At the end of this month, the country's latest cohort of aspiring matriculants will begin to write the 2017 National Senior Certificate examinations.
It is a six-week event that doesn't just test what these South African teens have learnt and mastered over the past years; it also puts their self-esteem, their outlook on life, their courage and their resilience on trial.
We asked Raydene Naidoo, Counselling Psychologist and Head of Work Integrated Learning at SACAP (the South African College of Applied Psychology) to provide some essential tips on how the current Grade 12 students' can prepare themselves optimally for the mental, physical and emotional rigours ahead:
1. Know Yourself
Before you plan, before you draw up your study schedule, it's important to take the time to do some self-reflection. You need to think about things like how much sleep you need, the activities that are important to supporting your well-being and whatever else you need to operate at your best academically.
Think about, and then also make a list of your strengths and your weaknesses. This is very important because you want to make study plans and devise a schedule that optimizes your strengths and mitigates your weaknesses.
2. Identify your peak times
We all have particular times of day when we are most effective, and this differs from person to person. For instance, some people are raring to go in the mornings while others struggle to get themselves started.
Some fade in the evenings and others find that they are highly productive at night when life around them is quieter and still. Once you know your peak times, schedule your most challenging studies exactly then, while topics and subjects that are much easier for you can be scheduled during your off-peak hours.
3. Don't just think about it, create your study timetable, share it and commit to it
Give real form to your study timetable. Map it out in a graphic form. Make sure it includes your study breaks and covers all the work you need to do.
Stick it up prominently in your study space so that you can see where you are at any moment, at a glance. Think of it as your trusty guide over the next weeks - there to help ensure you don't get any last-minute surprises or setbacks that feel like disasters.
Sharing it with your peers and family members can also help to keep you on a committed track. Monitor your progress on a daily basis.
4. Plan for balance
Yes, the most important thing you need to do over the upcoming weeks is study and it does take precedence over a lot of other things in your life at this time. However, you still need some balance in your life, and you can plan for this.
It is important to look after your mental and emotional well-being as this affects your intellectual performance. Even though you need to be very focused on your studies, you will still need time to relax, time for physical activity and time for socializing.
5. Commit to your well-being
Studying for, and writing your matric exams will probably rate as one of the most stressful experiences of your life. There's no better time than to care deeply and well about yourself.
The upside is that in being tested this way, you have the opportunity to discover new and deeper aspects of your strength and resilience. You can think of the experience as being on a 'Hero's Journey' where you want to be facing challenges with all your wits about you so that you can achieve the best results possible.
For that to happen, you need to ensure your physical and emotional health. It's important to eat healthily, get enough sleep, be physically active and feel connected to the people who support your success in life.
Parents play an important role in supporting their matriculants and ensuring that they go into the exams in the best frame of mind possible. Naidoo has some tips to help parents best support their matriculant:
1. When facing a stressed and anxious matriculant, replace a 'been there, done that, now you can too' approach with 'I understand' and encouragement.
2. Acknowledge your child's efforts. Noticing and affirming their choices such as turning down a party to study or going for a quick run before getting back to the books can lift the spirits and instil confidence.
3. Keep your expectations about this particular child's matric process and outcomes realistic and make adjustments if they are not. Each child is different, and your child currently going through matric won't be going through it like older siblings might have.
4. See where you can help by temporarily relieving your matriculant of time-consuming family responsibilities. For instance, it is likely to be appreciated if they are not expected to say, babysit younger siblings as they might usually do.
5. Model a healthy balance by inviting them out for walk or suggesting watching a favourite TV programme when they've been locked in studies for hours.