Matrics: Keep focusing until the desks are packed up

By admin
20 November 2013

There is only a little over a week left of the matric exams. Dr Felicity Coughlan, Director of the Independent Institute for Education, shares some advice on how to persevere these last few days.

There is only a little over a week left of the matric exams. Dr Felicity Coughlan, director of the Independent Institute for Education, shares some advice on how to persevere these last few days.

In a world of instant gratification, the month to six weeks set aside for the matric exams requires a tenacity from school leaving young adults for which the rest of their education had not necessarily prepared them.  The relative freedom of this period can be counterproductive, as students give up the security created by a routine that others managed.  Particularly as they pass the halfway mark in terms of papers written, the allure of the impending break and the celebrations can easily distract young people. In addition, anxiety or despair about papers that did not go well can undermine the determination to stay focused.

As many schools now also allow grade 10 and 11 students to study at home, the students and their families have good first-hand knowledge based on previous years of how well the student is able to sustain (or not) the self-discipline needed.  That knowledge should result in strategies to keep the focus for the next three weeks.  These strategies include the obvious, such as a study timetable, but also scheduled reviews of progress and productive opportunities to engage with peers on progress.  Young adults need their peers, and a complete ban on this interaction will lead to many wasted hours using social media and other communication tools to stay in touch.

“As the list of subjects you still need to write become shorter and shorter, don’t be tempted into relaxing too soon,” says Dr Felicity Coughlan, dDirector of the Independent Institute of Education.

“Stop stressing about the subjects you’ve already written. There is nothing more you can do about those results. But retain your focus right to the end, especially for the so-called ‘easier’ subjects which are often scheduled towards the end of the exam timetable,” she says.

“Every paper counts and you have to give your best right up to the end.”

Coughlan reminds students that selecting one or two subjects which may come easier to them was a deliberate part of their strategy four years ago  - at that time they included these subjects to get access to some relatively easy “points” to up their scores and improve their chances of access to courses.  That strategy should not be abandoned now.

“Don’t drop the ball on that strategy now. Don’t stumble over the last hurdle and forfeit those points. The end of November will arrive, and with it the end of your school career, but right now remember that the only thing that should matter is that you earn the very best marks you can right until you put down your pen after writing your last paper.

“There is nothing left for you to do about the way you started. Now it is all about the way you will finish,” she says.

Coughlan says that in the next three weeks, matrics can keep their focus by:

  • Not looking back – what is done cannot be changed and each paper should be treated as a stand alone opportunity to do your best.
  • Ensuring that they stick to a schedule of eating healthy, and getting enough sleep and exercise.
  • Sticking to their study schedule and even upping the ante a little, by putting in an hour or two extra to complete another mock paper, for example.

“A few extra marks may well mean the difference between your application for a position and that of your competitors in the job market. It may also mean the difference between being accepted into your course of choice or having to look at alternatives. In a few days’ time, there will be nothing more you can do about the matric marks that will accompany you throughout the rest of your life.

“Put in the time now and stick it out right until the end, and you’ll find your focus and additional effort will be the gift that keeps on giving throughout the rest of your life.”

Dr Felicity Coughlan is the director of the Institute of Education (IIE)

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