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Ace it!

Academic Success Strategies

By Jide Olatunbode

Copyright 2013 Jide Olatunbode

All Rights Reserved

Chapter designs by Anthony Ezeokoye

Table of Contents

Definition of terms used in this book











Definition of terms used in this book

Grade Point Average (GPA)

A measure of a student’s academic accomplishment usually calculated on a 4 or 5 or 7-point scale

Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA)

A measure of a student’s academic accomplishment usually calculated by averaging all the grade points received in every semester

5 points GPA (or 5 points)

An academic result graded using the 5-point grading scale, where a student gets an A in every paper or course.


A student who makes a 5 points GPA

To six men, whose words and lives have shaped mine profoundly, and to whom I’m eternally grateful:

My dad, ‘Biodun Olatunbode,

Remi Olatunbode,

Tope Olatunbode,

Muyiwa Kadeba,

Femi Ekujumi,

and Dr. E. P. Fasina


First, I want to thank God for everything He made possible. I would also like to thank all those who helped me one way or the other during this project. Dr. Ifedapo Adeleye, you were right beside me all the way; your comments and suggestions were invaluable and transformative. You are God-sent! Chinenye Nwanna, you tirelessly helped transcribe all my interviews. I sincerely don’t know how I’d have gotten this far without your input. Thank you. Ola and Kunle, my little brothers, you guys saved me countless of hours by helping collate needed data from cumbersome sources. It may seem that you didn’t have a choice, but in truth you did. I couldn’t have asked for better brothers! To my mum and sister, thanks for believing in me. To Aunty Jite, thanks for your love and endless support. To Lola Agbaje-Williams, thanks for being a great agent. To my project team at the Lagos Business School: Nike Jemiyo, Tosin Ariyo, Akin Ogunnusi, you guys made this project a reality. This is just one of the many successes we share and will continue to share. Thank you! Seun Fajebe, thanks for just being there, always. Ferdinand Adimefe, in few minutes you gave me ideas that blew my mind away! Thanks for your time and patience. Kemi Ogunyemi, my unofficial editor, thanks for the patience and detail with which you perused the manuscript. Bukola Olatunji, you were the icing on the cake. Thank you! Tunde Salimonu, thanks for being so selfless.

Finally, to the numerous individuals whose stories fill the pages of this book, I say a very big thank you. I assure you that many lives will be impacted because of your willingness to share.


I will never forget my second year in the University of Lagos. It was sometime in 2007, just at the beginning of second semester; my colleagues and I heard the news that our first semester results had been pasted in the department. With some excitement and a bit of trepidation, we strolled towards the notice board. To my utter amazement, when we got there, I realized that I had made a 5 points semester GPA (i.e. I made an A in all my papers). Although I expected it, the reality was still a pleasant surprise.

Unfortunately, some of my colleagues didn’t do so well. Therefore, as I was leaving the vicinity, I began asking myself some hard questions: Did I cheat during any of my papers? (No). Was the exam that easy? (No; ask my colleagues). Was it luck? (In all my papers? Impossible!). I asked myself a lot more of these questions because I understood three things: firstly, there are two mutually exclusive sets of people in the academic world – the geeks, and the others. Being sincere with myself, I knew that I didn’t belong to the former set. Secondly, up until recently, only the geeks made a 5 points GPA; and lastly, nothing happens by chance. It therefore means that I did some things right that semester which produced the right results. I began to think back on those things which I did and how I did them. I also began to research on those people around me who performed that well every semester. As I searched and probed into these people’s habits, activities and even idiosyncrasies, some patterns began to emerge. I started seeing similar strategies being employed by different people and which produced the same result. Upon further reflection, other strategies emerged, which when I applied them, produced positive results. All of these I communicated to others, and they also produced similar results! I became excited. This means that anybody, and by anybody I mean literally anybody, can pick up these strategies and put them to work and expect a bountiful harvest.

I then tried going into libraries, searching for any literature that speaks specifically about academic success. To my surprise, I couldn’t find any. My education had to be at the risk of being deeply flawed if no one could tell me how to succeed at it! The truth is, most students go through school expecting to succeed without even knowing how and what it takes to succeed. It reminds me of the story of the fisherman and the professor. The haughty professor desired to cross a river, so he hired the services of a fisherman and his boat. Immediately the trip began, the professor asked the fisherman,

“Do you know anything about Psychology?”

The illiterate fisherman answered in the negative.

“What about Hydrodynamics?”


“But, at least you ought to know some Ichthyology?”

“No,” replied the fisherman.

“Ah!” exclaimed the professor, “Then, half of your life is gone!”

Halfway down the river a storm began to brew. It was certain that the boat would not make it to the other side, so the fisherman asked the professor,

“Can you swim?”


“Ah!” the fisherman exclaimed, “Then, all of your life is gone!” The fisherman jumped into the river and swam to safety!

