Background of the study

Nations are built on the ability to hand over knowledge from an older generation to a younger generation. This boils down to education. According to Ariyo (2014), education would refer to the wealth of abilities and capabilities which one acquires with the help of a more developed individual through systematic instructions. Education requires instruction of some sort from an individual or composed literature. Education is indispensable for successful living in today’s contemporary society. This is because education is required to build human capital, dispel economic inequality, and improve national potentials. The objective of education is to enable individuals reach a set standard of quality in certain desired activities (Boyd, King, & Chauhan, 2013). Firm measures are used to evaluate these activities. One of such measures includes examination performance. Student’s examination performance occupies a central position in education. One’s examination performance when assessed is often a decisive criterion for judging an individual’s total academic potentials whether as average, above average or below average.

According to Oluwatimilehin and Owoyele (2012), examination performance is defined as a measure of test scores which describes an individual’s level of learning achievement upon a subject. In other words, examination performance is the amount of knowledge and skills acquired or developed on a subject, generally indicated by marks obtained in a test. Examination performance is used to appraise the extent of achievement of the educational objective. In another perspective, the quantity of test scores describes the amount of learning the student has achieved. If a student earns a high grade, he is regarded as academically superior compared to a student with lower grade (Boyd, et al., 2013). Hence, examination performance refers to test scores above acceptable set standard which depicts positive accomplishment in learning or education.

Currently in Nigeria, virtually all academic institutions are rated within informed circles based on the percentage of students who achieve professionally acceptable examination performance. Invariably, examination performance is used to pass judgment on the quality of education offered by academic institutions. Improving examination performance has gradually developed into a matter of concern to educators. This is largely due to its benefits to individuals, families and communities. Good examination performance above set standard may promote imagination, inspiration, ingenuity, and inventiveness (Fazal, Hussein, Majoka, & Masood, 2012). It may further improve psycho-social stability or wellbeing of the said individual. Furthermore, good examination performance indirectly builds human capital and promotes economic productivity of communities (Ariyo, 2014).

In contrast, examination performance below acceptable set standard has been a source of discrimination and restriction of ideas (Anzene, 2014). Nowadays, examination performance has become valid grounds for looking down upon people (Akintola, 2013). Students who attain less prestigious examination performance below set standard, are often regarded with disdain. This eventually deprives the student the entire concept of self-worth. According to Akinola (2012), poor examination performance may predispose a student to psych-social instability; and ultimately poorer performance in learning activities.

Numerous studies have been carried out which focus on cognitive factors as predictors of examination performance (Oluwatimilehin & Owoyele, 2012). Recently, there has been a growing interest on the non-cognitive factors as predictors of examination performance (Mendezabal, 2013). These non-cognitive factors may include study habit, study motivation, study attitude and skill among other attitudinal constructs. Fazal, Hussein, Majoka, and Masood (2012) and Oluwatimilehin and Owoyele (2012) argue that these factors could have a strong relationship with academic performance of students.

According to Aquino (2011) study habit is the habitual practices one uses to help them learn. In line with this, Bashir and Mattoo (2012) defined study habit as routines that students undertake to enable better learning, absorption and recall of knowlegde or skills. Furthermore, Aquino (2011) stated that study habit includes activities such as taking notes, rewriting notes in one’s own words, use of flash cards and planning study time in an intentional way. In the words of Kurshid, Tanveer, and Naz-qasmi (2012), good study habits includes being organized, keeping on-point notes, listening in class, reading recommended textbooks and daily information reinforcement. They further stated that bad study habit includes skipping classes, not doing take home assignments, allocating more time for games than reading or studying, and consistency in study routine. This may suggest that the way students utilize availible study materials, time allocated to studying, the environment within which they study and the ability to recall content of study are the elements that could define the boundaries of good or poor study habits.

Study attitude refers to a student’s behaviour towards the specific acts of reading and learning (Alabi, 2014). More technically, Aquino (2011) regards study attitude as a complex mental state involving beliefs, feelings and values directed towards the act of studying; and the dispositions to act in a way favourable for learning to occur. Study attitude which favours learning may include positive behaviour towards teachers, acceptance of teaching style, paying attention durring lessons and an inclination to strict study time management (Mendezabal, 2013). This may also suggest that study attitude concentrates on the desire, interest and intentions to read and learn. Hence, the strenght of one’s study attitude is the power his interest exerts towards manifestation of behaviour favourable for learning to take place. This may further entail that an a student’s belief, feelings and value of the learning process, including his interest, desire and intent to learn could determine good or poor study attitude.

Bashir and Mattoo (2012), Oluwatimilehin and Owoyele (2012) and Mendezabal (2013) argue that there could be a link between examination performance and study habits and study attitude. It is often expected by educators, school authorities and government that the provision of basic comfort such as electricity, accomodation, safe water supply and study halls and desks would help improve study habits and study attitude (Adeyemo, 2012). This in turn would enhance examination performance. Society in general anticipates that improved examination performance depicts better human capital development. Literature on examination performance of student nurses in Registered Nurse (RN) licensure examinations have shown decline for the past ten years (McGahee, Gramling, & Reid, 2010). The overall passing rates have declined to about 36%. According to Mendezabal (2013), the RN licensure examination of 2013 administered by the American Nursing and Midwifery Council had about 70%  of students having at least a referal. In 2014, only 125,419 out of 345182 students (i.e 36.3%) passed. A 2015 report sent to the USAID-funded Capacity Plus Project by the Nursing and Midwifery Council of  Nigeria (NMCN) showed that in 2012, 8754 student nurses were enrolled into fully accredited nursing schools nationwide. 68% of them eventually completed the programme’s internal requirement. However, only 37% ultimately passed the RN licensure exam (Fisher, 2015).

            The important place occupied by student examination performance and the need to enhance it to boost the national rating of  academic Nursing institutions, human capital development and proffesional productivity; has resulted in influences on student examination performance to be the most topical debated  issue of great concern to Nurse educators. Reflecting on the information that several non-cognitive factors have been associated with poor examination performance by Aquino (2011), Bashir & Mattoo (2012), Mendezabal (2013) , and Anzene (2014); this study will examine two of these variables which are study habit and study attitude with the expectation of proposing a remedy for better examination performance.

Statement of Problem