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When everything is at your fingertips and all messaging is instant, it can be difficult to stay focused. So what’s a person to do when there are distractions around every corner?

Part of the reason it is so important to discover what your individual learning style is because it will help you to identify your ‘weak spot’ when it comes to distractions. For example, if you are a visual learner, you may become easily distracted if you not able to read or look at the content. If you are an auditory learner, you may be easily distracted by silence. If you are a kinaesthetic learner, you may find yourself fidgeting and becoming distracted if you are bored and disengaged.

For all learning styles, a major distraction is technology. We have done blog posts about how technology can be useful in your exam revision, however, it can also distract from the main purpose of your exam revision, which is to revise.

Here are some tips for how to focus:

Temporarily uninstall social media apps

If your Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook feed easily distracts you then perhaps it’s a good idea to remove temptation. You can always reinstall the apps once exams are done.

Work in blocks of time

Set an alarm for 25 minutes. Work on your studies (and only your studies) for the full 25 minutes. Once the alarm goes off, set your alarm for 5-10 minutes, which you can spend doing anything you like. Be disciplined and come back to your study area for another 25 minute cycle once your break is finished, and repeat the cycle.

This is a good way of consistently getting work done because your brain knows that there is a break coming up. Train yourself to really focus on what you’re doing for the 25 minutes that you are doing it.

Have a chat with your family

If your family are constantly interrupting you, it’s time to have a chat with them. Explain that the exam revision period is temporary and that you really need them to respect your space. Agree on a signal with them (for example, a ribbon on the door or if you have your headphones on), and instruct them not to disturb you. Explain what you need from them (for example, ask your little brother to keep the television off before 6 p.m.) and promise them a reward in return for their co-operation (perhaps your little brother needs help with a school project over the weekend?).

Take a break

Often, pushing through and not giving yourself time to rest or do something other than exam revision is counter-productive. Take time out of your day to read, relax, exercise and eat properly. Even just a 30-minute break every few hours is a good idea. Your brain needs time to rest or it won’t be able to work properly. And don’t even think about skimping on sleep!

Stay organised

Keep a to-do list for the day and cross off what you have completed. A study timetable will help you to prioritise what you need to accomplish. The Ace it! study guides can also help you to keep organised because they’re everything you need to get through your exams. Tick off the sections you have revised as you get through them for an at-a-glance view of how your exam revision is going.

Using technology to study

Technology is a part of our everyday lives, and we use it to do a variety of things. In this blog post, we will discuss using technology to study. We consider technology to include:

  • Devices, such as smart phones or MP3 players
  • The Internet (including social media)
  • Computer programmes, such as Microsoft Word or Microsoft PowerPoint
  • Instant messaging (including WhatsApp and email)

Technology can be used in diverse and interesting ways and its use can be adapted to suit all of the different learning styles. This makes it an exciting addition to your study and exam revision routine. Before you start figuring out ways to include some of these tips in your own exam revision, please use caution in the following ways:

  • Ensure that you have your parents’ permission to use the Internet and/or family computer for this purpose (ask them to read this blog post about keeping you safe on the Internet).
  • Be picky about what you do include in your exam revision Not every tip that is suggested here is going to work for you. If you don’t have much time to experiment, rather pick one or two things for now and stick what you know works.
  • Ensure that the effort is worth the result. It’s no use spending four hours researching a topic that will count for only 2 marks in your exam…
  • Ensure that you stay focused while you are using the Internet or social media to study. It’s very easy to get distracted.

With that out of the way, here are some tips for using technology to study:

Create presentations for your study club

Using Microsoft PowerPoint, plus images and videos from the Internet, create a presentation that will clarify a specific topic for your study club. Split the content up amongst yourselves and set a date for the presentations, then wow your club with your knowledge while teaching them something too.

Best for: Learners with a kinaesthetic learning style

Research a topic on your own

Not sure what your teacher meant when she tried to describe something to you in class. Try to find pictures or videos that explain it to you online. These can help to solidify a concept in your mind and form a mental picture of something. This is especially useful when difficult processes are being described. For example, if you are learning about how electricity is generated and then distributed on the electricity grid, an explanatory video may help to clarify things for you.

