Top 10 Reasons Students Performed Poorly in UTME And The Way Forward.

The Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) is a high-stakes exam that serves as a gateway to Nigerian universities. It’s no surprise that students invest significant time and energy into preparing for it. However, the recent UTME results revealed a concerning trend – a considerable number of students performed poorly. This begs the question: why did students perform poorly in UTME?

This article delves into the various factors that might have contributed to the underwhelming UTME performances. By understanding these challenges, we can work towards improved student outcomes in future exams.

Factors Contributing to Lower UTME Scores

1. Lack of Proper Preparation

One of the primary reasons behind students’ poor performance in UTME is the lack of proper preparation. Many students fail to develop effective study habits, often resorting to last-minute cramming instead of consistent, structured learning. Additionally, the unavailability of quality study materials and procrastination further exacerbate the problem.

2. Reliance on Unreliable Sources

The allure of “miracle centers” and shortcut solutions can be tempting for some students. However, dependence on these unreliable sources often leads to disappointment. These centers might provide outdated or irrelevant information, hindering students’ ability to answer the actual exam questions effectively.

3. Test Anxiety and Exam Pressure

The high stakes associated with UTME can induce significant test anxiety in students. This anxiety can manifest as difficulty concentrating, mental blocks, and impulsive decision-making during the exam. Strategies like relaxation techniques and time management practices can help students overcome test anxiety and approach the exam with a calmer mind.

4. Distractions and External Factors

The exam environment itself can also play a role in a student’s performance. External factors like noise disruptions, uncomfortable temperatures, or illness can disrupt focus and concentration. Similarly, distractions emanating from social media or personal problems can impede a student’s ability to perform optimally.

5. Socioeconomic Disadvantages

Students from disadvantaged backgrounds might face additional challenges in preparing for UTME. Limited access to quality educational resources, inadequate nutrition, or unstable living conditions can hinder their ability to focus on their studies.

6. Inadequacies in the Educational System

The quality of classroom instruction can also have a bearing on UTME performance. Large class sizes, a lack of qualified teachers, or a curriculum that prioritizes rote learning over critical thinking can leave students unprepared for the demands of the exam.

7. Unfamiliarity with the UTME Format

For some students, especially those from rural areas, the UTME format itself might be unfamiliar. A lack of experience with computer-based testing or multiple-choice questions can lead to confusion and hinder their ability to perform to the best of their knowledge.

8. Ineffective Teaching Methods

Traditional lecture-based teaching methods might not be the most effective way to prepare students for UTME. Engaging and interactive teaching methods that encourage critical thinking and problem-solving skills can better equip students to tackle the exam’s challenges.

9. Poor Time Management Skills

Effective time management is crucial for UTME success. Students who struggle with time management might find themselves rushing through the exam, leading to careless mistakes and missed opportunities.

10. Lack of Motivation and Goal Setting

The absence of clear goals or a strong sense of purpose can lead to a lack of motivation in students. Helping students set achievable goals and understand the importance of higher education can significantly boost their motivation and focus.

The Way Forward: Improving UTME Performance

Having explored the reasons behind the lower UTME scores, let’s shift our focus towards potential solutions. By implementing these suggestions, we can create a more supportive environment that empowers students to excel in UTME.

1. Strengthening Student Preparation

a). Effective Study Strategies: Equipping students with effective study strategies like spaced repetition and active recall can enhance their knowledge retention and improve their ability to apply concepts to exam questions.

b). Emphasis on Critical Thinking: Moving beyond rote memorization and incorporating critical thinking exercises into the curriculum can prepare students to analyze information and solve problems effectively.

c). Practice Tests and Mock Exams: Regular practice tests and mock exams can familiarize students with the UTME format, question styles, and time constraints, reducing exam anxiety and boosting their confidence.

2. Addressing External Challenges

a). Socioeconomic Support Programs: Providing support programs that address issues like nutrition, healthcare, and access to educational resources can level the playing field for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

b). Managing Test Anxiety: Schools and parents can introduce stress management techniques like relaxation exercises and deep breathing to help students overcome test anxiety and approach the exam calmly.

c). Creating a Conducive Testing Environment: Ensuring a comfortable, distraction-free testing environment with proper ventilation and temperature control can significantly improve student focus and concentration during the exam.

3. Rethinking Educational Delivery

a). Teacher Training and Development: Investing in teacher training programs that equip educators with effective teaching methods and assessment strategies can significantly enhance classroom instruction.

b). Technology Integration: Integrating technology strategically into the classroom can create a more engaging learning experience and provide students with valuable digital literacy skills.

c). Curriculum Review: Regularly reviewing and updating the UTME curriculum to reflect current trends and ensure its alignment with exam requirements can better prepare students for success.

4. Fostering Motivation and Goal Setting

a). Career Counseling: Providing career counseling services can help students understand the significance of higher education and connect their academic pursuits to their future career goals.

b). Positive Role Models: Encouraging students to interact with positive role models who have successfully navigated UTME can inspire them and boost their confidence.

c). Reward and Recognition Programs: Implementing reward and recognition programs for academic achievement can motivate students and celebrate their hard work.

5. Promoting Collaboration Among Stakeholders

a). Collaboration Between Schools and Parents: Effective communication and collaboration between schools and parents can create a strong support system that fosters a positive learning environment for students.

b). Role of Government and Educational Bodies: The government and educational bodies can play a vital role in improving UTME performance by allocating sufficient resources, providing quality teacher training, and developing a well-structured curriculum.

By working together, students, parents, educators, and policymakers can create a system that empowers students to approach UTME with confidence and achieve their academic goals.


The UTME serves as a crucial gateway to Nigerian universities, and its outcome significantly impacts a student’s academic trajectory. Understanding the reasons behind lower UTME scores is essential to implement effective solutions and improve overall performance. By addressing factors like inadequate preparation, external distractions, and educational shortcomings, we can create a more supportive environment where students can thrive. Furthermore, by fostering a culture of collaboration among stakeholders and implementing targeted interventions, we can ensure that the UTME serves as a fair and accurate assessment of a student’s potential, paving the way for a brighter academic future.


Q1. What are some tips for improving focus and concentration during the UTME?

A1. Getting a good night’s sleep before the exam, practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing, and ensuring a comfortable and distraction-free testing environment can significantly improve focus and concentration during UTME.

Q2. How can students overcome test anxiety associated with UTME?

A2. Regular practice tests can familiarize students with the exam format and reduce anxiety. Additionally, relaxation techniques, time management practices, and maintaining a positive attitude can significantly improve a student’s ability to manage test anxiety during UTME.

Q3. What role can parents play in supporting their child’s UTME preparation?

A3. Parents can play a crucial role by creating a conducive study environment at home, providing encouragement and motivation, and ensuring their child gets adequate rest and nutrition during the preparation period.

Q4. How can schools better prepare students for the UTME format?

A4. Schools can incorporate practice tests and mock exams into their curriculum, familiarize students with computer-based testing, and encourage the use of effective study strategies like spaced repetition and active recall.

Q5. What are some scholarship opportunities available for students with exceptional UTME scores?

A5. Several scholarship opportunities are available for students with exceptional UTME scores. These scholarships can be offered by the government, private organizations, or universities themselves. Students should research scholarship opportunities well in advance and tailor their applications accordingly.

Discover more from NaijaCurrent

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading