PREFACE libraries, laboratories, and playgrounds, amongst others. Students’ morale



Every year many students and schools
(especially those from Northern Kenya) lead Kenya’s national exams (KCPE &
KCSE) from the bottom, with the best students from the entire region not
anywhere close to the publicly announced top 100 spots in any of the other
Counties. In the past, the schools in Northern Kenya lacked core textbooks and
the students didn’t know why they were sent to schools. Today it’s different-
they know the value of education and they have access to essential textbooks
and reference books including encyclopedias, maps, dictionaries, etc. Parents
too, nowadays, understand the value of what they are lacking- education- and
like their counterparts in other parts of this beautiful country, they are
leaving nothing to chance. They have joined the educational rat race that
equates learning with textbooks and are, thus, spending money and time on extra
tuition for their children. So where is the problem? Well, it is an
acknowledged fact that in most schools we’ve shortages of qualified teachers,
that course syllabus is not covered on time, and that CDF money is misused and
as a result schools lack proper tuition and sports facilities such as
libraries, laboratories, and playgrounds, amongst others. Students’ morale and
reading culture is also poor. But is that the cause of our dismal performance?
I wrote this book to answer this question. The truth is that many high school
students lack the effective study skills required for high school success.

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well recall the day I sat down to begin writing this book. Several students
from a secondary school in my neighbourhood had engaged in examination cheating
and consequently their results were cancelled. 
I felt deeply concerned and told myself that I should do something to
help this group of disappointed students. I knew that the work required more
ability than I possessed but I felt I should not feel defeated. I was
determined to offer my share of help. I, therefore, immediately organized a
tuition program for all Form three and Form four students in my locality and
gave them a motivational talk. A large number attended my tuition and gained
the appetite for top academic achievement.

am an avid reader of motivational stories. I know this work will have a
positive impact on your academic and after school life. Through the many great
books I was privileged to read I discovered that we were created to uplift
others. That’s why I compiled these chapters for you. I want to be successful
and I want the same for you. As Zig Ziglar says, “You can have everything you
want in life if you just help enough people get what they want in life”. Horace
Mann also says, “Doing nothing for others is the undoing of ourselves”. Thus,
this is my effort towards making a difference in the lives of my fellow
learners. In a way I’m giving back to the society that gave me education.
Though all these words are not my own and most of the concepts are borrowed,
this is my original work and I am hopeful it will bring positive change in the
grades students attain in their national exams, especially those from Northern
Kenya and in particular, my Mandera people. 

This book was written with the sole
objective of helping learners achieve academic excellence. Whether you’re a
freshman in college looking to get ahead, a teacher seeking study skills
resources for your pupils, or a high school student just trying to survive
you’ll love this work. If you
want to learn how to study smarter—not harder—in order to improve your grades
and succeed academically, this book is for you. This guide will provide you with
everything you need in order to learn how to learn more effectively. Read on to discover what your learning
style is and how to use it to read, take notes, and prepare for tests more





Do you study hard and still do not do
well on your tests? Are you tired of your teachers calling home about work you
did not do in class, poor grades or for late homework submission? What do you
think is your problem? Do you know how to study? Do you waste time when
studying? Do you have a good place to study? Do you know your learning style?
Are you trying to figure out why you are not a top achiever despite the effort
you put in your school work? Well, worry no more. In this book I’ll guide you
on how to take the journey to the top – a journey travelled by all smart


In order to excel in high school,
students must develop both an understanding of the factors that lead to failure
and the key strategies critical to achieving academic success. I wrote this
guide to help you understand how to study smarter and achieve academic
excellence. Success in school is due to motivation, time management and good
study habits and study skills. Study Skills are approaches and techniques
applied to learning that enable learners to make the most efficient use of
their time, resources, and academic potential. They are an array of skills
which tackle the process of organizing and taking in new information, retaining
information, or dealing with assessments. These skills are generally critical
to success in school.

Developing and improving their study
skills can help students:

• To make more efficient use of their
study time – get more work done in less time!

