The way to the city


There may have been times when you had to go to a certain place that you did not know too well. Yet you did not ask for directions at first, not wanting to be called ‘JJC’ .However, after expending so much time, energy and money, you finally ‘came to your senses’ (like the prodigal son) and went back to ask for help. Lo, you had all along been making progress, but in the wrong direction.

The above title - The Way to the City - is taken from a passage in Ecclesiastes 10:15 which reads: “The labour of fools wearies them, for they do not even know how to get to the city” (NKJV). “A fool’s work wearies him; he does not know the way to the town” (NIV). Now imagine going to a place to which you do know the way. You spend LESS time, money, energy and may be even airtime. However, if you don’t know the way, you spend MORE time and may even become weary from frustration.

This article attempts to help you find THE WAY TO THE CITY, academically. It is NOT an exhaustive guide but we believe that it will help you. Many people are sick and tired of failing in their academics. Perhaps you are also sick and tired, and maybe you have become sick and tired of always being sick and tired. Why not come along and let us together find the way out, for surely there is one.

God Cares

First, we should establish the place of God. He is concerned about our academics. Or isn’t He? Matthew 10:29-31 (NLT) reads: “What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin*? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.”

As our Father, God is concerned about every detail of our lives, even the ones we don’t bother about (like the number of hairs on our head). Hence we can confidently believe that He takes care of the ‘greater’ details of our lives, such as our academics. And even when things do not go too well, it hasn’t changed the fact that God cares. As His children we can tell him our concerns. 1 Peter 5:7 (NLT) exhorts: ‘Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.’ See also Philippians 4:6-7 and Matthew 6:25-33.

So What is The Way?

 A number of things will help you to excel in your academics and as you prepare for examinations. We would review a few in this article. Please do consult other books which could be of help e.g. ‘Gifted Hands’ by Ben Carson, MD and ‘How To Study and Be Successful in School’ by Clyde Narramore. These should be available in Christian bookstores.

 Now let’s see some helpful points:

1. Change of Attitude: Many of us believe we cannot make it, no matter what we do. This kind of mentality leaves us disadvantaged right from the onset. We need to avoid such attitude. Remember the Bank PHB dictionary in which such words as ‘limitations’ and ‘impossibilities’ are absent?

For some of us, these words and others like them seem to be only ones in our dictionary. We will do well to erase them. We should be able to say like Paul: ‘I can do everything through Christ,* who gives me strength.’ (Philippians 4:13, NLT).

Our attitude matters; if we win here, we win “all”! Maybe you’ve heard the saying “your attitude determines your altitude”. This is no cliché. An eagle that has the mindset of a chicken will never soar, even though it was made to soar. Take a look at this: let’s say A=1, B=2, C=3… Z=26, and work out some interesting facts. You will discover that HARDWORK=98%; DILIGENCE=68% but ATTITUDE=100%. 

Many students have failed neither because they can not fare well academically nor because their teachers are unfair to them, but because of the fear of failure. This reminds me of an anecdote about a man who met death at the gate of a town. He asked death: “What have you 

come here to do?” Death replied “I’ve come to kill ONE person”. Moments later, a thousand people were dead in the city. “That’s unfair”, the man told death, “you promised to kill only 

one person”. “Yes” death replied, “I did kill only one, but FEAR killed nine hundred and ninety nine (999)!” 

One can virtually see the crease of agony plastering Job’s face as he lamented: “What I feared has come upon me...” (Job3: 25, NIV). This is the same with many students. Fear paralyses and leaves a person defenseless but again God has made a provision. He has not given us a ‘spirit of timidity but a spirit of power love and of self-discipline.” (2 Tim 1:7, NIV). Let’s walk in this reality! Fear gradually leaves our mind as we hold on to the truth that God is with us always and that He causes ALL things to work together for our good (Hebrews 13:5-6, Romans 8:28, Isaiah 26:3).

