Plan, pace and succeed

2009-09-19 00:00

WHILE we all know that the best way to prepare for an exam is to start early, unfortunately very few walk on this highway to success.

However, if you are in matric and preparing for your final exams, you can be sure of this one thing: your days of studying for an exam the day before or on your way to the paper are over.

In fact, the day before the exam is no time for fresh studying; this must be over with at least two days before the exam, so that the last two days can be used for consolidation.

Veronica Wright of the Learning Centre shared some excellent tips on preparing for exams, as well as ways to help pupils formulate strategies on how to study before writing an important exam.

“The most ideal situation in being prepared would be keeping up with the work as it’s been coming throughout the year. When you are learning, revising and consolidating from the beginning, you find that you will not be over-stretched. Obviously at the beginning of the year all the work is coming in all at once, which is why learning to manage your time right from the beginning is so critical,” said Wright.

If you have not done this, don’t fret, there might still be some hope for you.

“A big tip I always give young people who are about to launch forth into exam time, is don’t just decide you’ll start studying three weeks before the exam.”

Rather estimate time needed for each subject, which will require you being honest with yourself, she said.

“Work out how many pages you would need to read over per subject and how many hours that will take you to go through that material. And then work out the total time, but be realistic. I can’t stress that enough.”

She points out that research indicates a person’s full concentration span is between 30 to 45 minutes, which is why school lessons are this long.

She advised breaking up your study sessions to be between 45 and 50 minutes, with maybe a 10-minute break after the first session and with a longer break after the next session.

But she emphasises the importance of knowing yourself and taking time to get out of the study environment. While on a break, stretch, play with the dog, eat or take a stroll.

Secondly, she believes it is very important that your study time is not just structured for learning and repeating information, but contains time to practise applying that knowledge.

“Practice makes perfect, get hold of old papers and practise applying different questions. These matriculants will have last year’s exam papers and exemplars for this year.”

But to successfully accomplish this, Wright believes you have to master the art of timing yourself, as well as acquainting yourself with “actual exam room writing techniques”.

She said some people are really good at studying and if you were to ask them questions they know the answers, but are not good writers.

“You have to look at the paper, know what the mark allocation for each section is and answer accordingly.

“And very important, use the reading time you are given to scan through what is easier and work out easy marks. Don’t be too stressed about what you can’t do.”

She stresses the importance of answering the questions you are asked.

“Critically analyse is not the same as describe or give an opinion. Orientate yourself with the art of answering questions.”

Wright believes preparation is the best medicine for confidence, which helps reduce anxiety.

While she does not advocate medication, if you are prepared, but your nerves prove to be a hindrance, see a professional.

•Not everyone’s cognitive style is the same. Simply put, we don’t understand or apply knowledge in the same way.

•If you are prone to note-taking and understand information better through neat summary point form, then you are a left-thinker and linear in your thinking. The verbal strategy will work best for you.

•However, if you use your right brain, what will work for you are visuals. You will learn better using pictures and symbols.

•A mixture of these is the spider diagram or mind map, where you are still using visuals to stimulate your brain, but you also use written points and more legs coming from those points.

•Whatever style, you need to remember that exams test verbal skills. The key to doing well in your exams is to find a way to put the message across.

•Allow for flexibility or have a back-up plan. If you had planned to study for six hours on Saturday and grandma comes for a visit, instead of doing four hours only on Sunday, add an extra hour. But keep up with your study plan on a regular basis.

•Don’t completely cut out leisure time. Schedule time for things that inspire you and are enjoyable, such as sport.

•Plan time to eat, bath etc as part of your 24-hour day plan.

•And if you love colour coding, plan time to plan your timetable.

The Learning Centre is offering a revision programme in maths, physical science and accounting during the September/October holiday. The workshops will be two hours each day for five days. Classes are running at different times to allow for pupils to do more than one subject. For more details call 031 266 6109.

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