The CSEC exams are designed for students who have completed five years of secondary education in Guyana and other Caribbean countries. The standard admissions requirement for entry to the University of Guyana and universities overseas is a minimum of five subjects, including English and Mathematics, with Grades 1-3 passes. Given the syllabus content of the examinations, it should be relatively easy for students to meet this requirement but many do not. Why is this so?

The problem, at least in the case of Guyana, is that many students, at the end of their 5th form year, are extremely weak in the essentials of primary school English and Mathematics. The cannot write simple sentences correctly nor can they compose arguments or write summaries properly. In Math, they cannot perform simple calculations without a calculator nor can the do basic algebra. All of this is compounded by the fact that many of the weak students do not dedicate enough time to revision, homework, or answering past examination papers.

The first strategy for success is therefore a simple one. Time must be dedicated to mastering primary school English and Mathematics. This is essential for understanding and mastering CSEC English and Mathematics. Also, it is fairly easy to pass many of the other CSEC subjects, especially those like Office Administration and Principles of Business, if one has mastered the English and Mathematics essentials.

The second strategy for success is revise, revise, revise. Many of the weaker students do not dedicate sufficient time to revision of core concepts and topics in their haste to complete the more advanced topics in the syllabus. For example, they struggle to learn matrices, vectors and quadratic functions and graphs without mastering solving linear equations and factorization. Similarly, they focus on writing short stories and argumentative essays without mastering sentence and paragraph writing.

The final strategy is to start working past exam papers from 4th form, i.e. one year before the exams. Do not wait until a few months before the exams, after you have completed the syllabus, to start working past papers. Do each Paper 1 several times and memorize the answers, since questions from previous years are reused over and over. For paper two, the strategy is slightly different. Focus on learning how to solve one or two comprehensive problems for each topic area. Know the solutions by heart then try to apply the steps to other problems. The focus for paper two must be on quality not quantity.

In a nutshell, you can achieve success the CXC/CSEC exams by mastering English and Mathematics essentials, constant revision, and working past exam papers long before the examinations.

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