2. Diligence: This is another sign post that you will see on the road to academic success. It reads “Diligence”. The Bible says: “Do you see a man skilled (diligent) in his work? He will serve before kings; he will not serve obscure men”. (Proverbs 22:29, NIV). Someone has said that even the president’s barber is still a barber. He is the president’s barber because he is good at what he does and that comes by diligence. Hard work may come under diligence but diligence is not all about hard work. Diligence implies doing the right thing at the right time such as reading as at when due. By this I mean, trying to study daily and NOT just when an exam is close by. This will greatly help because as exams approach, all you’ll need to do would be to revise what you’ve already read. HARD WORK at exam time alone may not be so helpful. It pays to study when there is no pressure yet. Consistency of purpose, namely diligence, is needed. The Bible says: “Not slothful in business…” (Romans 12:11, KJV) and again, “Diligent hands will rule but laziness ends in slave labour” (Proverbs 12:24, NIV). Diligence encompasses such practices as doing all assignments well and on time, attending all lectures, sitting in a good place in class (where you can actually hear what the teacher/lecturer is saying and see what’s being projected or written on the board), listening very attentively, asking questions when a topic is 

not clear to you, reading regularly, and so on. These may seem difficult to do, but remember that the difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little ‘extra’. Albert Einstein said “Genius is 1% aspiration and 99% perspiration…”. “The heights great men attain were not reached by sudden flight but while men slept, they kept climbing…” (Shakespeare) “No man can reach the top of a ladder with his hands in his pockets”.  Let’s apply ourselves to diligence.

3. Planning: This entails maintaining a right focus and priority. No life grows great until it is focused, dedicated and disciplined. Focus is vital to academic success. The rays of the sun when focused, will burn a piece of paper which ordinarily wouldn’t get burned up in the sun. 

Such is the power of focus. Focus means to direct energy, attention and so on to one point; in this instance - your academics. You need to plan.

 First, determine what you want to accomplish weekly (how many chapters of your text will you finish this week?) and then, further determine what you hope to do per day in order to meet the set target. Priority means something that must be considered or done first. Many students fail because of misplaced priority and they pay dearly for it. This need not be. As students our academics should take precedence over such things as watching the TV (for instance). 

It suffices to say that distractions abound and if care is not taken, we may fall victim of such. Some of such distractions include:

Excessive house chores: This is not to suggest that we should stop helping out at home. The danger to our academic wellbeing comes when these become EXCESSIVE; that is doing so much work that you do NOT have the time or energy to read. If this is your situation you may need to discuss with your parents or guardian on the need to balance up things. 

Negative peer influence: There are indeed a number of benefits that you can enjoy by being close to certain people. For instance, you could form study/discussion groups with your peers, and these can really be helpful. However, there are certain people that have negative influence 

on us. The Bible says: “bad company corrupts good character.” (I Corinthians 15:33, NLT). Many students have been lured into vices such as cultism, drug abuse, ‘yahoo-yahoo’, girl hunting etc. and have ended up failing woefully. You don’t have to succumb to peer pressure. Take a stand and do what you know is right!

Self indulgence: It is often said that “too much of anything is bad”. This is certainly true with regards to some seemingly harmless activities such as eating, watching TV, sleeping, playing and so on. It is good to do these things in the right measure, but too much of them certainly become harmful. For instance, sleep will help you maintain mental alertness-but sleep must be of appropriate duration. Read Proverbs 6:6-11. It is important that we eat good food in order to supply our brain with the necessary fuel (energy) to function. However, eating too much may also not augur well, not only for your physical health but also for your academic health. Overeating may cause drowsiness which will not make for effective study. We will do well to consider the ‘opportunity cost’ of the things we indulge in. 

