ALTHOUGH the focus is firmly on the Matric Class of 2019 currently writing their NSC exams, their successors in Grade 11 are also now heading to exam rooms across the nation, and they should not underestimate the importance of these assessments, an education expert says.“The last two years of school should not be viewed in isolation. Rather, Grade 11 should be approached as the foundation upon which matric success is built,” says Peter Kriel, general manager at The Independent Institute of Education — SA’s largest and most accredited private higher education provider.“So any idea that your performance in Grade 11 doesn’t count, and that you can chill and make up for it next year, should be discarded,” he says.“Apart from the obvious benefit of doing well in these exams, it should be kept in mind that these marks can be submitted to gain provisional access to public universities or private higher education institutions, which means you can get in the gates before the flood of applications come streaming in next year.”Kriel says although the thought of getting the exams over with and then taking a well-deserved break in December will no doubt be appealing to Grade 11s at this stage, there are three things they can take care of during the next three months that will see them start their final year of school with a distinct advantage over their peers, and with optimal chances of ending matric on a successful note.1) DO AS WELL AS POSSIBLE IN YOUR EXAMS“As mentioned before, your Grade 11 results can be used to gain provisional access to university,” he says, “which means that your performance could mean the difference between having a wide range versus a restricted range of options.“But more than that, if you put in your best effort now, and invest in getting to grips with the study methods that work for you while ditching those which do not, you’ll start to get a good idea of your current capability. If you find that, despite your best efforts, you don’t do well, you’ll know that something needs to be tweaked or adjusted going forward.“However, not putting in your best effort means that you will enter your matric year not understanding your potential, so the lessons you could have learned during these exams will have to be learnt during your final year at school, when you could have directed your focus to something more productive.”2) REVIEW YOUR RESULTS & STRATEGISEKriel says the next step, after the exams are done and the results are in, is to honestly assess your situation.“Did you do your best? Could you have worked harder? Could you have worked smarter? Are there subjects that you know are going to need extra attention, or even extra resources in the form of, for instance, tutors or supplementary materials?“The key here is to look at how you performed, and your experience writing these important exams, and then use that information to plan your final year. Sometimes, if you identify serious red flags, it may even be necessary to consider your subject choices. But keep in mind that only one subject can be changed in Grade 12, and it must be done within a few weeks of school opening.”3) SORT OUT THE UNIVERSITY ADMINToo often the decision about what to study and where is left until way too late, because it seems like such a straightforward thing to decide and apply, says Kriel.“Nothing could be further from the truth, however. Choices about qualification and institution are major ones, which will have a substantial impact on your life after school, and your future prospects.“These are not decisions that can be left until June next year, and then you wake up and start to scramble to secure a place somewhere, anywhere. That is an ineffective approach and a potentially costly life and financial mistake, not to mention the fact that you simply won’t have the time or energy to do the groundwork next year,” he says.Grade 11 pupils should therefore take a week or so timeout to rest after their exams, but then get to planning their post-school life.“The benefit of doing it now, during your holidays before you enter Grade 12, is that time is on your side. So you will be able to do extensive research about the job market and opportunities in the field or fields that interest you. You’ll be able to visit campuses and speak to career counsellors, you’ll also likely find careers and qualifications you’ve never even heard about.“Doing proper research now means you’ll be able to make an informed choice about your future, and, should you come to a decision, you’ll be able to get the extensive and exhaustive admin of the application process out of the way.“Then on to matric where you will start out on your strongest foot, and without the mountain of planning and additional stress that will be waiting for those who decided they’ll cross these bridges when they get there next year.” — Supplied.