As the matric examinations loom only a few weeks away, matriculants would do well to use the opportunity of their prelims to the full, an education expert says.

“The temptation is there to write these exams off as insignificant, since many learners would already have submitted tertiary education applications based on their previous performance,” says Dr Felicity Coughlan, Director of the Independent Institute of Education, SA’s largest and most accredited private higher education institution.

“Others have moved their focus to the final exam as their last chance to earn the points for admission to particular programmes,” she says. However the prelims fulfil a very important function, and matriculants should take them as seriously as they do the last exam of their school careers.

“Remember that even if you have a conditional offer from a university or private education provider, it could still be withdrawn. You may still need to rely on your performance in the prelims for placement purposes and you cannot afford to ignore the fact that the results do contribute to your year mark that is part of your investment in your final result,” she says.

The most important function of the prelims though, is to give you an opportunity to consolidate the learning of the past twelve years, and provide matriculants with the necessary peace of mind to enter their final exams relaxed and refreshed – a mindset which could make a significant positive difference to the candidate’s performance.

“Treat these exams as a measure of where you are, and use them as a valuable tool in your preparation for your finals,” says Dr Coughlan.

She says learners can use the prelims in several ways to boost knowledge and strategy by:

  • Consolidating study methods.
  • Learning better stress management methods.
  • Testing how long it actually takes to master pieces of work, so that the learner’s final study plan is accurate in terms of how much time needs to be allocated for revision of subjects.
  • Developing the notes – mind maps, annotations, etc. – required for the final exams.
  • Setting up small study groups where peers can learn from one another.

“Use the prelims to consolidate your knowledge and identify the gaps in your approach while there is still time to get help,” says Dr Coughlan.

“Remember that you can achieve the same with writing past papers independently or in a small study group – generally a great way to study. If you do well, use that achievement to motivate yourself, not slack off.

“If you don’t, stay calm and identify the challenges that need addressing. The prelims are a wonderful opportunity for you to get yourself in top form while you still have time.

“And very importantly, remember to be mindful of the factors that will boost your mental and physical wellbeing, and practise these as well: stress management, exercise, eating well and getting enough sleep. You have one shot for your finals, but the prelims are your test run. They allow you to make the changes you need while there is still time, and to cope better during the finals, which are just a few months away.”