Ten tips for matrics
Dear Grade 12 Student - In a few weeks' time 527335 full-time candidates are expected to sit for the National Senior Certificate examination.
I am sure every adult in your life has already told you how important this exam is, and that the results will determine not only whether you pass or fail, but whether you qualify for university studies. So I will not add to the pressure, for that is the last thing you need right now. I will, however, offer you 10 pieces of advice as you prepare for the exams.
- Do not panic. There is little more you can do at this stage to improve your chances in the final examinations. The key is to remain calm and rely on what you already know and your preparation in the various school subjects since Grade 10 and even earlier. If you panic, you are likely to forget important information because when you are stressed you cannot think or recall clearly. Listen to music. Find a Trevor Noah DVD and have a good laugh the night before the exams.
- Do not cram. Many of you will stay up all night and try to push the last bits of information into your head. Bad idea. You need a good sleep, first of all, and cramming leads to forgetting. You should be planning which sections of work to study in advance, and go through each section carefully and calmly. Do not leave everything to the last minute. Cramming is not learning.
- Keep perspective. If you do poorly in the exams, it is not the end of the world. You can retake the examination or do a bridging course to university. Many of my best students took an additional year before they entered the mainstream degree. In fact, one of my three Dux students this year came through a bridging course and now she is a top student in the actuarial sciences. Whatever you do, do not harm yourself. One examination can never be a judgment on your worth as a human being and a potential scholar of the future.
- Be realistic. Many of you went to dysfunctional schools. Some of you had schools closed for months this year. In many schools, the teachers are either poorly trained or simply lazy and incompetent. If you do poorly, this is not your fault. You will not, therefore, achieve top passes in all your subjects because we served you poorly; if you are unrealistic you could set yourself up for disappointment.
- Hang out with positive people. There is nothing more debilitating than to have friends at this stage who are negative and who tell you to expect the worst. These doom-and-gloom prophets can cause you to slump into defeat before you even gave the exams your best shot. Hang out with calm, positive people in the days and weeks leading to the examinations.
- Be super-organised. In the week before an exam, plan how you will spend each hour. Sketch on your bedroom wall when you will sleep, when you will study what subject or topic, and when you will relax with music or whatever works for you. It is not a bad idea to include in your plan a visit to a place of worship; prayer and contemplation can calm the spirit for many young people. A regular morning jog around the block could also form part of your routine and relax the body.
- Block out distractions. It is important to stay away from things that upset or disturb you in these final days before you write. This is not a good time to pick a fight with your parents or boyfriend or girlfriend. Your job is to stay calm at all times. If your immediate home environment is a crowded or stressful place, find a peaceful, quiet place to study.
- Study with someone who is smarter than you. There is nothing more motivating than to study alongside a friend who is hardworking and smart. You can confer with each other and boost one another when you get tired.
- Ask for help. This is not the time to be embarrassed if you do not know something. Raise your hand and seek help when it is needed. There are many of us who would rush to help with a science or maths or language problem. Do not hide your problems.
- Expect to win. Be positive. Hold your head high. Believe in yourself. And remember the words of the fish in Finding Nemo: "We did not come this far to be breakfast."