Since our early educative years form part of the most important periods of our lives, we should not fumble through them with our eyes half-closed. We need to take possession of some tools that will enable us to make the most out of this period. This book intends to provide you with such tools, or ingredients, as I like to call them.

I like cake. Cake comes in different types and flavours, sizes and shapes. As a result, varying ingredients are needed for each type of cake. But for every cake, some common ingredients must be present: flour and butter, for instance. Other ingredients are left to the baker’s imagination and creativity e.g. coloring, icing, flavor, etc. Likewise, in writing this book, I have divided the seven chapters into three parts. Part 1, which consists of three chapters, talks about those ingredients that must be present before any kind of success can be achieved. You could call them the Flour-And-Butter component of success. Part 2, also three chapters, talks about those other necessary ingredients that are left to you to choose from. Here, there are no hard and fast rules. Depending on your personality and temperament, one ingredient may appeal to you more than the other. Just take your pick and work with, and on, it. The last part, a single chapter, is also very essential. Using our cake analogy, I’ll refer to it as the heat that binds all the ingredients together into the whole mass we call cake.

Throughout the pages of this book I will be giving illustrations of real life individuals that have put these strategies to work and the results they produced. I’ll also be talking about those who were ignorant of these strategies and paid dearly for it. These people are no work of fiction. They are real people I encountered during my research (yes, I really researched!). I will try as much as possible to include their real names; otherwise, where the context demands, an alias will be used.

I should warn you because solid and pragmatic principles are contained in this book. Believe me when I say that mastery of these principles, and the correct application of them, guarantees academic success regardless of what school or what academic level you’re in. It also guarantees success in life because the effects of the consistent application of these principles will spill into the other areas of your life; you will not only succeed academically, but also financially, morally, spiritually, and even emotionally. Now that’s something to ponder on!

Finally, in this book, I make a lot of references to having a 5 points GPA. I understand that not every student may necessarily want to make such a grade; but I also understand that every student desires to succeed. Therefore, this book is primarily about helping you succeed in your studies, even if you do not want to make a 5 points GPA.

I hope you will enjoy reading this book as much as I have enjoyed writing it.

Jide Olatunbode


First Within...

What he thinks is what he really is

- King Solomon



The tragedy in life doesn't lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goals to reach.

Benjamin Mays

Taiwo was an average student in secondary school. He never really passed, and he never really failed; he was comfortable somewhere in the middle of the class. In his O Level results, he had all the grades attainable, from A1 to F9! He attempted JAMBi three times, before he was finally given admission into the University of Lagos. The beginning of his academic life in the university was a replica of his secondary school days. He never really paid attention to his grades until after the first semester exams. Why? One of his friends made a 5 points GPA. He was shocked! This particular friend, Ife, was a tiny little female medical student who wore a pair of glasses and probably read 24 hours a day. He got over the shock with the excuse that she was a bookworm and different from ‘the rest of us’. Then second semester came and when the results came out, another friend of his, Bambo, made a 5 points GPA! Now, Bambo was no bookworm. He was a serious student, yes, but seriousness alone couldn’t give you 5 points, could it? This turn of events got Taiwo thinking. He decided that he had to make a 5 points GPA. He wanted to make a 5 points GPA. He dreamt of walking to the notice board and seeing 5.00 against his name. He talked about it to anyone that cared to listen. At the end of his second year, Taiwo made a 5 points GPA! Now, he definitely did a lot of other things in between (the remaining part of this book talks about that), but the starting point was that he knew what he wanted.

Life has a funny way of giving to us what we want. But the catch here is, most people do not know what they want. And if you demand nothing from life, you will get just that! As someone nicely said, “If you don’t know what you want or where you’re going, you will get next to nothing and end up nowhere.” The average student enters school giving no thought to the grade he wants to get, or the kind of friends he wants to have, or the kind of courses he wants to take. So if he ends up making a Third Class, or a Pass, he takes it as his luck! 5-pointers don’t think like that. They know exactly what they want.

Be Specific

He who seeks one thing, and but one
May hope to achieve it before life is done.
But he who seeks all things wherever he goes
Must reap around him in whatever he sows
A harvest of barren regret.

-William H. Hinson

The best average students do is to hope for a good grade. But what exactly is a ‘good grade’? Ambiguous requests spawn ambiguous responses. A person asking for a good grade might get a 2.5 GPA (which is good) in one semester, and get a 3.5 (which is very good) in the next. 5-pointers are very specific and precise in their request. They do not ask for “good grades” when they can as well ask for a 5 points GPA!

