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It’s manic matric exam time – here are the mantras for pupils and parents to beat the Grade 12 blues

It’s manic matric exam time – here are the mantras for pupils and parents to beat the Grade 12 blues
Pupils at Brackenfell High School in Cape Town begin their matric exams on 31 October 2022. (Photo: Jaco Marais / Gallo Images)

It’s that time of the year when households with Grade 12 pupils are consumed by the looming exams that will either end school careers on a high note or bring them to a disappointing close.

Tension is mounting in households across South Africa as Grade 12s enter the critical last phase before their final exams. This juncture isn’t merely an academic checkpoint and a transformative phase, it’s also a daunting and often emotional roller coaster for pupils and their parents.

Pupils are submerged in study materials while parents grapple with providing adequate support without becoming excessively involved. And, given South Africa’s distinct socioeconomic landscape, many households face unique stresses.

“Parents strive tirelessly to ensure their children’s success within this challenging panorama,” says Dr Linda Meyer, managing director of Rosebank College, which is part of the Independent Institute of Education.

She adds that today’s complex times amplify these challenges.

“Virtual parenting platforms abound with stories from parents and guardians of Grade 12 students, with calls for insight and advice revealing parents’ collective uncertainty on how best to be a pillar of strength and to offer guidance for their children.”

Grade 12 exams represent just one chapter in a child’s expansive educational story. There are myriad avenues for growth and learning beyond this point.

Meyer says parents should adopt the following mantras during the next few weeks:

Self-awareness first: Parents should be acutely aware of their emotions and manage them effectively. This stability enables them to be supportive rather than inadvertently adding to their child’s pressures.

Adopt a broader perspective: Though Grade 12 exams are significant, they represent just one chapter in a child’s expansive educational story. There are myriad avenues for growth and learning beyond this point, and understanding this can help defuse undue stress.

Meyer says parents can provide meaningful support in two ways: through practical facilitation and emotional anchoring.

Practical facilitation

Holistic schedule design: A comprehensive view of the exam timeline can aid in collaboratively creating a balanced study schedule. This helps to pace study sessions and reduce last-minute panic.

Authentic test conditions: Mimicking exam conditions at home can offer insights into areas needing further focus and, equally importantly, help pupils become familiar with the conditions of the physical exam environment.

A home’s atmosphere can be a game-changer. A serene, clutter-free environment fosters concentration and mental clarity.

Guided independence: Being available to address queries is essential, but so is promoting autonomous learning. Encourage children to think critically and find solutions themselves.

Digital discipline: Technology can be a double-edged sword. Setting ground rules is vital to ensure digital devices aid, rather than disrupt, study schedules.

Emotional anchoring

Crafting a serene sanctuary: A home’s atmosphere can be a game-changer. A serene, clutter-free environment fosters concentration and mental clarity.

Holistic wellness: Beyond rigorous studying, integrating activities like meditation, short walks or even hobbies can mentally rejuvenate students. Adequate rest, outdoor engagements, a nutritious diet and avoiding excessive caffeine or sugar are paramount.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Matric is a mental health issue – here’s why

Empathetic dialogue: Establish an environment in which students can vocalise their fears, aspirations or academic challenges. Active, non-judgemental listening can be therapeutic.

Celebrate every milestone: Recognising the results, effort, dedication and small achievements can tremendously boost a child’s self-esteem and drive. DM

Practical tips for pupils

Meyer says there are a number of strategies that, if incorporated into the weeks leading up to the final exams, can boost a pupil’s well-being and academic success.

Establish a routine:

Plan your study schedule. Breaking down your subjects into manageable sections can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Allocate more time for subjects or topics you find challenging.

Incorporate short breaks to avoid burnout and keep your mind fresh.

matric exam time

(Photo: Unsplash)

Optimal study environment:

Find a quiet, comfortable place free from distractions.

Ensure good lighting to avoid straining your eyes.

Keep all your materials (books, notes, stationery) organised and within reach.

Effective study techniques:

Active recall: Instead of passively reading, test yourself regularly.

Mind maps: Use these to represent and link concepts visually.

Keep abreast of any changes or updates related to the exams, whether they concern exam dates, venue changes or safety protocols.

Teach someone: Explaining a topic to someone else can help solidify your understanding.

Past exam papers:

Regularly go through past matric papers. They give you an understanding of the exam format and the types of questions you’ll encounter.

Time yourself while answering to simulate the actual exam conditions.

Limit distractions:

Limit social media and entertainment during study sessions. Consider apps or tools that block distracting sites for specific periods.

Group studies:

Studying with peers can provide different perspectives and solutions to problems. However, ensure that the group remains focused and productive.

Exam-day preparedness:

Ensure you have all required materials (ID, stationery, calculator, etc).

Arrive with ample time to spare. Rushing can increase anxiety.

Before starting, take a moment to calm your nerves. Deep breaths can help.

Seek help when needed:

If there’s a topic you’re struggling with, ask your teacher or a friend, or consider tutoring.

Seek counselling or speak to someone if the stress becomes overwhelming. Your mental wellbeing is crucial.

Stay informed:

Keep abreast of any changes or updates related to the exams, whether they concern exam dates, venue changes or safety protocols.

Beyond the books:

Remember, though exams are essential, they don’t define your entire worth or future. There are always various pathways to success.

Preparing for the matric exams is as much about persistence and strategy as it is about knowledge. Pupils can confidently enhance their performance and face exams by being systematic, focused and proactive, Meyer says.

“And most importantly, we need to apply flexibility and understanding in the parenting approach during this time.

“Young adults, with their unique personalities and coping mechanisms, require tailored support.

“But beyond academic challenges and triumphs, we should appreciate the journey and celebrate continuous learning, personal evolution and the tenacity to bounce back, irrespective of the outcomes.” DM

Dr Linda Meyer is the managing director at The Independent Institute of Education’s Rosebank College.

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.

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