Matric Tips- Hurdles and High Jumps in the Grade 12 Final Examinations

Written by on October 3, 2012 in Parenting

by Noorjehan Joosub Counselling Psychologist


Don’t be fooled by the calendar. There are only as many days in the year as you make use of. One man gets only a week’s value out of a year while another man gets a full year’s value out of a week.

Charles Richards

In the wake of the recent excitement around the London 2012 Olympics, we have national event of a similar scale coming up: the Grade 12 final exams. Working at different tertiary institutions in Gauteng has taught me how significant performance in this last stretch of a 12 year marathon is. For many parents, teachers and learners, it is the culmination of many years of blood, sweat and tears, yet like a grand theatre performance, it is not losing your nerve when on stage, or in this case in those school halls on the morning of exams, that counts.

At the same time one has to feel some wariness when evaluating the value of exams in general. One of the most intelligent people of all time, Albert Einstein, famously remarked:

One had to cram all this stuff into one’s mind for the examinations, whether one liked it or not. This coercion had such a deterring effect on me that, after I had passed the final examination, I found the consideration of any scientific problems distasteful to me for an entire year.”

What then, should be the attitude students should have when approaching the final exams? Research has shown that the most successful athletes are those who perform at the same standard whether it is the Olympics or a friendly competition in their hometown. What sets them apart is that they are intrinsically motivated to perform at their best, to compete against their own personal best, no matter what are the external circumstances.

. There are also certain psychological techniques learners can employ to assist their performance:

Relaxation techniques:

Stress is good as long as it springs you into action. However excessive stress can have the effect of lowering performance so each learner should find constructive ways to let the load off. Stretching, Pilates and Yoga are excellent to relieve muscle tension, and even a slow walk could assist internal tranquillity. Relaxation should always be accompanied by deep breathing techniques as this increases the oxygen flow to the brain, improving concentration and memory.

Performance is dependent on how much you study, but mental toughness is an important component as well. Mentally rehearsing the exam situation, imagining yourself calm and in control, and writing down everything you remember within the specified time limits is a great way to program your mind before the exam. This is a technique used by many professional athletes to prepare for stressful competitive events. Being in a calm and tranquil environment and ensuring you are relaxed when doing the visualisation exercises helps to ensure that when you are actually in the exam situation, you are relaxed as well.

Although the means may seem dreary, the end is worth it: the freedom of graduating from high school with a Senior Certificate that affords you many opportunities. The world has become a dynamic and exciting place and nowhere is this felt as much as in all the tertiary opportunities out there. So when you feel your energy waning, think of all the exciting opportunities waiting for you. If you are not sure what path to take after Grade 12, look at sites such as or consult a psychologist for a complete career counselling assessment.

Time management
Ask yourself is time controlling you, or are you controlling your time? Procrastination, the act of delaying things you need to do and finding distractions is most prevalent before exams. Become aware of it and make time work for you, not the other way around.

Work with your learning style
Some students need music to concentrate, others need absolute quiet. Knowing what puts your brain in “the zone” is an important component of priming it for performance. One learner would paste his notes on the ceiling and use binoculars to study to keep his interest up. There are no right or wrong ways to learn, as long as your brain is absorbing the content.

One step at a time:
As much as we feel multitasking is making us productive, research has shown that it is actually harmful for brain health and does not increase productivity. It is much better to focus on one thing at a time and do it properly. As the old adage goes, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Even though the load may seem overwhelming at times breaking things into small components and working with one at a time is the best way to achieve your potential.
I’d like to wish all the Grade 12’s and their families and schools a lot of luck and perseverance over this momentous period. Remember there is life after the Grade 12 exams, and what’s more, it’s a life worth working hard towards!

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