We fail exams because we attempted the exam and did not get the required grades necessary to pass. Really now? Yeah that is it. Seriously, were you expecting a more articulated discussion with scholarly or scientific explanations? Were you expecting a well categorized if not exhaustive list of non student and student factors that could be contributing to failing exams?

poster causes of failureHonestly, I had those in mind and more but after all is said and done, we fail because we did not pass. We failed to pass. 

Naturally, the causes for failing is another matter and the reasons are as diverse as individuals are different or even as common as individuals are similar. However, most reasons fall within not turning up at the exam, mentally and physically ready,  and turning up for the wrong exam. Whichever, we fail to pass and there are consequences.


Normally, achieving any goal, is a success and success is good. In short, failing is good if you were planning to fail but who plans to fail? Well, have you ever failed an exam? Did you plan to fail or it was simply “out of luck” happening to you? 

Well, lots of time we foolhardily plan to fail and when we are successful and get the failing grade, we are surprised, disappointed and even get depressed. Yet our actions can increase the chances of our failing and action speaks louder than words.

poster planning to fail

For example, when we are approaching exams and we are not prepared and ready, we are actually planning to fail.  If we can’t define the name of the subject that we  are studying, or not having the syllabus for the exam and following it, then we are planning to fail. Not going to classes nor getting the course material and procrastinating studying for exams, we are planning to fail. Not being able to understand what we know and being able to relate it to the examiner, we are planning to fail. Not liking a subject and yet neglecting it while hoping for the best with our fingers crossed, then we are planning to fail. 

In short anything we do that does not help to enhance our chances of passing the exam, is planning to fail and it is not good, unless failing is our goal. Bear in mind, if we fail to plan, we are planning to fail. 

poster bill gates failingOf course, at times, failing an exam might put us into a better position. For example, failing an exam might get us the chance to do a resit and get higher grades. Losing a battle (failing an exam) in order to win the war.

On a philosophical note, failing is good when it reshaped people’s life for the better. Failing can create a sense of pride and kindle an ardent desire to succeed against the odds. A kind of failing being “a blessing in disguise”. Failing in one area might lead us to our success or calling in another area.

Also, failing an exam might be good as some people enjoy failing. For these people, failing is success since failing gives them gratification. 

Nevertheless, failing can be terrible as it might affect our self confidence and sense of worth. Failing is also a waste of time and cost in terms of money, resources, sweat and tears. Some times we only have one try at an exam and failing is not an option. It’s now or never. No second chance so our career goals would get dashed; we would be denied job advancement and screened out from becoming a part of our aspiration group.

So whether failing an exam is good or bad can be relative but one thing is sure: exams exist.


Exams have been considered as useful tools to measure students’ knowledge, skill, and ability. Exams  also serve as a way to allocate certificates of merit; determine qualification for upgrading and standardized entry requirement for college and professional groups. A “kind of screening mechanism to separate the Crème de la crème from the ordinary”.  

poster einstein on learning

However, the reliance on exams as a measurement tool can be troublesome. Empirical evidence has shown that students may have learnt and teachers may have taught and yet students still perform poorly on an exam. 

Also,  should a single grade on an exam determine our “success”? In fact, many educators are now suggesting that alternatives to final exams, such as course work grades, are better indicators of students’ performance as students earn grades based upon their performance on a wider range of assessments methods and types and over time.

On the darker side, exams can be rigged, test papers compromised, and even used for personal gains by teachers and administrators. The recent Stanford University scandal surrounding entry to universities is a good example.

Yet, despite the drawbacks of exams, necessary evil or not, they have been around for centuries and will continue to be. As such, it’s important that when we are faced with exam situations , we are ready to tackle them with confidence and fun.


As mentioned above, there are many reasons or causes for failing exams. One way to understand the issue is to consider our failing of exams as the effects or symptoms of underlying causes or problems that existed leading up to the exam or even during the exam. 

fishbone diagram jpeg
Ishikawa or Fishbone model  representing causes for low performance on exams. To see a clearer image click here.   Ishikawa or Fishbone diagram- Exam Performance – WordFoodMusic . 

To stop failing exams we need to pay attention to these causes. It is not the failing of the exam that is the problem, it is the causes that are the problem.