Be Sincere

With all my noise about a 5 points GPA, please don’t get the wrong idea. You might not even want 5 points. You might be that student who wants to graduate with a Second-Class Upper grade; and you may think that I’m not talking to you at all. For the purpose of our discourse, consider your Second-Class Upper degree to be your 5 points GPA. If that’s the aim you want for yourself, go ahead and make it! That’s essentially what this book is all about: making your academic aspirations a reality.

The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it

- Michelangelo

But come to think of it, there’s no harm in aiming for the skies, even if you think your shot could never go beyond the roof! It’s a win-win situation. Les Brown said, “Shoot for the moon, because even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars!” Og Mandino put it more aptly when he asked, “…is it not better to aim my spear at the moon and strike only an eagle than to aim my spear at the eagle and strike only a rock?” I believe in biting more than I can chew, and chewing slowly. If you aim for 5 points, your Second-Class Upper degree is more than certain.

On the other hand, don’t simply get all worked up and excited about my insistence on your making 5 points. Your excitement has to get deeper than your skin. You have to really mean what you really want. I’m not asking you to say a nonchalant “I think I need a 5 points”, or “I guess I just might make do with a 5”, No! I’m asking for a burning desire inside of you to get a 5 points at all cost! Need it as if your life depends on it. It’s this kind of sincere craving that life responds to.

In my final year in the university, I saw a lot of my colleagues getting a first class semester GPA (i.e. GPAs that range between 4.50 and 5.00). Most of them were hitherto on a Cumulative GPA of 1.5 – 2.5! When they got to their final year, they suddenly realized that they were about to graduate with a Third Class! All of a sudden, the zeal and desire to excel came over them and most of them started having grades they never imagined they could possibly have. Unfortunately, at least for a large number of them, it was too late to start having that kind of desire because you get to a stage in your academic career where your academic standing starts to solidify, making it very hard to make rapid progress. In other words, when you’re in your final year, your current scores count very little towards your overall grade. A lot of those colleagues of mine graduated with Second-Class Lower and Third Class degrees, not because they were not intelligent, but because that sincere desire was not within them from the start.

Write it down

Despite my strong desire to get a 5 points GPA in my first year in the university, I never even got close. In fact, my GPA dropped after the second semester, 100 Level. Then I stumbled upon this seminar hosted by a great man. This man said that he once did something incredible: he wrote down an amount of money he wanted - a ridiculous amount - on his cheque and pasted it on his wall. I think it was N10m, if I remember correctly. He kept looking at it every day. Then at the end of the year, he realized that all the money he made throughout the year was about N10m! He said he then also wanted to change his car to a particular brand of Mercedes Benz that tickled his fancy. He got a picture of the car off the Internet and pasted it on his wall again. In a little while, he bought the car.

So I followed suit. I wrote down all the courses I would be doing in the first semester of my second year. I also wrote beside the courses the grades I wanted to get (I wrote an A beside each of the courses). I also calculated my resulting CGPA and added it to the list. I then pasted it in front of my locker. Friends of mine that came to visit always looked puzzled whenever they saw this piece of paper, and they’d ask, “Jide, why did you do this?” And I’d have no response. I was blindly following the words of someone. Sometimes, you may not know the reason for some particular actions people take. But if the actions produce the results you seek, and those actions do not cause harm to anybody (including yourself), then those actions are worth reproducing.

Desire is the starting point of all achievement, not a hope, not a wish, but a keen pulsating desire, which transcends everything.”

- Napoleon Hill

I wrote my exams that semester, and when the results came out, I made a 5 points GPA. Now, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Listen to the rest of the story. After the news that Jide made 5 points went round, one of my puzzled friends, Kenneth, ran to his room and wrote his desired grades on a little piece of paper, and pasted it in front of his locker. He also made a 5 points GPA. Note that Kenneth wrote his after the exams, while I wrote mine before the exams. Would it have made any difference if he didn’t write it at all? Wasn’t his result already set the moment he finished his last paper? Let me finish my story, then judge for yourself.

In my third year in the university, I moved into a room in which I had four of my puzzled friends as my roommates. This time, every single one of them wrote on their little pieces of paper the grades they desired, and stuck them on their walls. Now listen: every single one of them made 5 points GPAs! (Three of them, Towun, Wale and Tolu, were in Industrial Chemistry, and Kenneth was in Physics). Towun actually kept a copy of that piece of paper in his wallet. According to him, whenever he took out money to spend, he was reminded of his 5 points goal. Keep in mind that before now, none of these people, except Kenneth had ever made a 5 points GPA. If you still don’t believe in the veracity of my claim, keep reading.

Towun had a female friend, Ore. She was astounded by the all-round success members of my room had, so I suspect she began to ask Towun questions. Two semesters afterwards, someone told me Ore made a 5 points GPA. My source said, “Do you even know that Ore wrote all her courses on a piece of paper and pasted it on her locker?” I feigned surprise, but I understood what had happened. I could go on and on, but now I’m sure you get the point.

