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Study and Exam Preparation

At this time of the year a number of young people, whether in Primary School, High School or tertiary institutions, are either writing or preparing for examinations. This can be stressful for both parents and their children, yet if certain simple procedures are followed, the entire process can be dealt with more calmly and effectively.

There are probably only a small minority of people (both young and older) who actually enjoy writing exams or tests. The rest of us battle to find time, remember facts, put information into context and feel well-prepared for assessments like exams.

There are a number of websites on effective learning and beating stress that one can access and most of them are very similar. Earlier this year, we hosted a cost-free evening dealing with exam stress for our Matric students and only eleven students attended with their families , and yet if one speaks to most of them, they are really stressed out at this time of year. The biggest concern is the lack of time – yet everyone has the same amount of time and it is essential that careful time management takes place in order to reduce some of the stress before exams.

Recently, on an E-Day, Mrs Koch and I presented a session to both Grade 8 and 9 students on Effective Study and Study Preparation and Planning.
Here are some useful tips and information to help students and parents cope with preparation before exams and the exam sessions themselves:

  1. Our bodies can only function effectively during stress if we have the correct nutrients in our systems. In order to make study sessions and lessons at school effective giving maximum concentration, students need to have eaten healthy foods before the day commences. Natural, unrefined foods are best. (One can compare traveling by car without fuel – we won’t get very far!)
  2. Exercise is essential to help us get rid of toxins which build up from stress.  Moving between study sessions is essential to keep our blood flowing and to de-stress. So, during exam times we should continue with a healthy exercise regime.
  3. It is also essential that young people have adequate rest every day. For the body and mind to work effectively, we need at least seven hours of sleep per night – especially in winter (There is a reason why the nights are longer!) SPEND LESS TIME ON SOCIAL MEDIA and SOCIALISING.
  4. Notes and concepts must be revised or re-enforced periodically in order to be stored effectively in our brains. It is essential that neurological connections be made for longer term memory to benefit the study process.  Therefore, homework done in the afternoons or evenings after lessons during the day is essential as part of the re-enforcing process. A third exposure to the work after 72 hours and then after a week will help to retain work learned.
  5. Students must be able to identify what type of learner they are, i.e. visual (spatial), aural (auditory), verbal (linguistic), physical (kinesthetic), logical (mathematical), social (inter-personal) or solitary (intra-personal).
    This will help to make their notes more meaningful and study sessions more productive.
  6. Students must not cram work just before the exam (hence the need for prior re-enforcement or revision).
  7. Study lessons must be planned and adhered to. Each study session should have a specific goal.  Never procrastinate your planned study session.
  8. Study at the same time each day – some people find it easier to study in the mornings and others later in the day.
  9. Start with the most difficult subject or section first.  Try not to be distracted while learning. NEVER study with a closed door!
  10. Test yourself under exam conditions and reward yourself for work accomplished.
  11. Most people cannot focus for longer than 20 – 30 minutes, so take frequent short breaks of about 10 minutes between sessions.

I hope that the above information will help some of you, both parents and students, to reach your potential. The most important thing is to do YOUR best and to have no regrets because you know you could have done better.

Below are some sites that you may like to see for further help…
5 Things to Give Up if You Want to be Successful
How the brain works for students
Dealing with Overwhelm and Pressure

Gary Norton
Principal – High School