What a Maths exam rewrite could mean for students and parents

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The matric class of 2020 write their mock exams (Curro Durbanville)
The matric class of 2020 write their mock exams (Curro Durbanville)

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) has revealed that the 2020 Maths paper two exam had been leaked, just hours before the exam, and they are currently establishing the source of the leak.

The department is looking for telltale signs of cheating from the actual written exam papers, and the Hawks are joining the investigation team. 

Initially it was thought that the paper was leaked in Gauteng and Limpopo, but it appears that the paper may have been available to students in other provinces too.  

If it is found that learners had access to the paper before they sat for the exam, then there is the potential for a rewrite - pending the current investigation. 

Also read: Are we teaching children to be afraid of exams? 

Exam rewrites could be a reality 

This is not a rare occurrence with final matriculant exams being leaked into the public domain before exam takers sit the exam. In prior cases, exam rewrites could be a reality and take place.

In 2015, Life Sciences Paper 2 was leaked and distributed via WhatsApp in the Vhembe School district in Limpopo. Some learners who were not exposed to the leaked papers, still had to rewrite the examinations. 

What sort of affect does having to rewrite an exam have on kids? 

"Situations like these heighten anxiety for learners. Pupils spend countless hours preparing for exams through mental, physical and emotional readiness," Educational Psychologist, Kristen Strahlendorf, told Parent24.  

Performance anxiety 

She explains that this is because pupils fear the scope and difficulty of the exam will change, which creates performance anxiety.

"There is also a backward mental shift, with pupils putting the exam behind them, now having to re-open their textbooks and go back through the exam taking process, a second time," she says. 

"This shifts their mental progress bar and confidence levels." 

This could also have knock-on effects for other subjects. As pupils scramble to re-absorb concepts and re-learn for the exam. This could cause routine confusion and an inability to learn.

Parental support

What can parents do to support their matric students through the stress, and a possible rewrite?

"Parents need to create a calm and methodological approach, removing emotion and anxiety from this situation. Parents need to help their children focus, prepare and 'divide and conquer'," says Strahlendorf.

Strahlendorf emphasises that parents should tell their children, that "their best is enough". 

That this was a situation out of their control. Parents can also emphasise this as an opportunity - a second chance to do better in the exam. Past paper revision and adapting your child’s study routine through guidance will help them prepare for the re-write.

Parents should also promote sleep, healthy eating and exercise to remove exam stress and allowing their child to learn effectively. 

"Matriculants need to remain calm, re-study as though this was the first-time, they were writing the exam and just let their best, given the situation be enough," says Strahlendorf.


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