The matric class is entering one of the hardest, most challenging and arguably most important periods of their lives – the build-up to their final examinations. In these last few weeks, it is important that learners have a solid strategy to assist them in preparing for the biggest test of their school careers, which will allow them to perform to the very best of their ability, says Dr Felicity Coughlan.

Coughlan, Director of the Independent Institute of Education, SA’s largest and most accredited private higher education institution, says having a plan allows learners to focus on the content of their work, rather than the mechanics of mastering the work.

“It is so important at this stage to clear your mind and programme of any issues that could distract you from optimal learning,” she says.

“Banish procrastination immediately, and make use of every available hour. At the end of these few weeks of preparation, you will thank yourself when you enter the exam room cool, calm, collected and in charge of your subject.”

Coughlan says everyone who is preparing to sit their final exams this year, will do well to follow a simple five-step plan which will set them on their path to their best performance:

1) ORGANISE: Yourself, your time and your work. Having a neat working environment and a clear plan for what you need to do and study every day, as well as having the relevant materials sorted and on hand, will go a long way to reduce anxiety and optimise your learning.

2) PREPARE: Look at all your subjects and at all the materials you need to study. Make sure that you have not forgotten anything. Once you know what you have to work with and what you need to get through, you can better sort your planning.

3) PLAN: Draw up a study roster which allows time for a second round of revision. Your planning should include writing past papers and example questions in addition to reading. When studying, use visualisation methods such as colour and mind maps which allow you to use more of your brain. Also practise by answering questions or telling friends and relatives about your work. It is not until you’ve tried to explain what you know that you can assess if you know enough!

4) LOOK AFTER YOUR HEALTH AND WELLBEING: Refresh by making sure you are eating, sleeping and exercising enough, but DO NOT use these activities as a reason to procrastinate.

5) FOCUS: You should be devoting all your energy and attention to one of the most important examinations you will ever write. There will be plenty of time for parties and chilling once you’re done.

And Coughlan warns learners to be ready to push until the end, and not start relaxing until the very last paper is written.

“Every paper – even the ‘easier’ ones – counts, and you have to give your best right until the end.

“Remember, the end of November will arrive in due course, and with it the end of your school career. But right now the only thing that should matter is that you earn the very best marks you can right until you put down your pen after writing your last paper. After you’ve put in your best effort, you will really deserve your new freedom AND enjoy it more,” Coughlan says.