Matric Exams hacks for effective studying … and what to do during study breaks

Stress associated with studying can be reduced through support from a variety of sources: building ourselves emotionally through support from friends and family, taking time to meditate and being conscious of creating a supportive inner dialogue which constantly encourages you. Getting your body moving and keeping it healthy as well as asking for help whether academic or emotional, are as important as the efforts that you put into your studies.

Izi Maloyi, Student Counsellor at Boston City Campus & Business School provides the following tips for effective studying:

1. Study the way you are examined: if your exam requires solving problems or writing essays make sure you can answer those types of questions under time pressure.

2. Create exam type conditions, set your timer, and complete past exam papers.

3. Set daily and weekly study goals that are realistic and achievable. Break your learning down into topics and chapters.

4. A great way to memorise your academic notes is by teaching someone else. Create a study group, learn with a classmate or even get a family member as a stand in! 

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5. DO not underestimate the power of a great sleep! Avoid changing your sleep patterns during exams; you need at least 7–8 hours sleep a day. Missing out on sleep not only affects your mood, it reduces your brain’s capacity to function effectively.

6. Eat a balanced diet: avoid foods that contain caffeine and sugar. These two products mess with your energy and concentration levels.

7. Exercise is essential!! Vegging out feels good but for physical stress relief and to keep your body feeling strong, you need to move.  Go for a brisk walk with a friend or a brief run around your block. The most important advice from the research carried out in the past few years is the simple fact that an hour of daily exercise may be the most important single factor to maintaining a healthy mind and body.

8. Relaxation is essential too. Call a friend, yes that old-fashioned voice call! Friendship lowers stress levels.  

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9. Avoid watching YouTube videos, series or TV after studying. Research shows TV interrupts the transfer of learned information into the long-term memory.

10. Quality versus quantity: focus on the quality of the study you are doing rather than how much you do. Staring at a page full of highlighted words is not as effective as working with someone who asks you questions that you need to answer.

Izi provides a few extra tips regarding your diet.

• Breakfast really is the most important meal as it fuels both your body and mind well into the day.  A cup of coffee does not equal breakfast. Protein is brain food – eat an egg, or a banana with peanut butter.

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• Water is the best drink! Keep a bottle on your study desk. Slice in some lemon or cucumber to give it some taste and make it attractive – it helps to motivate you to drink it!

• Before an exam, go for protein foods over carbohydrate foods. Carbohydrates turn to sugars and burn out of your system, leaving you with a sugar low.

“While exams, results, job and other pressures can add extra pressure in your life – remember that there is nothing more important than YOU,” says Maloyi.

"There will always be a plan B. Even if you can’t see it, a friend, family member, colleague, fellow student, manager or lecturer can help you find a solution. STRENGTH is asking for help, and STRENGTH is creating new pathways when plan A didn’t work out. Never give up. Be your own hero,” concludes Maloyi.

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