Fol­low these prac­ti­cal tips to avoid be­ing stymied by blanks dur­ing ex­ams

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - THEMBEKA DLAMUKA

WITH ma­tric ex­ams un­der way and other grades’ ex­ams not far be­hind, ed­u­ca­tion ex­pert Dr Gil­lian Mooney, of the In­de­pen­dent In­sti­tute of Ed­u­ca­tion (IIE), has shared some ad­vice de­signed to help pupils avoid those dreaded blanks when they see their exam pa­per for the first time.

She also ad­dressed is­sues such as run­away nerves, ad­vis­ing pupils how to re­gain their equi­lib­rium and con­fi­dence to tackle the exam.

“Writ­ing an exam can be a very stress­ful ex­pe­ri­ence for many learn­ers, even when they were dili­gent in their re­vi­sion,” Mooney said.

The exam en­vi­ron­ment could be un­fa­mil­iar and daunt­ing. The en­vi­ron­ment was for­mal, with rules about where to sit, what you can do and what you can have with you.

Exam nerves were quite nor­mal, she said.

But when pupils be­come so over­whelmed that they can­not re­mem­ber the ma­te­rial they’ve spent so much time re­view­ing, nerves can turn to panic.

Mooney has the fol­low­ing sug­ges­tions for pupils:

“Firstly, when you re­ceive the pa­per, care­fully read through all the in­struc­tions and ev­ery page of the pa­per.

“Then re-read all the in­struc­tions. This will give you a sense of what is ex­pected of you.

“Re­mind your­self that even if you do forget some de­tails, it is un­likely that you will com­pletely forget ev­ery­thing.

“While read­ing through the pa­per, mark all the ques­tions that you can an­swer. Start with these ques­tions first.

“That will give you some con­fi­dence and al­low your mind some time to process, as well as to start ac­cu­mu­lat­ing some marks for the pa­per.”

If you still feel over­whelmed:

Don’t panic: If you feel pan­icked, take long, slow and deep breaths.

Do­ing this will calm you phys­i­cally. Get­ting the phys­i­cal panic un­der con­trol is an im­por­tant step in calm­ing your mind.

Calm down: Once you have calmed your body, it is time to calm your mind. Give your­self a men­tal pep-talk by re­peat­ing to your­self: “I am calm. I have worked hard. I know my work.” You can also give your­self this pep-talk while you are tak­ing deep breaths.

Get back to busi­ness: Once you are feel­ing a bit calmer, go back to the ques­tions you be­lieved you could not an­swer. Try to jot down any­thing and ev­ery­thing that you can re­mem­ber about the ma­te­rial. You can al­ways cross this out to in­di­cate it should not be marked.

Vi­su­alise: If you can­not re­mem­ber any of the ma­te­rial, try to use some mem­ory tricks to as­sist you. For ex­am­ple, try to vi­su­alise sit­ting in class when the ma­te­rial was cov­ered, or try to pic­ture your­self in your study area with your notes in front of you. Of­ten think­ing about the con­text of the ma­te­rial can help you to re­mem­ber it.

Re­con­struct your mem­o­ries:

If you are able to jot down notes about the ma­te­rial, re­view these notes and see how the in­for­ma­tion you have re­mem­bered re­lates to the ques­tion.

Try to re­for­mu­late your notes into a re­sponse to the ques­tion posed.

Re­mem­ber the big pic­ture:

Keep in mind that what you are usu­ally marked on, is your abil­ity to an­swer the ques­tion. In the worst-case sce­nario, where you can­not re­mem­ber a sin­gle piece of in­for­ma­tion from your course ma­te­rial, sim­ply try to an­swer the ques­tion from a com­mon sense per­spec­tive. You may find you do ac­tu­ally know quite a bit about the ques­tion, and may be awarded some marks for your gen­eral knowl­edge.

Do­ing this may also prompt you to re­mem­ber the course ma­te­rial.

“Stay­ing calm is your most im­por­tant weapon in the exam room, as is keep­ing a sense of per­spec­tive at all times, and en­deav­our­ing only to do your best in which­ever sit­u­a­tion you find your­self,” Mooney ad­vised.

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