Best for: Learners with a visual learning style

Learn ahead

Take charge of your own learning and research a topic before you cover it in class. This is a great way to get an overview of the content. It may also raise a few questions, which you can ask your teacher to explain in class. If you’re not sure what’s coming up, you can either ask your teacher to tell you, flip ahead in your textbook, look through your Ace it! study guide or download the curriculum document from the Department of Education’s website.

Best for: Learners with a kinaesthetic learning style

Create study notes that work for you

If you are tempted to write out everything you know, consider typing it out into a program like Microsoft Word. Your hand will hurt less and it will go quicker. You’ll also be able to save multiple versions so you can edit the notes down, find patterns and eventually trim the notes so that they are more manageable.

Best for: Learners with a visual learning style

Use apps on your phone to record yourself discussing the content. You can then play these back to yourself while you are at gym or travelling to school.

Best for: Learners with an auditory learning style

Learn how to use apps and software that will enable you to create interesting images and/or videos focused on the content (for example, try vimeo.com).

Best for: Learners with a kinaesthetic learning style

Get connected

Use WhatsApp and social media to create a study club. You could also collaborate with your study club using Google Drive, if you think this will work.

Best for: Learners with a visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learning style

Go paperless

You can use the calendar and scheduling apps on your smart phone, or even Google or Yahoo! calendar products to create your study timetable and to store your notes. If you are used to using a pen-and-paper diary, then by all means continue. However, if you like having everything available on your phone or computer, then this is a good option for you.

Best for: Learners with a visual learning style


Are practice exams really worth doing?

One of the most common study tips for exam revision is for learners to do practice exams. These practice exams could be past papers that your school has used, past papers from the Department of Education or even practice exam questions such as the ones found in the Ace it! study guides.

We have recommended doing practice exams for all of the different learning styles, as they are a great way to get an understanding of what you can expect in the exams. For visual learners, they are a good way to write out what you know in a format that will suit the exam. For auditory learners, they present an opportunity to practise channelling what you know into an exam-appropriate format and, for kinaesthetic learners, they are a great way to revise because you’re actually doing something rather than just revising content. This can make the information stick in your mind more clearly.

Aside from this, what are the benefits of doing practice exams as part of your exam revision?

Well, first of all, they are a great way to familiarise yourself with the exam format. Each exam you write will have a predictable format. You need to know what this looks like before you walk into the exam room so that you feel less stressed and anxious. Doing practice exams will help you to understand how the exam will look when it is put in front of you, and it gives you an opportunity to practise answering the questions in a way that will score you the maximum number of marks. Most practice exams come with a memo, which you can use to mark your efforts – this will show you when you’ve answered too little, too much, too broadly or not broadly enough.

Secondly, practice exams can help you to understand the question words. So many learners know the content but fail to understand exactly what the question is asking them to do (this often applies to auditory learners in particular). Examiners are given a very clear marking memo, so it’s essential that you are answering the question correctly – not only in terms of the content but also in terms of what the examiner wants to see. For example, if the question asks you to “List…” you should not write a descriptive paragraph. Working with practice exams and their memos can help you refine this skill.

Lastly, practice exams can help to show up any gaps in your exam revision. You may think that you have covered all of your bases only to find that you actually don’t know enough about a particular topic in order to be able to answer questions on it in the exam. It’s essential that you build in time on your study timetable to do practice exams. Try to avoid doing this the day before the actual exam though, because that will not give you enough time to self-correct and go back to a particular section.

As you can see, practice exams are an essential part of exam revision. That’s why every Ace it! study guide contains practice exam questions.

Helping your teen cope with exam stress

In a previous blog post (Coping with exam stress), we discussed the importance of eating well, getting enough sleep, staying organised and making time for leisure activities and relaxation.

If you’re worried about your teen, and feeling unsure about how to help them cope with the pressures of exam revision, then read on.

Generally, stress and anxiety can be managed. It’s important to try and understand why your teen is feeling so stressed (and how they’re showing it). Without the proper tools and coping strategies, many people lash out in anger and frustration when they are stressed. Sometimes people’s stress can result in apathy and lethargy. The person (your teen) may be so stressed out that they feel overwhelmed and incapable of getting anything done.

