The National Senior Certificate exams countdown clock on the Department of Basic Education’s website shows that the Class of 2019 will sit down to their last school exams in about 60 days. With little more than 8 weeks left, Grade 12s are starting to feel the pressure, and should now be strategising how to best use their time before these watershed assessments, an education expert says.
“Your approach to studying shouldn’t be random or haphazard at this stage, but should leverage the learnings from your prelim exams, to build on your strengths and to identify and address weaknesses,” says Nola Payne, Head of Faculty: Information and Communications Technology at The Independent Institute of Education, SA’s largest private higher education institution.
“Prelims play an important role in finals preparation – beyond generating marks which contribute to your overall year-mark,” says Payne.
She says the act of sitting down in a similar environment and under similar conditions to final exams would have provided learners with valuable lessons about their performance under pressure.
“In addition, prelim exams would have highlighted the important sections of your work, as well as potential areas where you may have gaps in your knowledge. So as your finals preparation starts, using insights gained during your prelims will provide useful information and structure which will allow you to organise your thoughts and integrate the lessons learnt for each subject,” she says.
Payne says there are a number of steps Matric learners can now take to optimise their learning gained from prelim exams, to performing their best during the finals. These are:
- REVIEWING PRELIM EXAM PAPERS
Determining where you did well and where you went wrong during the penultimate Matric exams can be a great confidence booster. Focusing on and mastering those sections of work which proved problematic during the prelims means that you are concentrating on material that is very likely to arise during the final exams, and for which you will now be well prepared when it does.
- COMPLETING PAST EXEMPLAR PAPERS
It should by now be common knowledge for most Matrics that completing past exam papers is one of the best and most efficient ways to prepare for exams. The reason for this is because you apply what you have learned, you replicate the time constraints you’ll encounter during the actual exams, you get used to different formats of questions, and ultimately gain a more thorough insight into your work than what you would have achieved through simple reading and re-reading of textbooks.
Although all schools should be providing learners with past papers during this final revision time, learners should go one further and gather additional papers, which can be found on various sites online, as well as at good institutions of higher learning. Learners attending upcoming Open Days at universities or private institutions can make use of the opportunity while there, to speak to student counsellors about accessing past papers available at the institution.
- MAPPING THE QUESTIONS ASKED TO THE WORK COVERED IN CLASS & TEXTBOOKS
When revising – whether by reviewing classwork, textbooks, completing past papers or looking at prelim exam papers – take note of which questions are asked time and time again. There is an excellent chance these questions will be making their appearance in your own final exams, albeit potentially in a different format, so ensure that you pay extra attention to them.
- HIGHLIGHTING SECTIONS & QUESTIONS THAT WERE PROBLEMATIC OR CHALLENGING
If you constantly find yourself struggling with specific questions or sections of work, and if these consistently arose in previous papers, it is time to do the hard work and face down the challenge. Compile a document for each subject, summarizing the hardest to conquer sections, and keep this close by at all times. Go back to it over and over, and in 2 months’ time you will be much more confident when faced with previously problematic work.
- CREATING A DOCUMENT SUMMARISING THE SECTIONS WITH WHICH YOU FEEL COMFORTABLE
While work with which you feel more comfortable requires less of your focus, it is good to have a document summarizing these sections as well, to reference in coming weeks. Focusing only on the hard stuff, without occasionally going back to the easier stuff, could lead to an out-of-sight, out-of-mind situation. You need to maintain a good balance of hard work on the challenging material, with deep consolidation of the work which you have already mastered.
“Eight weeks is still a sufficient amount of time to get some decent revision and preparation done,” says Payne.
“Using this time optimally and strategically can bring about a substantial improvement in your results. But the key is to get going, and get going right now. While two months may feel like a long time, procrastinating for a day or two can have a snowball effect, and you may find yourself left with little time to do more than cramming.
“But if you get started, today, on the steps above, you will be reaping the rewards of being confidently prepared when you step into the exam room in October.”