• To make their learning easier, and
help retain what they have learned for longer.

• To feel the work and effort involved
is worthwhile; it ‘pays dividends’.


Anyone who is engaged in learning can
benefit from developing his or her study skills. Regardless of whether you are
preparing for high school, or have already started on a course of study at
college, you can always improve your ability to learn, retain, and retrieve
information. The aim of this book is to help you develop better study
strategies, so that you can increase your chances of being successful in high
school and whatever you choose to study, thereafter.


I’m not a teacher by profession or an education expert by any means,
but through my thorough research I’ve discovered that there is no one “best” way to learn. It
is increasingly recognized that people learn in different ways. Some people
learn best by doing; others prefer to learn by listening or reading. Some learn
best in group situations, others learn best alone. The secret is to find the
methods and techniques that work for you, and to maximize on these.

The techniques and methods suggested in
this text are intentionally chosen to cover a wide variety of learning styles
and preferences; by all means adapt them to suit your preferred way. You can
build on techniques that support and improve your preferred styles by
experimenting and adapting with techniques from the various sections in this
book. Remember that, whatever stage of learning you are at, it is always useful
to practice learning in a variety of ways, experimenting with different styles of
learning. The more versatile your learning repertoire is, the better you will
do all round.


In preparation for this book, I spent hours reading
everything that I could find on the subject. I read articles and journals to
find the best ways to learn more effectively. This book, therefore, is simply a
collection of practical suggestions and techniques that has worked for many of
the students from prestigious schools in Kenya and other nations. I’ve also used most of the tips outlined in
this guide over the course of my academic carrier, so I can verify that they

How to get the most out of this

Have a deep
desire, driving desire to learn, a vigorous determination to get top
grades in every subject you study.
Read each
chapter rapidly before going onto the next one unless you are reading
merely for entertainment
As you read,
stop frequently to think over what you are reading and how you can apply
each suggestion.
Read with a
crayon, pencil, pen or highlighter in your hand. When you come across a
suggestion that you feel you can use, draw a line beside it or highlight
it. This will help you review this work rapidly.
After reading
each chapter thoroughly, you ought to spend a few hours revising it every
month because the use of these strategies can be made habitual only by a
constant and vigorous campaign of review and application. There is no other
way. I have tried to present it in an easy-to-read, straightforward
manner. Use the methods and techniques that work for you; discard the
rest. The result will be that your learning is more efficient and more
enjoyable, which is the true test of any worthwhile activity!


Becoming a smart student require
desire, dedication and a lot of work. If you’ll take the time to learn and
persistently apply the study skills concepts and principles set forth herein,
you’ll not only experience an amazing improvement in your performance but also
a boost in your ability to learn in general – and that will benefit you the
rest of your life!


Enjoy your learning!






investment in knowledge pays the best interest” – Benjamin Franklin.


“A human being
is not attaining his full heights until he is educated” – Horace Mann.


Students fail
or get lesser grades when they don’t know all the factors that are necessary
for passing exams and getting good grades or when they do not pay attention to
these factors. Some of the important factors that guarantee exam success and
good grades include; desire for academic success, approach to study, attention
to details, punctuality in class, methods of preparing for exams, exam taking
strategies, making good and helpful notes, method of learning, confidence and
study related extracurricular activities.


To get good grades you have to aspire for it. Any
student, who does not realize why they need to succeed, will fail. To be able
to understand what you want out of school, ask yourself these questions; why am I
in school? Why am I studying? What do I intend to gain from school? How will
high school help me work toward my other life goals?Is there some better place I could be? What does my presence here mean
to me? What are the advantages/disadvantages of studying now rather than
later? Does the grades I get matter? Is there a way for me to achieve my
purpose? Ask yourself these questions every time you sit down to study. Have
conversations about the purpose of education with yourself. Successful students are motivated by what
their goals represent in terms of career aspirations and life’s desires.
Think about your aspirations for the future.

