The National Senior Certificate Examinations are around the corner, and students and their families are getting ready for the final stretch. Successful exam preparation requires a two-pronged approach that focuses on the learning as well as the emotional well-being of the student. To help you prep, our team here at Hillcrest Collegiate have pulled together our tried and tested strategies for approaching the exams to win.
A study plan is not the same as a timetable. A timetable arises from your study plan and allocates specific blocks of time for you to achieve everything you have laid out in your study plan. The study plan is an outline of your goals and everything you need to do to achieve those goals. A good study plan will take the following into account: The time you have to study, how many subjects you need to study for and how many hours you need for each subject. An example for this is a strong Math student who struggles with English may only need half the time to study math and more time for English. A study plan will also prioritise time for rest, sleep and eating. It doesn’t have to be structured, get a paper and write down your goals for each subject, the time you have in your day and a list of everything else you need to incorporate into a successful day of studying (for example, I would like to have a cup of coffee and a chocolate for one break, I need to work on math for at least 2 hours a day or I need minimum 7 hours sleep to function).
Being in a rested and peaceful state is essential for optimal learning. Research suggests that regular breaks increase energy, productivity, and the ability to focus. Your study plan and timetable should prioritise purposeful breaks (social media is a big no-no as this can easily lead to loss of time). Purposeful breaks are 5-20 min for snacks, exercise or calling a friend. In addition to this, enough time must be allocated for the sleep your body needs. Lack of sleep impairs concentration; your timetable and study plan should allocate between 6-9 hours of sleep per day depending on your sleep requirements.
Hungry people are not happy people – it is impossible to focus when we are hungry. That said, it is also not easy to focus when you are overeating or when you are eating huge amounts of junk. Try to incorporate good, wholesome food to balance out the sugary drinks and treats that we usually reach for when studying. That said, treats motivate everyone and having something to look forward to is important. Pro tip for parents: This is the time to bring out all the favorite meals and study break snacks that will keep our students in a state of well-being!
An environment that is pleasant and conducive to studying is vital. Create a study space that is quiet and stocked with everything you need to study comfortably (pens, paper, sticky notes, highlighters etc). Pro tip for parents and students: Separate everything you need for each subject into labelled shopping bags, boxes or anything that can be stacked or stored neatly and out of the way. So, if your timetable has allocated 2 hours for math, you will only have to pull out the math bag/box to your desk. Everything else is out of sight and out of mind. This will help with focus and to minimise the mental load of having to study so many subjects at once.
Positive talk is also important. Students and parents can discuss previous academic achievements and build a mindset to win in their home. Pro tip: Stick a few reports or tests that the student did well in on your wall or on the bag or box of the relevant subject as motivation.
Exercise releases endorphins which help with this feeling of well-being that we want to encourage in our kids whilst they learn. In addition to this research shows that physical exercise releases proteins in the brain that can actually help improve memory and increase cognitive performance. Your ideal study plan should set an exercise target for the day and your time-table should reflect that.
Set out the timetable
Once your study plan is done it is far easier to work on your timetable. Break up learning for each subject into manageable parts. For example, you can aim to revise 1 section a day and then in the last 2 weeks before the exam, you can answer past year papers or write essays to revise. Be very specific in your timetable about which sections you will cover in that time block and try your best to stick to it.
Go visual and repeat, repeat, repeat!
Our brains learn better when we use charts, mind maps, diagrams and colours. We also retain information better when we repeat it in different forms. Don’t be shy to invest in some chart paper or a white board and use it to rewrite your coursework. This also helps with repetition of information in different forms which is a key to learning successfully.
Good Luck! You got this class of 2023!