Ntsako Mkhabela, a matric pupil at Jeppe School for Girls, prepares for matric exams. Picture: Steve Lawrence/ANA Pictures

Durban - The countdown to the National Senior Certificate Examinations has begun.

In just over a month, thousands of pupils will sit down to write the final exams of their schooling careers.

Youngsters are swamped with all sorts of emotions. It is an exciting and immensely stressful time for all Grade 12 pupils.

Claudia Swartzberg, chief executive of Top Dog Education, said studies have shown that a pupil's IQ does not affect test results as much as perseverance and consistency.

“In other words, being a successful pupil is not about working hard, but about working smart.

“Working smart is about developing study habits that go beyond exam time and what is done in the classroom,” said Swartzberg.

“Since the brain, like a muscle, needs regular exercise to keep working at its best, low-level study during school breaks allows pupils to keep sharp.

“When they return to school, the adjustment to work won't be difficult, and transitioning to the new syllabus will be smoother,” she said.

Here are Top Dog's tips for successful, consistent learning:

Prepare

Doing things ahead of time can really put you ahead, so if you have down time or a break, use it as an opportunity to know what's coming up in the syllabus across your subjects.

This preparation will give you a foot forward in the classroom, and doing it without the pressure of assignments and tests will also make getting to know the material pleasant.

Willpower

It's not easy sitting down during the holidays and doing work, when you'd rather be doing other things.

However, know that there is a reward to getting ahead, and that once you get started and the activity becomes more routine, it will also get easier.

Visualise the end goal of good results, and the work will become more manageable.

Revise constantly

Review your notes and your classwork daily or weekly.

This serves as a mini study session, but it will also help you identify any areas you don't understand or need help in.

You will then be able to seek help from a teacher or extra resources like Top Dog to fill in any gaps of understanding.

Divide your work

It's easier to stick to a consistent study routine if you are giving yourself some “down time” or breaks during study sessions, and splitting up subjects so you are not focusing on just one subject over an extended time.

It also helps to mix up the platforms and methods - make use of online resources where applicable, along with textbooks, written notes and past papers.

Set a schedule

A schedule can help you divide your time, and ensure you are covering all your subjects.

It will also assist in making studying daily a habit, rather than something that's done only before a test or exam.

Test yourself

Testing yourself regularly on your subjects will ascertain how well you know your work, and if you need assistance in any areas.

Ask your teacher for past papers to test yourself.

Don't cram all your learning into one or two sessions

A successful study plan involves spreading work over shorter periods of time, rather than fitting them in the night or two before an exam.

Cramming can also cause stress, which reduces the absorption of content.

Achieving short-term study goals releases endorphins in your brain, increasing productivity and retention.

“Consistent and quality learning time over a school year trumps ‘bursts’ of studying. When you make various forms of learning a habit over time, the good results will follow,” says Swartzberg.

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