March 2014 Volume 11

How I got into the University of the West Indies

Yuchen Moodie
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I am a first year Literatures in English and History major student at the University of the West Indies Mona Campus and an assistant Caribbean Exams Council (CXC)  tutor at Penwood High School.  The road to University was not an easy one for me. It was hard and at one point, even family members and close friends doubted my ability to make it.

In 2009, I left Kingston College with only four passes in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) exams. I took the exam in ten CSEC subjects so I was very disappointed and saddened by these results.

However, I was able to use what my grade seven History teacher, Miss E. Redwood, taught me about overcoming disappointments. Her encouraging words came from the Kingston College motto “The brave may fall but never yield.” Therefore, after learning this from her almost ten years ago, I continue to use this motto to guide me through difficult times, along with my firm belief in God as a Christian. In addition, to this was what the first headmaster of Kingston College, Percival Williams Gibson wanted of us as Kingston College students.

In 2009, I also had a near death experience. I became seriously ill on Thursday February 19, 2009, a day I would never forget. I could not eat for two months without vomiting. I was very lethargic and at one point could barely speak. But I still prayed to God and asked him for guidance.

I was not able to do Mock Exams, and was fearful that I would not graduate. Fortunately I graduated, but graduation ceremony was very difficult for me. Even though I had a pleasant face throughout the graduation procession, I was very sad. That Sunday night, the 28 of June 2009, I took solace in the words of the guest speaker at the graduation, “One should never be disappointed in failures, because we are all human, and we fail sometimes. But we should learn from those failures in order to reap success.”  From his words of advice to us graduates, I knew with faith in God and hard work I would succeed.

After leaving KC, I started studying for the CSEC.  I divided the six subjects in two categories, namely: Arts-Caribbean History, Literature and English and Sciences-Biology, Physics and Mathematics. Then I created a time table. I would practice the Science category in the morning and the Arts category in the afternoon. I would then download all past papers from 1998-2010 for the Arts category, on the other hand for the Science category from 1990- 2010. Tuesday and Thursday afternoons 3-6 Science past paper Marathon and Monday and Wednesday 3-6 Arts past paper Marathon. Approximately 50 minutes per subject, a ten minutes break between each subject. Lunch time lasted for two hours (12-2pm).

Fridays to Sundays I would work as a telemarketing agent in Portmore. In a comprehensive review of my CSEC study preparation, a typical day was: Science Category 9am-12pm; Lunch 12-2pm and Arts Category 2-5pm. I had two mock exams, Mock Exams #1 in December 2010 and Mock Exam #2 in March 2011. Knowing my weaknesses, I would choose papers that allowed me to work on my weakest areas.  Both mock Exam papers were marked based on the objectives of the CSEC syllabus for each subject. Though I tutored myself for CSEC, I had to do SBA assignments for Caribbean History and labs for Physics and Biology.

The teachers at Penwood High School and I made an arrangement that I would meet with them the last Monday of each month for labs and SBA guidance. Why did they decide to help me? The Penwood High School in 2010 formed a CAP (Career Advancement Programme) for adults who wanted to do CSEC subjects. Though, they allowed us to sit the exams at their school, we were asked to pay for classes. I was unable to pay for both classes and exam fees. I paid the exam fees, but decided to stay home on Monday-Thursday and tutor myself, meanwhile on Friday to Sunday I worked at the Telemarketing Company in Portmore.

My approach to studying for The Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) was different from studying for CSEC. Firstly, I bought the CAPE syllabus for History and Sociology. Fortunately, I had my sister Jeneice Moodie’s Communication Studies syllabus, my brother’s church sister provided me with the Literatures in English syllabus, and because I was the only student registered for CAPE Caribbean Studies under the new syllabus, I was given a Caribbean Studies syllabus by Penwood High School. For CAPE UNIT One, my study timetable was divided into two categories. Namely, Research days were Monday to Wednesday, meanwhile Thursdays and Fridays were CAPE Seminar days.  For Research days, Monday and Tuesday research at the library and Wednesday research at my aunt’s workplace where I had access to the internet ( For seminar days, Thursday were dedicated to compiling History and Sociology notes, meanwhile Fridays were dedicated to compiling Literatures in English and Communication Studies notes. However, for my internal Assessments (IA) Penwood High School decided that they would ask their teachers to mark them.

Even though I passed all four subjects in CAPE Unit One, with an exceptional performance in Communication Studies, my IA grades for History, Sociology and Literatures in English were less than 50%. From this I received a Pass for History, Sociology and Literatures in English. Luckily, Madame Hall, my former French teacher at Kingston College, decided to ask teachers at Kingston College to guide the teachers at Penwood in marking my IAs.  They would give me the information to give to them, and as such they would follow these guidelines.

In addition to the guidance of Miss Redwood, Miss Gordon, Miss Johnson, Mrs. Fraser-Harris and Mr. Brown, they also provided me with source materials for the CAPE Unit Two History, Sociology, Literatures in English and Caribbean Studies. The results were outstanding. I received distinction for CAPE Unit Two Sociology and Caribbean Studies and credits in History and Literatures in English.

I paid the CAPE Unit One fees from the money I earned from working at The Jamaica Constabulary Force Forensic Lab for three weeks as a National Youth Service Summer employee ($9,300.00) and with the help of my brother Elton Moodie who paid Penwood ($2, 000.00) each week until I completed the CAPE payments in April 2012. However, I paid for CAPE Unit two, from the money I earned from working at the Ministry of Education in the summer and the help of my brother. Penwood also decided to extend my payment to April 2013, because of my successful completion of payments in CAPE Unit One.

Looking back at 2009 when I cried myself to sleep after failing the CSEC exams, I never gave up, as I knew within myself that I could have done better. In addition to that, one could say that I was brave in tutoring myself in CSEC and CAPE subjects, and I never yielded to the failure of 2009, but turned that failure into success.

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