Your teen is probably stressed for one, or all, of the following reasons:

  • They are feeling pressure to do well (from you, school, teachers or themselves)
  • They are feeling overwhelmed
  • They are feeling insecure or a lack of confidence
  • They are feeling anxious because they do not know what to expect.

Here’s how to help:

Remind your child that their best is good enough

Take the pressure off a little by asking your child to set realistic goals and expectations. It’s essential that you listen to your teen at this point and try to understand what they think they can do. Of course we always want to have high expectations for our children (and we should have these!) but we should also realise what is achievable.

For example, if your child’s extra-mural activities are eating into their exam revision time, something has to give. You may also find that there is a particular section or subject that your child is finding very difficult. Just because your child was once good at Maths, doesn’t mean that they will always be!

Listen carefully and try to help where you can. And align your expectations to what your child is able to achieve – without pressure.

Provide the right tools and environment to ease the pressure

It’s essential that your child eats well and gets enough sleep throughout the year, but most especially during the times that they are focused on exam revision. Help out by stocking the pantry and fridge with suitable food. Try to keep the noise down after about 10pm during the week to ensure that your child can get a restful night’s sleep.

Encourage your child to get organised and informed

Ask your teen to write a list of things that are causing worry and anxiety, and then help to draw up a plan to resolve these issues. Often a lack of clarity and information can make someone feel anxious, so encourage your child to ask questions about the format of the exam, the exam writing process and any other questions they may have, which are causing stress.

If your child is stressed about something that you have control over or can help with, then help to clear things up. For example, if your child is worried about transportation on exam days, try to come up with a plan and outline this for your child so that they can stop worrying about it.

Build your child up

A confident and secure child will do better and feel better than a child who is insecure and suffering from a lack of confidence. Remind your teen that you love them and that you are proud of them. Recognise when your child has tried their best, as opposed to only giving praise when they have met your expectations.

Avoid financial or material rewards for good marks. It’s important that your child learn to feel intrinsically rewarded when they do their best. Also avoid rewards that revolve around food, as this can create complicated relationships with food and emotional states.

Ace it! may not be able to help much with the emotional stress of exams but the study guides can help with exam revision by working out learners’ individual learning style, outlining the content and preparing for exams. The more prepared a learner is for the exams, the less stressed they will feel.

ICYMI: Exam-related blog posts

Are you feeling stressed out by the exams? Here is a round up of our most popular exam-related blog posts in case you missed it.

No matter your learning style, we’ve got handy exam revision tips for you:

Tips for visual learners

Tips for auditory learners

Tips for kinaesthetic learners

If you’re organised, you’re more likely to be productive, which reduces stress and anxiety. Set up a study timetable – it’s not too late.

Are exams already in session? Read these two blogs to help you get through it:

The art of writing exams

Coping with exam stress

Know your EMS from NS

It can feel a little overwhelming when your child enters high school. It becomes especially difficult when they have to choose the subjects they’ll be taking from Grade 10 to Grade 12. Just what is Economic and Management Sciences anyway? Here’s a quick round up of the high school subjects in the South African school system.

Economic and Management Sciences
(taken from Grade 8 to Grade 9)

EMS, as it’s known, is a subject that has elements of basic accounting, entrepreneurship, business and economics. The subject aims to encourage a sense of entrepreneurship in learners, as well as to give them a very basic understanding of common accounting documents that they are likely to come across in their lives. The subject also touches on overarching economic principles, such as supply and demand and GDP.

Learning style most likely to enjoy it: kinaesthetic learning style

Ace it! Economic and Management Sciences is available for Grade 8 and Grade 9, and also in Afrikaans

Social Sciences
(taken from Grade 8 to Grade 9)

A mixture of Geography and History, this is a basic introduction to South African and world history, and South African and world Geography. The subject promotes a sense of responsible citizenry and critical reading.

Learning style most likely to enjoy it: visual learning style

Natural Sciences
(taken from Grade 8 to Grade 9)



This subject is foundational Biology, Chemistry and Physics. The subject touches on life and living, environmental biology, electricity, work and power and more. It provides a good knowledge base for Life Sciences and Physical Sciences taken from Grade 10. Even if your learner doesn’t want to take science beyond Grade 9, this subject is valuable for understanding their world and their bodies.

