Top 5 tips from education experts to help matric students

By Optimi | 02 Jun, 2022

Top 5 tips we’ve gathered from experts to help matric students:


Have a dedicated study space

According to Dr Nicolaas Matthee, Instructional Designer at Optimi, adding information to your long-term memories requires a dedicated study space. Whether you’re sharing a room with a sibling or have plenty of space for yourself, studying in bed (for instance) is not a good way to make sure that all the hours you’re putting in will pay off. Have a space like a desk that is purely for studying.

Why is having a dedicated study space so important?

Dr Matthee explains that this has to do with cognitive load theory. This means the amount of strain you’re putting on your memory. To reduce strain and ensure success when you’re in that cold exam room, you should study in the best way possible.

Read more about Dr Matthee’s explanation of cognitive load theory here

Use past papers to study

Professor Rita Niemann offers a bunch of tips on studying for exams but one of them is to use past papers. Past papers give you a glimpse into the types of questions you can expect in your exams. Remember that you should still study all your work, not just that which is in a past paper! But what does make a past paper useful is seeing the WAY the questions will be asked.

How can you access past papers if your teacher hasn’t given you any, or you’ve already used the ones you have? That’s easy – Optimi Classroom has over 700 past papers for students in every subject. You can find them online here.

Plan your study sessions with frequent breaks

Want to know what the optimal time is for a study session? According to Danielle Barfoot, who has experience as a home-schooling mother and writer, the ideal time is 45 minutes. After that, stand up, take a stretch, and breathe deeply for a few minutes before diving back into your studies. Although taking a break can feel counterintuitive, you’ll see the difference in how well you start actually remembering what you’re studying.

This requires planning ahead – cramming the night before an exam does not give you the space you need to study efficiently. Look at each subject and work out how long you need to study it to get through all the material, and then create a study schedule for yourself. This may feel like extra work now, but future you will thank you when you write the exam!

Study in a group

One of the benefits of planning your study sessions ahead of time is that you can study in a group rather than sitting alone. Collaborative study helps you feel positive about your work and stay motivated. Having someone else studying next to you stops you from getting up and watching a movie or going on social media.

Professor Rita Niemann explains that learning in a group helps you to learn in a way that sticks in your long-term memory through discussion and group problem-solving. She recommends that your group be no larger than 5 people, although a 2-person group can work really well too.

Think about your thinking

Simply by reading this blog post you’re already engaging in what’s called metacognition – which means thinking about your thinking. Metacognition helps you recognise what thinking patterns you’re currently using so that you can improve on them or change something to get a better outcome. Here are two ways you can think about your thinking and improve your marks through more self-awareness:

  • Make a realistic prediction of your exam mark for each subject, and why you think that you’ll get that mark. This will make you think about the amount of work and effort you need to put in to get that mark.
  • Quiz yourself on something you studied a few days ago. This will help break a thinking pattern of assuming that you know your work really well and offer you a reality check. Or, if you do well in the past paper or quiz, you have a bonus of knowing your studying paid off!

Want to know more about metacognition? Read Dr Nicholas Matthee’s article here.

Although the prelim exam season is a tough time, all your hard work will pay off one day! Now go out there and smash your exams with these helpful tips from Optimi and our experts.