These causes though common and varied are summarized using the Ishikawa or Fishbone Diagram as above. This Cause and Effect model classified the major causes for exam failure as: 1. the students’ learning, level of preparedness, resources, and home environment; 2. the teachers’ qualities and teaching methods; 3.  the school’s systems and structures;   4. the type of exam, conditions and time of day; 5. Family and friends support and 6. the government’s commitment to education. 

As can be seen, unfortunately, most of the fposter 4-study-motivation-hacksactors that affect exam performance are out side our control as students. Accordingly, students are primarily responsible for their success on exams as the odds are stacked up against them. The onus is on us to get high grades.       


To pass an exam, be sure to prepare as if 100% is the passing grade. As such, aim for the ultimate. Know your strengths and weaknesses then accentuate your strengths and eliminate your weaknesses. Help yourself  by identifying the causes that could affect your chances at success in exams.  Check to see if these factors are out of your control and what you can do about them in order to mitigate their negative impact. Honest answers are needed. To thyself be true. 

poster hard work beats

Basically, passing exams are the opposite of failing exams. Do plan to pass. Only do things that will improve your chances of passing. Treat your study time or the entire semester as an Exam prison sentence. Your “free”time is restricted by studying and you are allowed lesser privileges. The bright side is after the exam you will have time to do other types of fun and frolic. Wink. Wink.  W


Here are a few hints, tips and techniques that you could consider. They worked well for me.

  1.  TURN UP FOR THE EXAM. Be ready and be on time. Turn up in body and mind.
  2. HAVE FUN WHILE STUDYING. If you enjoy what you are doing, it is less work and more fun. Learn even while you are at fun with friends, spouse and family.  Get them involved.
  3. AIR. (ATTENTION. INTEREST. RESPECT).  Get and give lots of AIR. The more Attention is given, the more things open up. Put a little Interest with Attention and you might be surprised to see how things that were as clear as mud, quickly become as clear as crystal. Seal it up with Respect which is the energy that guides Attention and Interest. Give and get respect.
  4. MAKE YOUR PRIORITY YOUR PREROGATIVE AND YOUR PREROGATIVE YOUR PRIORITY. There are only 24 hours in the day and you should ensure that your exam is your priority and prerogative. Use up as much of the day doing them. Recall you are in Exam prison.
  5. ALWAYS READ ONE OR TWO CHAPTERS AHEAD OF YOUR TUTOR. When you read ahead of your teacher the material will be as clear as mud to you. That’s okay for it to be a muddle then. When you are in class and the teacher begins that topic it will become as clear as Pepsi or Coke. When you reread it again at home it will be as clear as cream soda.
  6. WORRY BEFORE THE TIME TO WORRY. There are three times to worry. Before the exam, during the exam and after the exam. The best time to worry is before the exams. If you worry before the exams, then during the exams or after the exams you won’t worry because you had already worried yourself.
  7. PROPER PREPARATION PREVENTS POOR PERFORMANCE. “Dance a yard before you dance abroad”. This cannot be over stated. Get all the study material available from the examination body and teachers. Study them smartly. Swot the facts and learn the principles. Try and summarize a chapter of say 20 pages on a topic to down to a page or two of notes in your own words. Learn the moves now, develop style later.poster no secret to success
  8. TO FULLY UNDERSTAND IT, YOU NEED TO SEE IT WORKING. Theory is good but seeing it work in practice is priceless. Practice. Practice. practice. Nothing beats practice and being ready. Study, study and then study again.
  9. THE MORE OF YOUR SENSES YOU USE WHEN STUDYING, THE MORE YOU LEARN. If you hear, say,  write, see and even taste the topics you are doing, you will learn more. So after hearing your lecturer talk about an exam topic, you should go read it and write down notes on the topic, and then tell your friend about it so the brain record it better. Next, go watch a YouTube video on the topic for further understanding. Reinforcement and repetition are learning’s best friends.
  10. GIGO. Garbage In Garbage Out. This computer term is applicable. In fact, what you put in is what you get out. Do a substantial amount of work and prepare for the exam as if it is two weeks earlier. Recall Murphy’s Law: if something can go wrong, it normally goes wrong.
  11. ANY TOPIC OR SUBJECT YOU DON’T LIKE, LOVE IT MORE THAN THE REST. If you don’t like a particular topic on the exam, pay more attention to that topic. Go back to number 2. Give more AIR to weak or disliked topics .
  12. DO NOT PROMISE YOUR BRAIN TO SPEND AN ENTIRE WEEKEND STUDYING. JUST DO IT. Normally the ideal is not the real and something is going to prevent you from doing it. . Mark you, it’s a noble idea but it rarely works. The brain seems to find ways out of it and the following week you and your brain are at malice or in remorse. Instead of promising to do do it, on the weekend, just do daily study of even an hour, and on weekends you increase.
  13. STUDY NOW AND PRACTICE WEEKEND. If you study in little pockets of a 1/2 hr or a hour or two over a week, the brain works with you. It’s better to nibble away at a cake in small slices rather than try to swallow chunks of it at once.
  14. USE UP THE ART OF PATIENCE. Find something to do while you wait. If your beauty parlour appointment is delayed by a hour, use the time to study ONE topic on the exam instead of fuming mad at the hair dresser.
  15. SIX HONEST SERVING WO(MEN). In college we learnt the popular Rudyard Kipling rhyme: “I have 6 honest serving women, who taught me All I knew. There names are what, where when, how, why and who. You should know them all for every topic on the exam.poster planning to fail
  16. EXAM TECHNIQUES. It is important that you relax the week before exams and do a dress rehearsal. Always KNOW  key verbs such as list, explain, outline, discuss, pros and cons etc. If the exam ask to list or state, don’t waste time discussing and explaining. That is time wasting. Also, if the exam ask you to discuss please don’t just list or state. That is wasting grades.
  17. BE OBEDIENT. Do exactly as the exam paper instructed. Remember,  you now need to show the examiner that you know, in the time allowed which is the length of the exam.
  18. TURN UP FOR THE EXAM. A bit basic, but do make  sure you are at the right exam, at the right time and right place, physically and mentally.