Learning style most likely to enjoy it: visual learning style

Ace it! Natural Sciences is available for Grade 8 and Grade 9, and also in Afrikaans

(taken from Grade 8 to Grade 9)






This subject can be considered as a cross between woodwork and home economics. However, it’s much more that that. The subject aims to teach learners how design can solve everyday problems. Basic physics is incorporated as well as design skills (which relates to the design of actual products, as well as the design of presentations and proposals). This is a useful subject and learners with a kinaesthetic learning style will enjoy its hands-on approach.

Learning style most likely to enjoy it: kinaesthetic learning style

Ace it! Technology is available for Grade 8 and Grade 9, and also in Afrikaans

(compulsory in Grade 8 and 9; optional from Grade 10)



No introduction needed. The techniques may be slightly different, the textbooks updated but Maths is pretty much as it was when you did it in high school.

Learning style most likely to enjoy it: kinaesthetic learning style

Ace it! Mathematics is available for Grade 8 to Grade 12, and also in Afrikaans

Mathematical Literacy
(optional from Grade 10)

If your child decides not to take Mathematics from Grade 10, they will do Mathematical Literacy. This subject aims to give learners useful Maths and basic accounting skills that they will use throughout their lives. Important concepts covered include financial literacy (we could all use a bit more of that).

Learning style most likely to enjoy it: kinaesthetic learning style

Ace it! Mathematical Literacy is available for Grade 10 to Grade 12, and also in Afrikaans

Home Language
(compulsory throughout high school)

Currently, the only Home Languages available at high school level are English and Afrikaans. Learners focus on literature, speaking, writing and listening skills.

Learning style most likely to enjoy it: visual learning style, auditory learning style

First Additional Language
(compulsory throughout high school)

The language that your child takes for the FAL will depend on the school. The skills covered are pretty similar to HL but adapted to suit the level of a second-language speaker.

Learning style most likely to enjoy it: visual learning style, auditory learning style

Ace it! English FAL is available from Grade 8 to 12

Ace it! Afrikaans FAL is available from Grade 8 to 12

Ace it! IsiZulu FAL is available from Grade 10 to 12

Life Sciences
(optional from Grade 10)











This subject was previously known as Biology.

Learning style most likely to enjoy it: visual learning style

Ace it! Life Sciences is available from Grade 10 to 12, and also in Afrikaans

Physical Sciences
(optional from Grade 10)











This subject includes Physics and Chemistry.

Learning style most likely to enjoy it: visual learning style, kinaesthetic learning style

Ace it! Physical Sciences is available from Grade 10 to 12, and also in Afrikaans

(optional from Grade 10)











This subject is taught in a very practical way. Learners get plenty of opportunity to learn about and use the common Accounting ledgers. The theoretical side focuses on ethics and general accounting principles.

Learning style most likely to enjoy it: kinaesthetic learning style

Ace it! Accounting is available from Grade 10 to 12, and also in Afrikaans

Business Studies
(optional from Grade 10)











Along with Accounting, Business Studies is a natural extension of EMS. It looks at overarching economic concepts and how businesses operate within those constraints. The subject aims to promote entrepreneurship.

Learning style most likely to enjoy it: kinaesthetic learning style

Ace it! Business Studies is available from Grade 10 to 12, and also in Afrikaans

(optional from Grade 10)











As one of our most important industries, it’s no surprise that Tourism is a popular subject at high school level. Touching on many professions under the hospitality industry banner, this subject is quite theoretical. This subject plays nicely with Geography.

Learning style most likely to enjoy it: visual learning style, auditory learning style

Ace it! Tourism is available from Grade 10 to 12, and also in Afrikaans

(optional from Grade 10)











This subject is so much more than learning how to read a map. It touches on issues of population, settlement and environmental issues too. Updated to include advances in GPS and the latest environmental issues, this subject is a good option for your child for a wide variety of future career paths.

Learning style most likely to enjoy it: visual learning style

Ace it! Geography is available from Grade 10 to 12, and also in Afrikaans

Coping with exam stress

When you are stressed and overwhelmed, seemingly straightforward tasks – like exam revision – can feel so much harder than they should. People cope with stress in different ways – some of these coping mechanisms are healthy, while others are unhealthy and unproductive. Learning to manage your stress, and to use coping mechanisms that will channel those feelings into productive feelings is an important life skill.

