The right focus for matric success

THIS is the month when National Senior Certificate (NSC) final exams loom large.

The fear factor reaches new peaks and anticipation sets in regarding the results in the first week of January 2018, tertiary education admissions and questions about future career opportunities.

Many of us have our own unforgettable memories of the NSC or matric exams. I remember the anxiety and stress of not finishing certain sections of my exams.

I even remember my results for each subject. I have recollections of that entire month of the exams and the wait for the final results.

The NSC exams continue to maintain a towering presence in our education system. They remain an essential rite of passage for thousands of youths, the gateway to adult life or path to a new career.

Amid all the hype that surrounds the exams, it is important for students, and parents to keep the exams in some kind of perspective.

It would surely become easy if planning takes place and a regular timetable is formulated so that systematic final preparations begin at the earliest.

For parents, encouraging our children, listening to their problems and being tuned in to their feelings, is the best advice.

Here are some tips always articulated by experts and psychologists for keeping NSC candidates motivated to study until exams later this month:

Planning, planning, planning

  • Strategise: Correct planning and strategy at this stage will stand you in good stead. While focus must be on working towards a higher overall score, it is also important to focus on individual subjects;
  • Prioritise: With less than a month to go this month, time is now at a premium. Instead of trying to tackle everything, you must focus on what to optimise;
  • Exercise is important to clear the mind and encourage positive thoughts. It also increases energy levels and oxygen intake which benefits the brain, and helps reduce stress;
  • Rest: To rest your brain, as well as your eyes, you need enough sleep. If you are exhausted, physically and/or emotionally, it will be more difficult for you to handle stress and anxiety; and
  • Balance: A balanced diet is important for concentration. Eat healthy foods.

Studying, studying studying

  • Active studying is crucial. Take notes, make summaries and test yourself;
  • Divide up the work. Break your work into manageable chunks. Past exam papers are studied weeks before exams – not the night before;
  • Positive thinking. Believe in yourself. Be goal-oriented. Whether your overall goal is to get the best exam results you can, or to secure the results that will gain you access to a particular career, try to visualise this aim;
  • Be prepared. Develop good study habits and study in smaller increments of time and over a few days instead of what we used to call “cross-nighting”.
  • Simulate exam conditions by working through a practice test, following the same time constraints;
  • Maintain a positive attitude. Your self-worth should not be dependent on or defined by this NSC exam only. Remember there is no benefit to negative thinking.
  • Manage emotions. Know how to focus on positive achievements-rather than failure;
  • Practise relaxation techniques. If you feel stressed, take deep, slow breaths, to invigorate and refocus yourself;
  • Challenge yourself. Successful students are intellectually energetic. When they read, they think actively and critically about what they are reading;
  • Visualise success. Most successful students repeatedly picture what will come at the end of the road for them such as a dream career. This provides motivation and energy, especially when stuck in a rut; and lastly
  • Strive for excellence. No matter what the task, strive for excellence.

Indeed, keeping your motivation up at this stage is about identifying the reason you’re studying in the first place. Successful students have a definite reason for being in high school and know what it is.

Success happens because of good habits. It is things you do on a regular basis that set you apart from the hordes of other students and as exams loom large, focus and preparation is key.

My colleagues and I in the Eastern Cape provincial government wish you success in your 2017 NSC exams and hope that you will all be enriched by the rewards of your hard work.

Phumulo Masualle is premier of the Eastern Cape province. Follow him on @EC_ Premier and on Facebook at Masincokole.