This morning matric learners stepped into exam venues around the country to write their first English paper. Now that the ball is on the role for the whole grade 12 group, I am sure some nerves are setting in.

To help you relax and to stay focussed when entering the exam room, try these 5 tips:

#1 – Be prepared for each paper

You will always feel more relaxed and ready when you are confident about knowing your work and being prepared for writing the exams. In this last stretch, go through as many old exam papers and memos you can and ask teachers and/or tutors for advice about the questions you still find challenging. Also read our 5 Tips to Survive the Matric Exams.

#2 -Make the best of the night and morning before

  • Get everything you need for your exam ready the night before – stationary (make sure your pencils are sharp and that you have an extra pen or two that is not dry!), calculator, other tools needed for the paper you are writing, dictionary, tissues, something warm to wear, something small (and healthy) to snack on, a bottle of water and any documentation (like your ID or exam number) you might need. Also take a watch or stopwatch if you have one.
  • Eat a good, healthy breakfast with some good protein (your brain needs the energy and you do not want to be distracted by a rumbling stomach!)
  • Make sure you know what time your exam is starting and give yourself enough time to get there

#3 – Settle yourself in at the exam venue

  • sit down, orientate yourself and pack out everything you need
  • relax yourself, focus and stay positive – do not speak to other exam writers or listen to their last minute questions (especially avoid those who seem anxious!)
  • slowly read through the exam instructions (at least twice to make sure you understand what is expected from you)
  • remember to complete all your personal details on the answer sheet or booklet
  • page through the exam paper and check both sides of each page to make sure how many sections/questions there are
  • make sure how much time you have and how much time should be spent on each question
  • know where the watch or timer is situated in the venue – if you do not see one, ask one of examinators how you will be notified of how much time you have left
  • if you are allowed to do so, use extra paper or the back of the answer booklet to make notes of important things you want to remember later on

#4 -Pay attention to how you answer your questions

  • carefully read through each question
  • determine what is expected from you and to which section of the work you studied, it refers to
  • take note of any key words
  • make sure of how many parts the question consists of
  • if the question seems familiar (like one from an old exam paper), pay close attention to the wording to make sure you do not miss something new
  • first answer the questions you know well

#5 – Relax and re-focus if you can’t remember or start to panic

  • make use of relaxation techniques to calm yourself down (see Tip 5 of our previous blog)
  • use questions like who? when? what? where? how? to help you focus
  • don’t try too hard to remember! you can always leave a space, go on to the work you know, and come back to the question later
  • when you go back to the question and still feel like your mind is blank, take a piece of paper and write down any words or phrases that have something to do with the question or topic – this will help to prompt your memory

Good luck with your exams!! And remember to just do your best.

Did some of these tips help you? Share them on Facebook and feel free to contact us or leave a comment if you have any questions, or to share other tips that work for you.



  • Study Skills for High School Learners- H. Brand (for more information on Study Tools Workshops, visit
  • The Study Skills Handbook – Stella Cottrell (Second Edition – Palgrave, Macmillan)