Jermaine Francis, Staff Reporter
Several students go through school being inundated with information and dread the mere thought of sitting the inevitable examinations. Many experts say this crippling fear can drive otherwise competent pupils to either underperform or fail their exams.
However, there is a programme that several of Jamaica's top high schools have been returning to over the years that helps students mitigate this fear and develop better studying and exam-taking skills.
The Readak Advanced Learning Skills system, which has been in existence since 1957 and has been facilitating Jamaican students since the 1970s, aims to improve the way students learn, study, and take exams.
Schools such as Immaculate Conception High, Campion College, Kingston College, Hillel Academy, and now Jamaica College have been exposing their students to the learning skills and tools the Readak Advanced Learning course provides.
Courtney Penna, Readak instructor currently based at Jamaica College, describes the course as an intensive two-part programme that can be tailored to fit any school curriculum.
"The whole programme is 12 hours long. It runs for about three weeks, and the first six hours talk about study strategies. So we cover things like creating a good study environment and a special method of note-taking that we call Cornell Notes. We cover how our memory works, and we talk about study tips," Penna said.
She said the next six hours are used to teach advanced reading strategies, which teach students how to read faster and understand more from what they read.
The instructor said these skills allow students to become proactive in their own learning and the skills taught are applicable even when they enter the job market.
cramming for exams
"A lot of students just cram one or two days before exams, which is really ineffective. They don't think about why this is ineffective, so if you teach them why they need to study and practise these techniques, then you are already setting yourself up for less studying," she added.
Penna noted that the strategies taught in the courses could be applied to all subject areas, including mathematics and the sciences, at different levels of the curriculum.
"One of our favourite Readak phrases is 'repetition equals retention'. So all the skills you learn are applicable to all the different subjects. We don't teach any specific subjects, just general skills that can be applied wherever students feel it's most helpful," she said.
Adding that parents and teachers are also encouraged to go through the process with the students at no additional costs, Penna said parents are provided with course updates and opportunities to interact with the Readak instructors throughout the duration of the course.
She said schools are not required to pay anything; they simply need to invite Readak into their institutions and provide a space for the lessons to be taught.
However, students currently participating in the programme are required to pay $33,000 for all 12 hours or $18,000 for six lessons.
Readact Advanced Learning Skills include:
Alleviating test anxiety