Drawing up a ‘Matric Roadmap’ at the start of the year is an essential step towards achieving success in Grade 12, an education expert says.
“Looking at the year from the vantage point of January, matric finals seem a long way down the road, and eight months feels like ample time to get to grips with your work before you have to sit for your finals,” said Natasha Madhav, Senior Head of Programme: Faculty of ICT at The Independent Institute of Education.
“However before you know it, the days would have turned into weeks and the weeks into months, and if you are not vigilant, you may find yourself less prepared than you thought you would be,” she said.
Madhav says a more effective approach is to view the year as a series of milestones, and then work towards and build upon each one as they arrive.
“There are so many great things worth celebrating in your final year of school, and they must be embraced for the achievements they are, but you must at all times keep a firm focus on your biggest goal – to achieve to the best of your ability and lay the foundation for future success in the months to come,” she says.
She advises learners and their parents to take some time out to reflect and strategise in coming weeks, and to draw up a year-plan as follows:
Break it down
“Draw up a year-at-a-glance calendar which notes all tests, exams and other assessments, as well as matric-related events and functions. Also note down administrative tasks which may take up your time, such as higher education application deadlines,” said Madhav.
She said once they have a year-at-a-glance view of what lies ahead, learners should break down the year into sections, and treat each section as a milestone on the road to achievement.
“So if you do this, the idea of eight months until your final exam quickly makes way for the reality that every month or two will bring new demands requiring your full attention. Understanding this, and the fact that action every day is the only way to approach this year in a sustainable way, is the strongest antidote to procrastination – the enemy of performance.”
Madhav said now that learners understand the various milestones and the limited time available for preparation, they should draw up a daily/weekly/monthly action plan.
“Consider how your average productive day will look – how much time you are allocating for non-academic activities such as sport and relaxation, how much time for homework each day, how much time for additional revision, what your weekends are going to look like, and so forth.
“While concentrating on academics, you also need to make provision for time to ensure your post-school plans are sorted. If you are going to apply for a qualification where entrance requirements also look at your non-academic contributions and achievements, is there something you should budget for, for instance volunteer work or holiday internships? Do you still need to investigate and pin down what you want to study and where?
“These are not bridges to be crossed only when you get to them. You should consciously consider what you need to do when to avoid unnecessary and avoidable stress in months to come, so that you don’t spend precious time completing application forms when in fact you should be putting the final touches on your matric exam preparation,” Madhav says.
Commit to your milestones
Madhav notes that having a plan is a great start, but that sticking to the plan with small actions that compound each day is where the tyres hit the road.
“Don’t postpone what you need to do today, to tomorrow. Because tomorrow may – and probably will – bring challenges you haven’t bargained for, and then you’ll start falling behind. You have to use your time wisely and productively – more so than ever before during this year – and strengthen your learning and productivity muscles.
“This will not only develop your abilities and potential throughout this year with the focus on your final exams, but will also stand you in good stead next year as you enter higher education, where the demands that will be placed on you will increase exponentially.”
According to Madhav, the benefit of staying on top of things from the start of the year and throughout until you put down your pen after your last paper, is that you can adjust and correct your strategy if any red flags arise.
“If, for instance, you find that you are really struggling in a particular subject or with particular sections of work, you will have enough time to pull in extra assistance, for instance from a tutor or a teacher at school,” she said.
“You might also realise that you need to incorporate new study methods or ways of blocking time to get to grips with everything, and constantly reflecting on where you are in relation to your year plan, as well as where you need to be, will help you adjust where necessary.”
“The greatest weapons in your arsenal right now are time and discipline,” said Madhav.
“As the saying goes, hard work beats talent if talent doesn’t work hard. So whether you are top of your class, or not yet the strongest academically, the effort and focus you put into your final year of school will have a direct effect on your performance, and right now there is still a lot you can do about it – with the right strategy and unshakeable commitment.”