject. There are various reasons behind and I will limit this article to what I have learnt from the conversations:

With some learners, there is little or no relationship on their natural abilities and the courses they are studying.

Some learners make application into courses they wish to take a career yet their background academic performance would be against such an option. This is so in that tertiary institutions have some guidelines such as minimum requirements to enrol a particular learner into a course.

Interestingly, Fraiser and Killen (2003) emphasises that institutions should enrol students on the probability that the particular learners will successfully complete the course. However, this seems to be actual situation on the ground. This could have been influenced by the various FET Colleges (in the case of South Africa) or private institutions in other countries.

Private institutions seem to be competing for getting clients. It is painful in that at the end we witness learners who are enrolled for qualifications they are literally challenged. With such misconduct, I would casually insist that we should not be shocked by the low through put or success rate. This has many implications not only to learners, but to the education system and the economy as well.

On learner, stress would be the order of the learning process is the learner is not a fast learner. Educationally, the increased failure rate continues to make headlines in newspapers and economically, learners spend more money in repeating courses.

The money could have been invested in other economic activities. Students lose time through repeating courses and such precious time could be spent on earning income if the learner had completed within minimal time.

Key Issue

Despite the presence of a myriad of issues that influence the success of learners, an internal locus of control is vital for learners to challenge the status quo and make positive performance outcomes which will leverage their possible future initiatives. One has to accept that a positive outcomes starts from within, action is needed when there is still time.

Scoring A 100% Exam Mark

Source of motivation

After taking a moment tracking my original source of motivation in ‘numbers’, i have realised that it all started ten years back, in 2003, end of January, when i was doing my Form 3, Ordinary level (10th grade) – i scored a 90% mark in a formative Mathematics class test. Despite  the test having a mark of out 20, it seems to be the source of all the inspiration i have when it comes to calculations. There is much i learnt from that test mark [while other learners were still recalling their Dec-Jan holiday moments, i put much effort towards the test hoping to build a future in education – i am a testimony as, surely, i am slowly building this and its coming up in good shape].

All the confidence i have when it comes to calculations was born in that particular test – i enrolled Advanced level mathematics in 2005 with boldness which was brought from the test and i made it as well. In my Ordinary level, i got an ‘A’ and a ‘C’ at an Advanced level (13th grade) – this was not common in my rural areas. The principle i relied on was ‘not to use statistics of the previous learners‘ performance to determine my outcome – i am unique. This turned to be the reality and i still base on this same principle. I do not feel a challenge to set a target in scoring a 100% mark in a test even in summative tests which at times weigh up to 40% towards the whole module mark. With a basic principle which guide me, i am always certain in attaining my set mini-targets.

I usually guide myself with principles. I always seek to identify the ‘principles observed’ in specific topics i cover. Since the beginning of the year, i have been frequently meeting with my group members mostly on Saturdays for revision and assignment purposes. I always emphasised observing the underlying principles all the time. For example, in writing assignments, i urged everyone to follow the format requested by every lecturer and where no structure was asked, i urged everyone to follow a ‘standard academic research thesis/dissertation or a journal article. When it comes to modules involving calculations, i urged everyone to observe the topic specific related principles. One of the basic principle i usually referred to is ‘BOMDAS’ or ‘BODMAS’ – very basic but it applies in many instances. I always said, there is no-way to get it wrong when it comes to calculations and has been a reality to me.

As part of a study i was doing towards writing journal articles that sought to ‘identify the academic performance factors at tertiary level‘, i once offered a free tutorial to Financial Management 2 Class in the ‘Entrepreneurship Diploma‘ course in preparation of their final year Exam weighting 40%. As i sent them an invitation email, i decided to title the ‘Tutorial Theme’ as “Attaining a 100% Exam Mark“. In this tutorial, i explained how students could make use of basic principles to attain a maximum performance i.e. scoring 100% mark. It is very easy to attain than in any calculation based subjects.

These were the main points:

1. Having a Exam strategy – a learner should know exactly how they are going to tackle the exam. This is assisted by knowing one’s progress mark. This helps to set the exam score target. One should also know the total marks of the question paper and the duration. This helps in allocating the appropriate time to be spent in every question. With this, a learner would be able to attempt all the questions.

