A Registered Counsellor gives Matric students study strategies to achieve success

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Registered Counsellor and SACAP Educator Esmarie Cilliers advises the class of 2020 on how to achieve success this year. 

The 2020 Matric cohort is well-aware that they are going through an unprecedented time. Matric is always challenging, but their experience is notably different and life in the times of Covid-19 has brought unique challenges. The typical advice for Matrics is not enough in 2020.

As a Matric advisor, how do you acknowledge and address their unique circumstances?

This matric group of 2020 has been on an emotional roller coaster. Going to school…staying home….matric dance…no matric dance. Which means that they could feel disappointed, lonely, unmotivated, or even overwhelmed. They are also dealing with loss and perhaps some of them had dreams for their final year in school. Feelings like these can influence their motivation to study and have an impact on their ability to focus. It is extremely important, especially in 2020, to be aware and identify problems when they arise and take the courage to ask for help.  

The top study strategy tips to achieve Matric success

The following 7 study strategies are the ones that I feel can make a difference in the outcome of your exam:

  • Make a study schedule and stick to it. This schedule must be realistic and achievable. Make sure that you include enough time to rest and do some things that you enjoy. Block your time for studying specific subjects and stick to those times.
  • Set up a study area for yourself and make sure that you have everything you need – papers, pens, note cards, erasers, paperclips etc. Place your desk at a quiet place and remove distractions. Sometimes it can be good if you can have a bit of variety by studying in a different place.
  • Make sure that you drink enough water and have healthy snacks at hand. Drinking adequate amounts of water has been indicated in various studies to improve student’s ability to retain learned information and boost energy.
  • Do not try to multitask – Focus on the subject that you are studying in that specific block of time.  
  • Choose a study technique that you feel comfortable with and that has shown some positive results for you in the past. There are a few techniques that you can try to improve your memory. (Join the SACAP study hack event to learn more.)
  • It is important to get enough sleep during exam time – the average person needs about 7 to 8 hours of sleep.
  • Write down your goal and even see if you can find an image that goes with that goal. Put it up where you can look at it when your energy drop. This will help you to stay motivated.

Also Read: Coping with the anxiety of matric exams

What is the secret to setting-up a good study schedule?

Your working memory can only deal with about 7 to 10 pieces of information at a time. The idea of blocking your time helps to make sure that you structure your time in such a way that your brain can deal with the amount of information. Elon Musk is famous for his extraordinary productivity and he uses time blocking as well. 

The Pomodoro technique ( (time management method)) works well for studying. You block for instance 25 minutes to study a specific section of the work. Rest for 5 minutes. Then you have another 25-minute block with a 5-minute rest. One 25-minute sections plus the 5-minute section is called a Pomodoro block and you can block several of these blocks during your study time and allocate specific topics in this time.

What other strategies can you use?

The problem with Matric is that by this time of the year you have studied the material several times, wrote several tests and even an exam. The risk is that you are tired of the work and feel unmotivated. A good technique to use now is Recalling which is a form of active studying. For instance: If you are studying geography, you can divide the work into blocks that you are going to study.  

The first step is then to start with a small section and see what you can recall of that section. If you can recall all the information you move on to the next section. During this active recalling you can write down the framework of what you remember. If you struggle to recall the information you learn it again through repetition and slot a recalling time in again later during the day.

Managing Matric exam stress 

When we are stressed our breathing gets shallow and our brain perceive what is about to happen as threatening. Focus on breathing deeply so that the brain gets sufficient oxygen. Breath in deeply and focus on taking in sufficient amounts of air and breathing out. Visualising can also be a powerful technique to help you cope with stress. 

Close your eyes and visualise how you get the paper and know everything on the paper and how you confidently answer the questions. Visualise how you finish the paper and be aware of how you relax.

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