Believe it or not, a little bit of stress is a good thing. It keeps us focused and engaged. It also usually shows that we understand the value in something or how important it is. This is why people often feel stressed during exams.

Too much stress, however, can have the opposite effect and leave us feeling overwhelmed. This, in turn, leads to negative behaviours or unhealthy coping mechanisms, which only worsen the situation and create a vicious cycle.

Let’s look at some unhealthy ways of coping with stress:

  • Substance abuse
  • Lashing out at others in anger or frustration
  • Overeating or under-eating
  • Emotional withdrawal from friends and family
  • Procrastination
  • Excessive exercising

When people feel stressed, they are often unable to concentrate on one task at a time. Stress, or feeling overwhelmed, can also lead to insomnia, or problems getting to asleep (or staying asleep). If you’ve ever felt like your mind is racing and you simply cannot calm down, then you are probably suffering from stress.

Learning to deal with stress positively means that you will be able to focus better, feel more relaxed and stay healthy. You will be able to cope with the pressures and demands of exam revision without feeling overwhelmed.

Here are some good ways to cope with stress:

  1. Eat well

A diet that is too high in sugar or unhealthy fat will put additional strain on your body. It’s important to eat a balanced diet, as this will keep your body and brain healthy and in tip-top condition.

  1. Get enough (quality) sleep

Getting enough sleep is essential and will ensure that your brain is rested and able to cope with the demands of exam revision. Teenagers need at least 8 hours of sleep per day, and this sleep should be quality sleep. In order to achieve a really restful night’s sleep, try the following tips:

  • Have a good sleep routine, and stick to it. This will alert your body to the fact that it needs to start shutting down for the day.
  • No electronics before bedtime – read a book instead. Try charging your phone in another room or, at least, putting it on charge somewhere you can’t reach it. Either switch it off, or put it on Night Mode so that it doesn’t beep or light up during the night.
  • Write a to-do list before you get into bed. If you find that your mind races the minute your light is switched off, then try writing a to-do list before you go to bed. This takes the pressure of you because you know that you will deal with everything you need to do in the morning. You can also write in a journal – putting your thoughts on paper can be useful for helping your brain to switch off.
  • Don’t eat a heavy meal or drink too many fluids just before bedtime.
  • Cut out caffeine. This includes chocolate and hot chocolate. Sorry.
  1. Stay organised

It is easy to feel overwhelmed when you haven’t got a plan. Make time to put together a comprehensive study timetable. When you feel like you have some control over the situation, you will probably find that you are a little less stressed.

  1. Make time for yourself

Make time in your daily schedule to exercise, relax and spend time with friends and family. Your exam revision is your top priority right now, but that doesn’t mean that you should only study. It’s important for your overall well being to look after yourself and to connect regularly with people who love and support you.

TIP: It may be helpful to disconnect from social media during exam time. The added pressures of social media can add to your stress levels. Rather uninstall the apps for a short period so that you are able to focus on your studies and connecting with people in real life.

  1. Understand that it’s temporary

It’s important for you to remember that this is not going to last forever. Often, when we are in the middle of exam revision, we feel like we cannot see an end to it all. There is one! Hang up a calendar with the day of your last exam circled in red, cross out each day until you get to it – knowing that it’s coming will help you feel less hopeless.

Lastly, if you are feeling overwhelmed or hopeless for a long period of time and if you are having depressive and suicidal thoughts, talk to your parents, teacher, principal, religious or community leader, or contact an organisation like ChildLine. You are not alone.

Eating for success

High school can be a stressful time, which is why we have always advised that you take care of your overall wellbeing. There are plenty of study tips that we can give you to improve your exam revision, but those will only go so far. You also need to be taking care of your physical and mental wellbeing by eating well, exercising and finding time to relax.

Eating well is essential for good health. It’s unnecessary to overthink every bite you put into your mouth but you should understand some basic principles of healthy eating.

You can’t go wrong with plants

Most of your meals should consist of vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, baby marrow, carrots, beetroot, aubergine/eggplant/brinjal, cucumbers, etc. Vegetables are full of important vitamins and minerals to keep your body at optimal health. There are plenty of ways to cook and prepare vegetables, so do some experimenting.