To fail or not to fail, at times, is a personal decision. An exam requires, according to Peter Tosh, our “full-icipation instead of “part-icipation”. We should decide if we are up to the task. Simply put, failing an exam can be out of our league if  we give it our full attention, interest and respect (AIR and are prepared physically and mentally for it.

One way to be prepared is to know what causes exam failures. As seen some of these causes include our selves as students; our teachers; the school; our friends and family; and the type of exam. Unfortunately, most of the factors affecting our success at exams are outside of our control but we can influence our own destiny. As such we need to identify our strengths and weakness and take steps to accentuate the strengths and eliminate the weaknesses. Not over stressing it, but there is no short cut to high grades on exams: it is hard work. We need to put in if we want to get out.   The most painful part of failing exams, apart from the time and cost, is the fact that most times when we fail, we are the ones who had foolhardily planned to fail. Suffice to say turning up at the exam with proper preparation can ensure exam success and boot out exam failure.

Oh, by the way, most importantly, have fun.

Caveat Emptor: Let the buyer beware

Deception on Father’s Day 

I have a sad story to tell you. No, more like an unfortunate state of affairs to share or is it that I have an issue? Maybe, but  it is more like a complaint but then again, I don’t complain much. Do I? Hmmm, let’s just say, I have something to blog about. (The thesaurus is not working tonight so forgive me if the words don’t fit well).

Here is what happened. Not sure, if you were aware, but Sunday June 19 was designated Father’s Day. If you were not aware, it is okay. In fact every day is father’s day in my world but the recent custom seem to designate a Sunday in June as the day when we recognize “fathers” including the many super mothers who double as fathers because of DNA (Daddy Not Around). Many of my friends say Father’s Day is really a commercial thing but at least it gives some folks a chance to fuss about their dads and make them feel special. Hmm. Maybe we will consider a Son’s Day, Daughter’s Day, Wife’s Day, Husband’s Day etc.

You might be asking, what is my problem? Do I have a grouse with Father’s Day or what? What am I blogging about? Well. I don’t have a grouse with Father’s Day. It was what happened on Father’s Day that concerned me. You see, Father’s Day 2016 was sad, very sad. I had to choose between being sensitive about my friend’s emotions and being a real friend: talking the truth.

