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Top achieving IEB matriculants share their secrets to success

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Priceless advice from top achievers. (iStock)
Priceless advice from top achievers. (iStock)

For the 12 024 full-time and 1139 part-time candidates who sat for the IEB National Senior Certificate 2020, the results are in and congratulations are in order. 

According to data by the Independent Examinations Board, the overall 2020 NSC pass rate is 98.07%. 

Among those celebrating today are Redhill School matriculants Wangari Mbuthia, Ivan Buckland and Jessica Buckland who achieved outstanding results in their final year. 

The teens shared their secrets to success with Parent24, revealing their top tips for obtaining amazing results despite going through a chaotic school year. 

'I wasn’t alone' 

One of Redhill's top achievers and one-third of the Buckland triplets, Ivan Buckland earned 9 distinctions. Overall Ivan and his siblings, Anna and Jessica, achieved 23 distinctions! 

Despite working separately, Ivan says he definitely had a "psychological advantage". 

"When exams became stressful and deadlines started looming, it felt like I wasn’t alone – there were always two people in the rooms right next door to mine dreading whatever was coming as much as I was!" 

Ivan says he is "planning to do a general Bachelor of Social Science at UCT". 

Jessica Buckland, Ivan's fellow triplet, earned 5 distinctions. She told Parent24 that she attributes her success to "family support, luck and hard work". 

Jessica says she's all set to study a BA in humanities or social sciences and she hopes to become a paramedic one day. 

"My dream was always to become a paramedic, which I've been warned can be a fairly dangerous career. If I'm still prepared to risk the dangers of that, I might ultimately apply to an overseas university because there are lots of options there to do a paramedic degree". 

Calling all NSC Matrics: Sign up to receive your results

'I definitely did put in a lot of hours' 

Fellow Redhill matriculant, Wangari Mbuthia achieved a 42 out of 45 for her International Baccalaureate Diploma – which qualifies her to study at some of the world's top universities where a minimum mark of 38 is required. 

Wangari says she attributes her success to a strong work ethic and the supportive network of people in her life. 

"I definitely did put in a lot of hours, but I also think that finding things that I loved about what I was learning made the effort a lot easier. I also had many people in my life who supported me along the way" 

Wangari says she'll be studying biotechnology at the University of Pretoria, but also dreams of studying abroad. 

"I am waiting upon the decisions from universities in the US and UK. My future career plans are more uncertain but I could definitely see myself doing research or teaching". 

Also see: Where to find matric exam results this month

Here's a look at what Ivan, Jessica and Wangari said helped them obtain top marks: 

What were your go-to study methods?

I: "Across all subjects, I worked in periods governed by a timer of one to two hours I set on my phone – I tried to work continuously, without distraction, until the timer ran to completion, at which point I took a break before the next session. This helped me to get myself to work when I didn’t feel like it, and to work more effectively". 

J: "My methods were mostly practicing past IEB papers. I applied and reapplied the notes I'd summarised for prelims, from papers dating as far back as 2015 sometimes! This also kept studying interesting, and helped me with revision". 

W: "Flashcards are a definite go-to for me, and I used both Quizlet and paper flashcards. I also liked to get right into doing questions, noting down problems areas to revisit as I go. Reciting the material as though I was teaching also helped me" 

Did you use different study methods for different subjects?

I: "Yes. There are subjects for which practice is of greater importance (for example, Mathematics and Science), and subjects for which memorisation is (for example, History and IT Theory). My study methods adapted accordingly". 

J: "I think I used mostly the same methods of studying, over-all. They differed slightly when it came to the language subjects, because they were harder to memorise and apply than a formula. In those cases, I studied techniques for answering questions. With Physics and Maths it was easier to just practise past papers". 

W: "Definitely, even for different topics within subjects. For more quantitative topics/subjects I would get right into practice questions, checking my answers along the way while for more qualitative topics subjects I would make summaries that I would try recreate from memory". 

What was the toughest paper to complete?

I: "I found AP English the most difficult – racing against the clock to complete three back-to-back literature essays is an exhausting experience. And it hurts your hands". 

J: "I'd have to say the hardest paper for me will always be Science, because of time management and the usual difficult questions".  

W:  "My Higher Level Mathematics Paper 1 was one of my hardest papers to complete because it was a non-calculator paper and I sometimes found myself getting stuck later in my method". 

What was the hardest part of completing matric during the pandemic?

I: "It is sad to have missed the non-academic experiences I would have had if in-person schooling had continued. Having fun with friends in class and at break account for some of my fondest memories of high school, and the absence of it made matric, in some ways, dryer than it otherwise would have been". 

J: "The hardest part for me was only the stress of uncertainty. Our matric year had been meticulously planned since Grade 10, but suddenly everything was up in the air. However, I was lucky with how this pandemic actually helped my matric. When we first went into lockdown, suddenly I no longer had head girl or first-aid duties, nor 1st team hockey –so I could focus entirely on academics". 

W: "For me, one of the hardest parts was feeling isolated at home but also feeling drained staring at a laptop for several hours a day. Another unfortunate part was losing out on experiences in our last year at school together". 

What tips can you share with this year’s matriculants? 

I: "One piece of advice I can offer – which I often failed to follow myself – is not to beat yourself up too hard for past mistakes. If you had an unproductive day, made a number of silly and obvious mistakes in a test, or haven’t studied an entire section the evening before a major exam, take a moment to extract the relevant lessons you can to avoid committing similar mistakes in the future, and then let go. Forgive yourself – everyone falls off the horse sometimes – and try your best to improve the situation as it is". 

J: "My advice is to pace yourselves as much as possible. I found with all the unpredictability (and the fact that we wrote midterm exams, then prelims and finals within the space of a few months) that it's easy to burn-out. Although I'm sure your teachers have been saying this forever, my best advice would be to try and make your summarised notes early, and then practise the prelim exams from other schools, but leave the IEB past papers for finals if you can". 

W: "I would encourage you all to lean on each other whether that is through online study sessions or watching a movie together [virtually]. Another thing to remember is to acknowledge your small victories as you work through the syllabus and remember that doing the best that you can at that time is all that you can do". 


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