by Noorjehan Joosub is a qualified Counselling Psychologist who runs a private practice and lectures at the University of Johannesburg. Being passionate about education, she volunteers in a tutoring program for struggling learners.
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.
Here are some psychological techniques learners can employ to assist their performance:
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. 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 https://www.onetonline.org or consult a psychologist for a complete career counselling assessment.
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. 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.
Remember there is life after the Grade 12 exams, and what’s more, it’s a life worth working hard towards!