Helpful advice for matriculants before looming exams
Set your goals, develop a study schedule
As the class of 2023 matrics gets ready to start their final exams next week, experts say it is important for one to manage their time not only while studying but it is essential to do that as they prepare for their day and getting some rest.
Hundreds of thousands of pupils are registered to write matric this year.
The exams start on October 30.
Experts say many will feel a lot of anxiety and fear during this time but there is help available.
SA College for Applied Psychology student support and development advisor Ziyanda Khumalo says having a plan to manage both the studying that needs to be done and the emotional intensity is vital for this end to the school era.
It is important to set goals, develop a study schedule and manage your time, which includes limiting distractions and avoiding procrastination, she says.
“Students need to reflect on their study environment and identify their distractions – is it an uncomfortable chair that makes them fidget and get up? Is it the constant pinging of their device? Are there younger siblings demanding attention? You need to first set yourself up for success in your environment, and then work towards your goals.
“You need to include regular and consistent breaks, and then manage your time precisely so that you don’t get caught up in other activities around the house. Tracking your progress helps to ensure focus and avoids the stress that comes with falling behind on your studies,” Khumalo says.
She adds that being prepared and having strategies help both matric students and their parents navigate the experience with more clarity and confidence. There are fine lines to walk.
“You want the stress of the situation to stimulate rising to the challenge, but not be crippling or overwhelming. You want to provide support without pressurising. None of this should be left to chance, it needs an agreed plan, and what underlies the best outcomes is having open and honest communications between parents and teens,” says Khumalo.
The SA Anxiety and Depression Group (Sadag) recently hosted a live chat on the topic on social media platform Instagram with the organisation’s counsellor Olwethu Kwaza emphasising the importance of time management and exercise.
“The night before the exam is very daunting and the best thing we can do for ourselves is to get a good night’s rest. That eight to 10 hours [of sleep] is not a myth, it really does work because our memory activates during that period.
“When we’re sleeping, our brain is trying to do all the work. By the time you wake up, you’re able to process it logically and you’re able to remember it more clearly,” she says.
Kwaza says one should watch what they eat. Avoid caffeine and sugary stuff.
“You’re not gonna be able to sleep… Exercise is tried and tested. It is very important and does work… You have a lot of energy after a night of exercise.
Sadag spokesperson Roshi Parbhoo-Seetha says one does not need to go to the gym to exercise, and that just a walk in the yard could make you feel more relaxed.
Educational and research psychologist Dr Diana de Sousa says anxiety is caused by the body’s natural stress response triggered by the amygdala in the brain.
“This response perceives exams as a threat to a student’s self-esteem, future goals, or academic standing, causing increased levels of cortisol in the body. You can recognise exam anxiety if you are troubled by negative thought patterns, self-doubt and fear of failure.
“This mental noise can impair concentration, memory recall and decision-making during study time and while writing your exams. However, coping strategies, relaxation techniques and positive reinforcement can help manage and mitigate the effects of exam anxiety.”
Helpful advice for pupils:
Take action on exam anxiety: You can recognise exam anxiety if you are troubled by negative thought patterns, self-doubt and fear of failure. This mental noise can impair concentration, memory recall, and decision-making during study time and while writing your exams. However, coping strategies, relaxation techniques and positive reinforcement can help manage and mitigate the effects of exam anxiety.
Move your body every day: One of the best to manage mental stress is by getting the body moving. Exercise results in the release of mood-enhancing endorphins which combat stress, anxiety and depression.
Eat and sleep well: Poor diet and lack of sleep amplify stress and anxiety, making it harder for us to perform well. Eating well-balanced meals feeds the brain with the right nutrients and this helps to improve memory and alertness.
A little kindness to self goes a long way: It’s normal to experience exam stress and it’s crucial to be kind to yourself during this challenging period. Take a flexible approach to your study schedule and make adjustments if necessary. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, it is important to reach out for support from teachers, family or friends.
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