Fruit is also a healthy addition to your diet. Some types of fruit are high in sugar so be careful not to overdo it. Try adding a piece of fruit to your breakfast meal, and one other during the day as a snack. It’s easy to overdo the dried fruit too so, even though it’s delicious, try not to have too often.

Protein: not only for meat-eaters

Protein is essential for the body. It helps to repair and build cells – including brain cells. Protein also tends to keep you fuller for longer, so adding it to meals can prevent hunger pangs, which can be distracting during classes and study sessions, and overeating.

Protein sources include meat, fish, chicken, eggs, dairy products like cottage cheese, and peanut and other nut butters.

If you are vegetarian or vegan (whether for religious, health or moral reasons), you should still be adding protein to your diet in some form. Sources include beans, nut butters, quinoa and lentils.

Carbs are not as evil as their reputation suggests

Carbohydrate-rich foods should be included in your diet in reasonable amounts. These include brown rice, potatoes, wholegrain bread and other wholegrain products and oats.

Avoid processed and sugary carb-heavy foods such as cereals, pastries, biscuits and white breads and pastas.

Healthy fats: Essential for a hardworking teenager

Don’t be afraid to add healthy fats to your meals, as these are essential for optimal brain function. These include avocados, olive oil, coconut oil and nuts.

Unhealthy fats, found in baked and fried foods, as well as sweets and desserts, should be limited and only eaten occasionally as a treat.

Don’t forget about your beverages

It’s important not to forget about what you are drinking on a daily basis. Sugary drinks like sodas should be avoided. Rather reach for clean, fresh water to quench your thirst.

If you feel like something warm, herbal teas are also a good option and better for you than coffees and hot chocolate.

Eating well doesn’t need to be difficult. You simply need to use your common sense and eat to nourish your mind and body.

What to do about those results

When the exams are over and the results are in, you may feel one of two ways about your child’s report card: thrilled or underwhelmed.

If you feel thrilled, then good for you! Clearly your child’s hard work is paying off. However, if you’re not satisfied with the results and can’t help feeling, well, a bit disappointed, it can be difficult to contain these emotions in front of your child.

Here are some tips on how to handle your child’s exam results, whether they are excellent or not so excellent.

Consider how your child is feeling about their poor results

Before you react to your child’s poor exam results, consider how they are feeling. It’s no use piling on the negative sentiment if they’re already a bit down in the dumps. Tell your child that you will need to have a discussion about the results but put it off for one more day. Then spend the day commiserating and just being there for your child. One more day won’t make a difference, and right now your child needs to know that they have your support.

Have a meeting

Set a time and date to meet with your child in a neutral spot, such as the kitchen or dining room table. A coffee shop or restaurant is even better. Once you and your child are settled, ask them to explain to you how they approached their exam revision and where they feel they went wrong. Try not to interrupt and certainly don’t interject with disparaging or negative comments.

If it seems clear that your child put no effort into their exam revision, then you will need to find a way to motivate them to do better. Perhaps this is where trying to find a different approach to studying is a good idea. Explore the possibility that your child is unmotivated because they are struggling to keep up or bored… Investigate study techniques that are suited to different learning styles.

If your child tells you that they tried the best they could, believe them. In a case like this small tweaks to a study routine might be the answer. Ask how the actual exams went – many children do just fine throughout the school year only to find the high-stress exam days challenging. Writing exams is a skill that anyone can learn.

The Ace it! study guides includes information and study tips that can help your child find a study method that works best for them.

Don’t have tunnel vision

Getting a solid education is absolutely essential, there’s no doubt about that. However, it’s not the only marker of success. A child’s self-esteem is sensitive – be proud of the things that your child is good at, and try not to be overly critical about the things that they aren’t so good at.

A child with a good self-esteem can do much better than a child with a low self-esteem.

Your child may be good at sports, have artistic flair or be excellent at working with their hands. Focus on your child’s loyalty, kind heart and good manners. Don’t be so easily frustrated with them; rather focus on how hard they try and how they continue to persevere.

You clearly have big dreams for your child, and this makes you a good parent. Try not to impose your own wishes and dreams onto your child, and to rather help them achieve their own.

The art of writing exams

So you’ve done your revision, you’re feeling relaxed and it’s time to write your exams… Do you feel in control, or do your palms get all sweaty the minute you walk through the exam room doors?