Similarly rushing into relationships (boy friend/girl friend relationships which are non-platonic) may be a source of distraction too. Relationships come with great responsibilities and require commitment. It is important to wait for the right time for such things. An old man summarized his entire life thus: “youth was a mistake; manhood, a struggle; old age, a regret”. What a pathetic statement. Please make the right choices! The list of distractions are indeed endless but we will do well to desist from falling prey to them and focus rather on things that will take us to where God would have us be. We need to have a focus; the right kind of focus, because if you don’t know where you are going, everywhere will look like it. Ask God to make clear His plan for you and work towards it (Psalms 32:8-9; Proverbs 3:5-6).

4. Reading Habits: It is not sufficient to only know when to read, we also need to know HOW (the way). There is a difference between mere reading and effective study. There ought to be a way to evaluate what you have understood from reading. Many students fail, not because they don’t read, but because they do not remember what they have read. Some other students wander off in their minds while reading. Others have bad study habits e.g. reading aloud, reading when tired, maintaining a posture that makes them fall asleep easily and so on. You can’t keep doing the same thing and expect a different result 

The following would help you develop a good reading habit:

Consistency of time and place may help to ensure focus and effective assimilation when reading. It is also helpful to know your own best time for reading and try to always read at that time. Some people read best early in the morning, while others read best at night. This may seem unusually ideal but it is not farfetched, and may just be the key to your academic success.

While reading a particular book, try to stop every now and then to see if you can explain to yourself what you’ve read so far. This would help you assess how effective your study has been.

A formula - SQ3R has been suggested. SQ3R stands for Survey, Question, Read, Reproduce, and Remember. This means whenever you pick up a book/topic to read, the first thing to do is a survey of the book/topic; that is, glance through, taking note of the major headings, tables and pictures (if there are any). This gives you a brief overview/idea of what you plan to read and also stimulates your interest. Next ask relevant questions which you hope that the book would answer. You might even develop these while doing the survey. You could write down these questions on a piece of paper. This prepares you to pay particular attention to these pieces of information because you would then be searching for answers. Then push the questions aside and read the book. As you read, strike out the question on the piece of paper that you can now answer. After reading try to reproduce what you have read. This entails regurgitating/reciting what you have read and maybe trying to write down the main points. After your session of reading, try to review what you have learnt, possibly by glancing over the main points that you have written and trying to remember what they mean. All these would 

help you to better re-enforce what you have learnt in your mind. Most of us can recite the alphabets (A, B, C…Y, Z) easily. This is because we have practiced/rehearsed it over and over. As it is often said: ‘repetition aids learning’.

When learning something new, try to see how it relates to something that you already know i.e. link up the new piece of information with something already familiar to you. This is called ‘association’ and it aids our ability to learn new things.

Seek to understand the meaning: Trying to understand what particular words or statements mean is certainly more useful than mere cramming of what you do not understand. This may involve taking time to think over and explain a statement to yourself in your own words. You could look for pictures or examples that illustrate what you are learning or even form mental images of them. The use of a good dictionary is indeed indispensable in understanding what you read.

Asking questions on areas you do not understand, solving related review questions and engaging in discussions will help you recall better what you have read.

Mnemonics could also help you readily recall certain things e.g. MR NIGER D for characteristics of living things. This makes recall easier because you have compressed a large volume into a smaller chunk. 

Summarizing volumes by jotting may also be helpful. Using a book for jotting rather than sheets of paper is advisable.

Use of PAST QUESTIONS- this will help you to know the kind of questions to expect and to also assess your knowledge.

ONE LAST POINT: In your quest for success, NEVER compromise by cheating. It is far more honorable to fail because you did not cheat, than to cheat to pass. Those who cheat to pass are actually failures because they NEVER really passed!


As earlier stated, this isn’t an exhaustive guide but we believe that it would help you. It is also paramount that as a Christian you remember that you are already a victor because of who you are in Christ. “…..we are more than conquerors through him who loved us”. (Rom 8:37, NIV). In as much as we need to excel academically, we must realize that our academic status does not define us. If it did, then Christ died in vain. Christians are ambassadors of God here on earth. Let us always walk in the consciousness of who we truly are. This would keep our minds at rest even as we aim to excel in our academics. Success!

Bewaji, Olufemi