2. Prepare one-self thoroughly – summative exams are not meant to surprise learners, but to test whether learners are ‘competent’ or ‘not-yet-competent’ (as per outcome-based assessments). Also, learners cover all the learning areas during their formative sessions. This could spell out that exams should not be surprises to learners in any how. I always urge my group members to comprehend the study guide as it has all what learners are expected to know. Therefore, once the learner makes use of such precious resources, one would be having an idea of how the questions would look like.

3. Arm one-self with relevant principles – i am sure every topic or module has specific principles that applies to it hence observing them would always direct learners in the right direction. Apply them appropriately.

4. Utilise maximum speed – on this one i always find it challenging to explain as some learners are naturally slow when it comes to writing. However, the principle of ‘practice makes an individual perfect’ serves to explain on my behalf that learners should be constantly practising to enhance their accuracy, understanding and speed at the same time. I always encourage learners to revise almost everything at their disposal especially on calculation-based modules with an aim of identifying various principles.

5. Never allow time to think during the Exam – i always remind fellow students that as part of an exam assessment, we are also tested on time management, taking few seconds to think is not recommendable from my side. I believe in the continuous flow of information throughout till the end of the exam and this is mostly possible when one has fully prepared for the exam – just like a sponge saturate with water.

Completing my second semester of my three semesters for my Btech. Degree in Business Administration at Cape Peninsula University of Technology, i would like to confess that despite the pressure brought by the course to fellow learners, every assessment to me seemed to be yet another ‘early Christmas present’. I was glad in the first place when i looked at the course modules as i knew anything involving calculations is a ‘morale booster’ to me. Out of the ten modules, half of them involve some sort of calculation. Besides the two to be done in the last semester (Managerial Economics 4 and Financial Management 4), this semester had the other three involving calculations: Production and Purchasing Management 4, Management Accounting Aspects 4 and Financial Accounting Aspects 4. It had been an interesting semester for me though to other learners it can be described as a ‘most trying and tormenting one’ as indicated by a significant number of dropouts not mentioning the alarming failure rate.

The experience has been great and the course has been very insightful. It helped me to explore some other avenues of opportunities such as considering venturing into the provision of Financial related decisions (personal and corporate investments) as well as considering focusing on a financial management related dissertation for my masters qualification in the near future.


That time of the year is by the corner when learners are bound to be assessed in the form of summative assessments. These are very crucial considering the weight they carry. Summative assessment can be loosely defined as a milestone in a learning process which seeks to ascertain whether the learner is “competent” or “not yet competent”. Learners are assessed on the subject content they have covered or are assumed to have been covered. It is not a screening tool to fail learners as some might think but a performance measurement tool although it indirectly screens learners as those who are found to be “not yet competent” are given an option to attempt a supplementary assessment provided they meet the minimum requirements for such an assessment. If they are “not yet competent” for the second attempt, they might be deferred meaning that they are expected to re-do the module [let us not consider this as an option as there are many consequences as a result of repeating]. However, this differs among various academic institutions that put in place the standards to be observed.

Summative assessment is conducted in various forms such as ‘end of year exams or national examinations’, ‘submission of portfolio of evidence’, and ‘project presentations’ among the common methods. They have to be carried out under specific minimum guidelines for credibility purposes hence learners should be aware of this as penalties which might be negative would be among the options for assessors, moderators and examiners. Therefore, familiarising with the rules and regulations put in place during such assessments is essential.

I have decided to share some few points on how learners can maximize their performance in summative assessments as presented below:

– Learners should know their progress mark and calculate what mark they need to score in the exam to get the desired mark such as a pass mark (50%) or a distinction (75%)

– Learners should also know all the topics which are part of the module guide and are to be asked in the exam (scope)

– Learners should identify their weak points and strong points in those topics identified

– Learners should find ways of improving their performance (by reading relevant material) where they need further understanding and seek assistance from classmates etc

– Learners should continuously review their performance before the exam to assess their preparedness for the exam/s

– Learners should identify any possible exam questions and fully understand them though revision

– Learners need to be aware of the marking style of every particular assessor/examiner (assessor and examiners specify how students should answer questions – this might not always be the case especially when national exams are prepared for however, making use of a standardized model answers would help at times)

– Learners should know the duration for every exam and spend appropriate time for every question in the exam

– Learners should maximise their speed and begin with questions which they understand better

– Learners should keep in mind that exams are only to determine whether they are competent or not competent. It is not a punishment in anyhow

– Learners should understand that assessments are a form of performance measurement tool.

Best wishes in your exams!!!!!