If the thought of writing the exam makes you nervous, don’t panic. A reasonable amount of nerves is a good thing. It shows that you’re taking the exams seriously, and gives you enough of an adrenaline burst to keep you on form and alert when you need to be.

However, don’t let your nerves get the better of you to the point that you forget everything you’ve spent so much time and effort revising!

You should approach your exams with a cool head and a plan of attack. Here are some tips to help you ensure that you’re doing the best you can:

  1. Prepare for the exam the night before you write it

By this time you should not be studying any new sections. Spend a few hours the day before the exam revising what you need to know, and then close your books and try to relax. Set out your uniform, pack your bag and double-check your exam timetable so that when you wake up the next morning, everything is ready to go (including you!).

  1. Eating and drinking before the exam

Be sure to eat a good breakfast but don’t overdo it. Eat something that will keep you fuller for longer, for example a bowl of oats with some milk and peanut butter stirred through. Add a piece of fruit and you’re good to go!

It’s important to drink lots of water throughout the day but try not to drink too much water, tea or coffee before your exam. This will prevent you from being horribly uncomfortable and unable to go to the toilet in the middle of the exam session.

  1. Pack the right stationery (and some extras)

Find out exactly what you need to bring to the exam and make sure that you’ve packed it. Do this the night before the exam so that you’re not running around looking for something essential two minutes before you need to be out the door.

Always bring spare pens and, if possible and necessary, a spare calculator. Just in case. Also, don’t forget your pencil sharpener and eraser. A watch or small clock is also a good idea (you won’t be allowed to use your cell phone, and you may be too far from the clock on the wall to see it clearly).

  1. Study the exam timetable

It sounds obvious but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t take the time to read their exam timetable carefully. If you don’t read the timetable carefully, you could miss your exam or prepare for the wrong one. Make sure you know:

  • what time your exam starts
  • where you’ll be writing it (and how to get there)
  • which exam it is (for some subjects, you will write more than one exam and each exam will test different sections of the syllabus)
  • what you need for the exam (for example, a calculator)
  1. Be early

Arrive at the exam venue with plenty of time to spare. Don’t spend this extra time discussing the exam or trying to cram though – spend it chatting about other stuff, or simply sit quietly by yourself.

  1. Use your time wisely

You will get some time at the start of the exam to read through the paper. Make sure that you use this time to plan your approach to the exam. It’s important that you know exactly what is in the exam before you start writing it so that you can make decisions about what to answer, what to leave, what to come back to and how long to spend on each question or section.

Make sure that you read the instructions carefully so that you don’t answer questions you don’t need to. For example, you may write an exam that requires you to choose between two questions. In this case, answering both questions would be a waste of time (and the examiner would not be able to mark both of them anyway).

Make a mental note of the questions that you are sure you know how to answer. Estimate how long you have to spend on each section of the paper and don’t go over this time. You can always come back to any unfinished questions if you have spare time at the end.

Plan to finish the exam at least 10 to 15 minutes before the official finish time. If it is normal for you to run out of time when you are writing exams, then try to first answer the questions that you know the answers to and leave the others. That way you are guaranteed marks. You can then use any leftover time to go back and try to answer the questions that you are unsure about.

  1. Answer the question

Make sure that you understand exactly what the question is asking of you. If the question asks you for a list, don’t spend time on detailed descriptions. If the question asks you to discuss something, don’t provide a list. If you are asked to compare things, you are being asked to explain how things are alike or different to one another.

The best way to ensure that you are answering questions properly is to highlight, underline or circle the most important points in a question. Refer back to this often as you are answering the question so that you stay on the right track.

Another important tip is to make sure that if a question asks for FIVE things that you only provide five things. In a case like this, the examiners are instructed to only accept the first five options given – they will not sift through your list of 20 things to find the five correct ones.

  1. Let it go+

When the exam is over, it’s over. Don’t dwell on it, don’t think about it, don’t stress about it: it is done. You can deal with the results when you get them. In the meantime, there’s no point fretting over something you can no longer control. Move on and think about your next exam.

Remember that the Ace it! study guides have plenty of practice exam questions for you to use as practice. These will give an idea of what to expect in the exam, as well as guidance on how to answer the questions for the maximum number of marks.

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