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The heat is officially on for Matrics now returning to school after the winter holidays, with just 3 months before they start writing their final exams on October 19. Many of them will be entering this period weighed down with a sense of dread, especially if the first half of the year proved less than satisfactory on the academic front.

But if these learners put shoulder to the wheel right now, and apply military precision in scheduling their remaining time, they can expect a major improvement in results, an education expert says.

“Learners should know that in addition to the tough few academic months lying ahead, they will also be enticed away from their books by many distractions, such as matric farewells and end-of-year parties,” says Nola Payne, Head of Faculty: Information and Communication Technology at The Independent Institute of Education, SA’s largest and most accredited private higher education institution.“Prelim exams are less than a month away and these are a good indicator of how a learner will fare in the final exams. But while the prelim exams are considered the ‘warm up’, and often the ‘wake up’ call for many, learners who already know they need to make an extra effort should not wait until then to consider how they will approach their final exams,” she says.

Instead, they should take stock of where they are and how they can wring every last ounce of value from the time they have left, with the following approach:

Source or create a wall or desk calendar which has enough space to write a to-do list for each day of the week. Enter the exam dates for both the prelim exams as well as the final exams in October. The dates for the National Senior Certificate final exams can be found on the websites of the Department of Basic Education (public schools) and Independent Examination Board (private schools). Also diarise any other important dates or occasions.

Rate your subjects from the most difficult to the easiest. You should spend more time on the subjects that you find difficult to master. Plan your studying according to the following criteria:
· What subject do you find the most challenging?

· When are the exams for that subject being written?

· How much content needs to be studied for the subject?

Count the days from the first day of school after the holidays until both the prelim and final exams for those subjects. If you have 6 subjects which you write exams for and 14 weeks until the final exams, that leaves 2 weeks of studying for each subject with the other 2 weeks allocated for your prelim exams. That is not a lot of time, so you should get into the routine of studying every day for the next few months. Be strict with yourself, and turn discipline into a habit.

Break each subject’s content down into logical and manageable sections. A 3-hour study session should be enough to cover each section of content.

Download past exam papers from the Department of Basic Education and the IEB websites. These are excellent resources and give you a good feel for what you can expect in your exams. Supplementary study guides can also be purchased as an additional study aid. Schedule these mock papers on your study roster.

After prelims, the study roster should be re-assessed based on insights into which subjects require more attention, and how much time remains before the finals.

Payne says that Matrics’ holistic planning for the next few months should also take into account the following:

Researching and applying to higher education institutions where a learner has not yet been accepted into a qualification of choice, or planning for any other options post-Matric.
“But do not spend more than an hour a day on this, as it will eat into your studying time. Remember that higher education institutions generally close applications around September.”

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle which means getting enough sleep, nutrition and exercise and especially not over indulging at the Matric farewell.
“Additionally, if you structure your time well, you won’t need to reach for stimulants in despair. They often contain excessively high levels of caffeine, gingko biloba and ginseng, which will keep you awake and alert but will make it difficult to focus.”

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