Now that matrics have settled into the rhythm of their exams they could easily start feeling like the cat that got the cream. An education expert has warned them not to become complacent thinking the ‘worst’ is behind them, but instead to knuckle down and give it their best-sustained effort right until the end.
“It’s all about strategy, and fighting for every last mark you are able to score in your remaining papers,” says Nola Payne, Head of Faculty: Information and Communications Technology at The Independent Institute of Education, SA’s largest private higher education institution.
“Consistency is key right now, and you will thank your future self for not getting distracted by the light at the end of the tunnel, but rather approaching each paper as a new opportunity to take your grades from good to spectacular,” said Payne.
She says the reason for not relaxing now, with mostly the “easier” subjects remaining, is because small aggregate differences, whether in a specific subject or overall results, can significantly influence options after school.
“There are so many more study options available to today’s young people, both in terms of higher education institutions and qualifications, that they are really able to pick a closer match to their vision for their lives and careers than before. However greater options don’t mean less competition for limited spaces, particularly in very popular new programmes such as Gaming, for instance, so every mark counts when institutions assess applications,” she said.
Payne said learners should approach their remaining papers with a clear head:
Do not Panic
“If you didn’t do as well as planned on subjects you’ve already written, you have to let it go,” said Payne.
“There is nothing you can do about those papers now. However, by doubling your efforts for remaining papers, you can potentially make up points that will improve your overall marks. There may also be the option of rewriting a paper, so focus on what you can still change, rather than dwell on that which is behind you.”
Do not rest on your laurels
“If you did better than you expected in the papers already written, good for you! However, don’t be tempted to slack now because the going is great. Gaining better marks than expected may open up a world of new opportunities that you were not even aware of, so make this final push count.
“You also don’t want to ruin your great performance to date by doing worse than you were counting on in upcoming papers, thereby negating the earlier advantage gained.”
Matric finals are a marathon, not a race, notes Payne.
“It is normal to start feeling fatigued as the end nears, but don’t let that derail you. Ensure that you get enough fresh air and exercise, and take short breaks to give your brain a complete rest. TV and social media can cause information overload, so limit your screen time apart from where you are using it to study. Focus on ticking off one subject at a time, and don’t allow yourself to feel overwhelmed by looking at the whole list of papers you still need to complete,” she says.
Do not lose sight of the big picture
For some learners, things may at this stage have started to go seriously pear-shaped. Those who feel that they are facing a looming disaster should refrain from looking for solutions that will make things worse, such as considering cheating, for instance.
“Looking for the wrong kind of solutions now may be tempting, but may have far-reaching and even unfixable consequences on your life,” said Payne.
“If things really are not going well, keep in mind that you do still have enough time to make up points in remaining subjects. Again, fighting for every mark now may mean that you have more options to rectify things after the exams, for instance by doing a rewrite or re-doing only one subject instead of the whole year.
“Yes, Matric marks are very important, but at the end of the day there are always options even if you didn’t perform as you would have hoped, so don’t resort to solutions which are bound to throw further problems your way.”
Parents and guardians have an important role to play in coming weeks, to help learners stay motivated, said Payne.
“Help them visualise their goal for next year, help them re-arrange their study roster if necessary, and make sure that they stay positive and focused to perform at their very best right until the end,” she said.