Writing down your goals takes them away from the land of dreams into the physical. It is a first step towards the materialization of such goals. I’ve spoken with a couple of first class students, and most of these people always write down their grades beforehand. They may not paste them on the wall as I did, but they always had them somewhere within reach. Jack Canfield, the author of Chicken Soup for the Soul, advises to carry your most important goal in your wallet. He said, after finishing Chicken Soup for the Soul, he wrote in is his wallet: “I am so happy selling 1.5 million copies of Chicken Soup for the Soul by December 1994.” His publishers laughed at him, and by December of 1994, he had sold 1.3 million copies. I’m sure his publishers were puzzled!

You’re almost certain to achieve your goals if you write them down. It’s a simple process but it has great efficacy. When you write your GPA and calculate your CGPA, your mind subconsciously begins to spin. Possibilities and opportunities you never saw begin to present themselves. This happened to my colleagues in final year that started making great grades at a late period. They did something they hardly did, some for the very first time: they calculated their GPA. I overheard some of them say “If I make a 4.00 GPA, my cumulative will come to .....” It was such precise calculation and the determination that came with doing them that pushed these people to make grades they never dreamed possible. My very good friend, Ebele was on a CGPA of 2.8 and was about to begin her final year. She came to meet me wondering if she could ever make a Second Class Upper degree. So we sat down to calculate. We saw that if she made a 5 points GPA for the remaining two semesters, she was going to make it. When first semester results came out, she made a 5 points GPA! In her final semester, she made a ‘B’ short of 5 points. She graduated with her desired grade, and it all started from a simple calculation.

Even if you don’t hit the jackpot, your miss will be insignificant. My four puzzled friends did not make 5 points every semester, but for every semester they did not hit it, they missed it by one or two Bs. Jack Canfield missed his mark by 200,000 copies. We can live with such misses.

Pay the Price

There’s a price to be paid for every level of success - the higher the level, the greater the price. I won’t lie to you and say that the road to making a 5 points GPA is strewn with roses. Ask anybody who has made a success out of anything; there’s always a hard and grueling story to be told.

One or more of my four puzzled friends studied every night! I am not exaggerating. Late in the night, or very early in the morning, I would see one of these guys sitting by the table and reading. The time and energy spent studying was part of their price, and they paid it willingly.

Ebele loved to party. She was always seen in one club or the other dancing away. But after our little discussion, she cut down her partying to almost nil. In fact, after a while she told me that she had ‘grown up’, because she then saw her friends still dressing up to go for parties and realized that parties no longer appealed to her the way they used to. She still partied, but whenever she did, she would try and read throughout the night to catch up on what she had missed. Generally speaking, her books came before any party. I’m not criticizing partying. Rather, I’m emphasizing the fact that we all have a price to pay in order to get the 5 point prize; Ebele’s was partying.

Mine was a little bit humorous. I didn’t get a 5 points GPA until the University of Lagos made it illegal for men to visit the female hostel. During my first year in the university, I subconsciously made it a special duty to visit all my female friends in their rooms every evening! This definitely took up a whole lot of time that I could have put to more productive use.

There are two paths that people can take. They can either play now and pay later or pay now and play later. Regardless of the choices, one thing is certain. Life will demand a payment.”

-John Maxwell

The truth is, we are all aware of the price we need to pay. If we look at our daily itinerary, we will see those activities that add no value to our existence. Those activities can be sacrificed for a higher purpose. Maturity is sometimes defined as the ability to delay gratification. That’s probably why Ebele felt ‘grown-up’. Personally, after a while, I found out that going to female halls didn’t appeal greatly to me anymore (Maybe because until I graduated, the university never reopened female hostels to the male public. I guess we’ll never know).

Kolade, my classmate, heard about my write-it-down principle and decided to give it a shot. He wrote down his courses and desired grades and pasted it inside his locker. When his results came out, he did a lot worse than his past results. Why didn’t it work? Every evening, Kolade would be found at a game centre playing video games. Naturally he became a legendary gamer, but remained a very poor student.

It is wishful thinking to believe that a pen and a piece of paper can revolutionize your life without any sacrifice on your part. You have to pay the price. There’s always a price to be paid for our endeavors or misdemeanors. As John Maxwell said in the above quote, life will always demand a payment, now or later. Believe me, it’s always better to pay now and play later. On one hand, the pain involved is temporary, and you can actually decide the payment to be made, but the benefits are lasting. On the other hand, if you decide to play now, the payment will be forcefully extracted from you, and the pain will be immense. Ask the guys who played away their early formative years in the university and suddenly began to make first class GPAs in their final year. One of them, who was on a second class (lower), discovered after calculating his grades that getting a 5 points GPA in his final two semesters would not make a difference to his class of degree! That kind of price is irreversible, long lasting and very painful.

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