As thousands of South African learners enter their June exams, an expert says that there are a few ways to optimise limited study time without resorting to cramming.
“Revision time is over, and learners must ensure they use the time they have between exams in the most effective way.
“While cramming may seem the most natural thing to do at this stage, it is actually counter-productive and likely to increase anxiety and fatigue,” said Nola Payne from The Independent Institute of Education.
She said there are creative and entertaining ways in which learners can utilise their time between papers, which will also ensure they maintain a good work-life balance during this taxing time.
“The most important thing to do at this stage, is to take stock of where you are at, and then draw up a detailed roster for the next few weeks, which clearly shows how much time you have available between subjects. Then you need to decide how you are best going to use that time to ensure your preparation goes beyond reading textbooks over and over again.”
Payne said there are three great ways to study while exams are in full swing, which go beyond repetitive and rote learning.
Learners should form study groups for individual subjects, which will allow them to take their understanding beyond the books.
“Set up a WhatsApp challenge with your friends, where you can send each other questions about a subject. This facilitates valuable discussions, deepening insight and highlighting areas you may have missed.
“Keep it fun but focused, and see if you can ‘trip up’ your friends with your questions. While it might not be so much fun finding out that there is something your friends know that you don’t, this method helps you identify areas need work before it is too late.”
It is very important to exercise during exams, to give your body and mind a break. If you share a study timetable with your friends, you can optimise your time by, for instance, going for a run together during which time you can talk over upcoming papers, points you don’t understand, and questions you believe are likely to arise.
“It is important that you and your friends synchronise your timetables, so that your breaks coincide for the most part. By ensuring your downtime is scheduled at the same time as theirs, you avoid a situation where you want to have a chat when they are focused on their work and vice versa,” said Payne.
She added that by having the same breaks, learners can also act as a conscience for each other to check that everyone is working when they should be, as having to account to them may give one that extra bit of motivation to keep going.
“Then, when taking breaks together, you can talk over issues in a low-pressure environment such as while exercising. Your friends may have valuable insights and support to provide, just as you may be able to help them with your own unique insights.
“Getting active together while not losing focus of the task at hand means you benefit from the feel-good chemicals released in your brain as a result of exercising and socialising, while at the same time increasing your depth of understanding of a subject.”
One of the best ways to cement your preparation with limited time on hand, is to write past exam papers.
“Get your friends together and hold a mock exam, imitating the exam conditions with set times and no peeking in textbooks. Afterwards, switch papers with each person marking another’s paper. This approach has the dual benefit of making you more comfortable with exam conditions, while also solidifying your knowledge in a low-pressure environment.”
It is very important to spread your time between all your subjects, and to not go down the rabbit hole of getting lost in only one subject, for instance mathematics.
“At this stage of the game, balance is key, and goes a long way towards countering the negative impact of stress and anxiety.
“If you are serious about achieving the best marks to enable you access to the post-school opportunities you desire, introducing creative study methods such as the above will go a long way toward not only improving your performance, but also to cultivate a love of learning for its own sake, which is vitally important in a rapidly changing world of work,” said Payne.