If your educational goals are truly yours, they
will motivate a vital and positive academic attitude. You’ll be able to
focus on your final goal and work hard towards its achievement by seriously investing your energy, time
and other resources. You’ll be able to relate studying to your life goals. If
your life and future depended on how well or how much you studied, would it
make sense to do it well? If you cannot see the point in studying, it will only
make it boring and tedious. Half-hearted or distracted studying is a waste of
time. You have to put meaning into your studies in order for them to be
meaningful to you.

One of the best ways to foster great study habits is
to think of school as a job. In this job, studying is a valuable key for
success, and certain hours of the day are to be dedicated to study. By adopting
this mindset, you can prepare yourself to study regularly and avoid making
excuses. You must genuinely view studying as an essential activity that must
not be avoided.

You must have a mission statement in life. This is
simply a set of guiding principles which clearly state where you are going and
where you want to be at the end of your academic life. A mission statement will
keep you steadily on the course of your dreams. Simply studying without
direction is not effective. Set your academic goal! Set high
standards for yourself. Make
a promise to yourself, and others, that you’ll get acceptable grades on tests
and complete all your homework as required. Take action if your marks start
falling before someone else has to point it out to you. Find ways to motivate
yourself, and convince yourself that you want to get into university more than
anything. Motivation is the key to success!

Take charge of your life. Have you ever wondered
what smart students do to set themselves apart from the rest? There is no magic
trick that makes a student excel in the classroom. Students stand out because
they take charge of their time and their tasks, without relying on anybody else
to tell them what to do. Successful students don’t put others in charge of
their lives – not even their own parents or teachers!




“All who have
accomplished great things have had a great aim, have fixed their gaze on a goal
which was high, one which sometimes seemed impossible” – Orison
Swett Marden.


The process
of setting goals allows you to choose where you want to go in school and what
you want to achieve. By knowing what you want to achieve, you know what you
have to concentrate on and improve. Goal setting will give you long-term vision
and short-term motivation. Having sharp, clearly defined goals, which you can
measure, will allow you to take pride in accomplishing those goals. It will
make you become a better believer in your academic ability.

Your academic
goals must be, SMART:

S = Specific

M =

A = Attainable

R = Relevant,
Rigorous, Realistic, and Results Focused

T = Timely
and Trackable


Learning how
to frame goals as SMART goals and being willing to adjust them to get SMARTER
is an important skill that would help every student get off to a better start
and have a better school year, this year and into the future.


Here is a
practical example, starting with a typical, but not especially SMART, goal:

I will do better on my report card in the next
marking period.


Here is a way
to make it SMARTER: In the next marking
period, I will get at least a C+ on all my math tests, and at least a B+ on
most of my quizzes and homework assignments.


But it is not
SMART yet because it has no action plan. Here is some pretty SMART goal: In the next marking period, I will take
careful notes and review them at least two days before tests and quizzes so
that I can ask the teacher questions about what I don’t understand. I will do
my math homework before I do things with friends, and when I hand it in, I will
ask the teacher about anything wrong, I will make sure to ask the teacher, or
one of my classmates how they got the right answer.


It is important for you to take control
of your life. At the beginning of the school year, set goals about what you’d
like to accomplish. Do you want to improve that below average math grade? Make
the science congress team? Bring up that C in Chemistry to a B?  Then at
the beginning of each month, review those goals to see if you’re on track. When you have
several goals, you should give each a priority. This helps you avoid feeling
overwhelmed and helps your attention to the important ones.  To make goals more meaningful write them
down. Then read and revise them upwards frequently.


It’s not easy to write SMART goals. This skill takes
time to develop, but it’s especially important to have in place for every
winner. It is a universally accepted fact that however many of us are great at
trying to set goals; most of us are practically incapable of following through
with them. Make sure you are not a culprit of this! Sometimes, goal-setting can
go wrong for a number of reasons too. When these happen it can be a great bit
devastating to your self-esteem and can make the idea of setting any new goals
mute. To avoid problems, make sure your goals are not unrealistic,
disorganized, too many, vague or set so high or too low.