You see, many times we are misled and even taken advantage of by people and organizations that we would not, even for a minute, expect such behaviour from. The painful part is not that we got shafted as in life we can expect to get used, abused and refused. The hurtful part is when we are taken advantage of by someone we loved, respected and trusted. Yet, it is now so common to be ripped off that regrettably, abnormal has become normal. Figures dont lie  mark twain

Yes. It has become such a sport to “exploit” people that many individuals and organizations delve into the art and science of persuading and confusing. It is fun for some to get much from none. In Jamaica, we say “tricks in trade and mischievous in business” and in college we were taught that “figures don’t lie, but liars figure”.

Here is what happened. A friend of mine was telling me he got a big bottle of Motts 100% apple juice as a gift for Father’s Day.  Okay. Cool. So what? Well. You could see the gratification and pleasure on his face as this was the first gift he had got from his estranged son. According to him “It is years I have not had any real natural apple juice, and my boy bought me the real thing. I am so glad. I can’t afford it. Too expensive but it is worth every cent. 100% juice”.

Fooling some people sometimes

motts 100% 2You might be wondering what so sad about a son giving his dad a bottle of 100% Apple Juice on Father’s day. Even if it was given because of a ritual or commercial ritual, what’s sad about that? Isn’t the fact that he gave the gift of a 100% apple juice to his dad a glad thing? It might be feint and choreographed but he made his dad glad not sad on Father’s Day. Right?

True but here is the sad part. It is not so much Father’s Day or the gift. It was the deception.  You see, as I looked at the glee on his face, I found it hard to tell him it was mainly water that was in the bottle of Motts’ 100% Apple Juice. What? Now you see what I mean. The son passed off a drink of water and apple juice to his dad as a bottle of 100% Apple juice. By the way, the son didn’t knowingly passed it off. You see, he got hoodwinked by the supermarket where he bought it. What? Hoodwinked at a reputable supermarket? (There goes the lack of  thesaurus again).

Yeah, he was deceived. Should mention though that there is a high chance the supermarket was also deluded by the producer, in this case, Motts. What? The bottle of Motts 100% Apple Juice bought at the reputable supermarket was mainly water and Motts is to be blamed mostly. Well, to be honest, the government is in complicity directly or indirectly too.   Wait, is this some kind of conspiracy theory? The government is helping Motts to sell water as #100% juice? Explain that so a child can understand or else be careful. Please bear in mind that the bottle clearly state contains 100% Apple Juice and even elementary kids know that a 100% of something mean there is nothing else.

My point. That is the sad part and to be Frank or Honest or Clifton, that is the worrying part too. I hope you understand my dilemma. How does one tell a happy dad that his son bought him a bottle of water passed off as 100% apple juice? How does one explain that it is not his son’s fault but the producer’s, the supermarket’s and the government’s fault? How does one tell the truth and not have the truth provoke contentions and #startamovement?

Facing the music

Einstein dangerious worldMark you, I am not a trouble maker. I gave enough trouble as a child to serve me for two lifetimes for three persons, but as Albert Einstein once said, The world is a dangerous place; not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.

Actually, I am faced with this issue every day I go shopping. You see I am first and foremost a domesticated dad of a very talented debutant singer named Aneil (check her out aneilmusic.comAneil media Promo CD image) but I am also a marketer by profession and career. So on most occasions, I wear a cool cap as dad and a hot hat as a marketer. As a dad, I love shopping and as many parents know, shopping until you are dropping can be real fun.

However, as a marketer, when I am shopping and dropping I have no fun. Honestly, I feel like am being bowled over and floored and at times even feel as if I am being mauled at the Mall. (Oops , thesaurus again).

Back to my story, and the #100%juice. “I am not comfortable with folks selling my friends and me a bottle containing mainly water passed off as 100% juice for megabucks in reputable organizations made by reputable organizations. It borders on trickery, false, misleading and dishonesty.”

Facts Vs Figures

motts label


motts 100% 2

Look at the picture and as they taught us in law course, “res ipsa loquitor’ – the thing speaks for itself.

Yes, you see the 100% juice is noticeable, big, pronounced, bold, standing tall ..(sigh thesaurus again)  and can be seen from far away on the front. However, you have to literally drop to the ground to read the small print on the bottle, which is at the back of the bottle hidden from view that lists the contents as water, apple juice  concentrate and ascorbic acid. Wait a minute. The first ingredient is water in a bottle of 100% Apple Juice? What does this mean?

Let me quickly share a legal packaging requirement with you: Ingredients for a product should be listed in descending order with the ingredient that is the most in terms of volume, weight and size being listed first. Simply put, put the most first.  If water is listed first it means that water is the majority of the content. If apple juice is listed first it means that apple juice is the majority of the content. By extension, if apple juice alone is listed it means ALL of the content is a 100% juice.  Ask yourself the question: What is the case with the Motts 100% juice? Is apple the only thing listed as the ingredient?

Not saying Motts, is telling lies. Motts did say CONTAIN 100% juice, not that the entire bottle is 100% apple juice. Let’s look at it this way: if Motts pours 100% apple juice in the bottle to say a ¼ full and then pour in water for the other ¾, it would not have lied. The bottle does contain 100% juice, albeit, the entire content is not 100% juice. This should cover all legal requirements? Right?  Sigh. Liars can figure eh? Well. Hmmm.

Now you see what I mean about the government’s complicity due to the allowance of this technicality. Sigh, a ¼ bottle of juice and ¾ bottle of water can be sold as a bottle of 100% juice and priced as juice? Technically, the jury could still be out on this one but as  Nikola Tesla would say: ” is a beggar dressed in purple clothes and made king using dazzling mathematics that obscure truth”. Figures don’t lie but liars can figure.

Took this picture with my phone at a supermarket in St. Andrew, Jamaica

Seriously now, who does that? You would be surprised. It is more like, who doesn’t do that. If you believe that Motts is the only “culprit” (thesaurus again), then you are wrong. A growing number of food and drink companies are labeling their products “all natural” or 100% juice in an attempt to attract health-concerned customers in order to improve their bottom line and get in the black. Do you feel deceived though?


Guilty as charged.

I was also looking at some of the shady guys or culprits that were caught and prosecuted. (Thesaurus again). It was surprising to find out that top brands such as Pepsi (Naked Juice), Kashi and General Mills were included.

Naked juice label
As a result of the law suit, Naked had to drop the ALL NATURAL claim. They still keep the 100% juice as there is no water in their product, unlike Motts.

In 2011, Naked Juice was forced to retract their claim that their juice was “100% fruit” and “all natural.” The juice company, owned by Pepsi, was actually including ascorbic acid and synthetic sources of fiber in their beverages — proving that “all natural” and #100%  can be fairly meaningless buzzwords.   The complaint points out that the “front-of-package promises that the product is ‘ALL NATURAL’ and ‘100% JUICE.’

It was held by the Court that a reasonable consumer would not assume that defendants were being deceptive and would not know to read the very-fine-print ingredient label.

PepsiCo Inc. agreed to settle for a $9 million lawsuit where each customer could receive up to US$75 in accordance to the company’s false, misleading and deceptive advertisements. Other companies, such as Kashi and General Mills Inc. faced an identical dispute for using GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, while claiming to be #100percent natural and containing no artificial ingredients.

So the sad thing about that Father’s Day scenario was that in 2016, one would hope that manufacturers and sellers are fair and honest and are respecting customers who they say is the KING. #Caveatemptor (let the buyer beware) should not be a rally cry for customers in modern times. After all, legislation such as the Fair Competition Act of 1993, consumer movements, discerning customers and competition should have forced sellers to recognize #caveatvenditor (let the seller beware).

So as you have seen, it wasn’t Father’s Day that was my issue. I had the dilemma of keeping quiet, not rock the boat and let my friend enjoy his “watery” bottle of 100% Apple Juice or tell him the truth and allow him to become distrustful of companies, supermarkets and government. Worse, turn him into an ardent advocate against false and misleading advertisement and he #startamovement. Sadly, it seemed I rocked the boat.

P.S. FEEL FREE. BE FREEMarcus garvey

Interestingly, today, August 1 is Emancipation Day in Jamaica. Emancipation Day is celebrated in many former British colonies in the Caribbean in recognition of the August 1, 1838 declaration by Britain to set the slaves “free”. “Free” borders on false or misleading but suffice to say  we do need to free the captive and their captors as both are in mental slavery. Marcus Garvey said it nicely in Nova Scotia in October 1937: “We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery because whilst others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind. Mind is your only ruler, sovereign. The man who is not able to develop and use his mind is bound to be the slave of the other man who uses his mind….”