Ultimate Guide to Studying for Matric Exams

by Staff Reporter

Matric exams are coming up, which means it’s time to start studying. If you’re wondering how to prepare, then don’t worry, our guide to studying for matric exams is sure to help!

After all, these are the most critical assessments you’ll take in your high school career (something we’re sure your teachers have been drilling into you every second of every day). 

From tips on how to study effectively to past exam papers and study aids, our guide will make surviving your matric finals an absolute breeze. 

So without further ado, here’s your ultimate guide to studying for matric exams:

Table of Contents

Start Exam Preparation Early

Whether you’ve just started the school year, or you’ve got a month left before your matric finals, it’s never too early to prepare for exams!

Okay, so exam prep isn’t the most exciting thing in the world, but just know that the earlier you start, the more units you’ll be able to get through—and the better you’ll feel when exams finally roll around. 

Here are a few tips on how to prepare early for matric exams:

  • Study a little bit each day: Take an hour every day and dedicate it to studying so that by the time exams start, all you’ll need to do is review your work.
  • Organise study groups: Studying in groups can be a great way to build good study habits as it allows you to commit to studying early on, with each person holding the other accountable.
  • Familiarise yourself with past exam papers: Take a look at the structure of these exams so that you will understand the format and the types of questions you’ll be asked.
  • Take extra lessons: Find out if there are any extra lessons at your school for the subjects you are struggling with.
  • Create a study schedule: Having a study schedule will allow you to split your study sessions into bite-sized pieces, making them much more manageable and a lot less stressful (see more below).

Create a Study Schedule for the Matric Exams

Now that you know exactly what to do in order to prepare for your exams, it’s time to create your study schedule. 

Before you start, you’ll need the following items:

  • a list of your matric subjects
  • your exam timetable
  • highlighters 
  • a pen or pencil
  • a ruler 
  • a plain sheet of paper or printable calendar 

Once you’ve gathered all your materials, it’s time to start organising, drawing and strategising. 

Here are 3 steps to creating a study schedule

Step 1: Prioritise Your Subjects

You know which subjects need more of your time, so be sure to go through each one and number them from 1 to 7, with 1 being the most time-consuming or difficult, and 7 being the least. 

For example, history might be at number 3 because there’s a lot of theory to work through, whereas maths literacy is more practical and takes up the least amount of study time.


  1. Science
  2. Maths
  3. History
  4. Geography
  5. English
  6. isiXhosa
  7. Life Orientation

Step 2: Allocate Your Hours

Once you’ve prioritised your list, work out how many hours you have available per day to study for your matric exams.

For example, if you arrive home at 4 pm each weekday, then you may only have a few hours to study before dinner at 6 pm, and an hour after dinner at 7 pm. Jot those hours down and label them as your “study hours”.

Be sure to reserve time for non-academic activities, such as personal events (e.g., your grandmother’s birthday), extra-murals (e.g., netball) and study breaks (e.g., walking).

Step 3: Draw Up Your Study Schedule

Based on your priority list and study hours, your schedule for the weekdays may look something like this:

study schedule for matric exams

If drawing isn’t your thing, you can always download our FREE matric exam study planner.

Tip: Post your schedule and timetable on your door or send a photo to your family members so that they know not to disturb you during your study hours.

learner studying in positive study environment

Study in a Positive Environment

Your study environment can have a massive impact on how well you absorb the information from your textbook. To get the most out of your study sessions, make sure that you’re in a room that has good lighting (not too dark and not too bright). Philips advises students and learners to use a “cool white light” as it mimics daylight.

You’re also going to need a space that is free from distractions and where your friends or family will not bother you. Make sure it’s not too quiet though, as this may lead your mind to wander and you could get distracted.

Remember to keep your phone and electronics out of reach so that you’re not tempted to play games or chat while you’re studying!

Make Use of Study Aids for Matric Exams

If your only study aid is your textbook—it’s time to make some changes. Having the right study aids not only makes studying easier but also stops you from drifting off into your 3rd nap of the day.

There are loads of study aids out there, including:

  • Flashcards
  • Online resources
  • YouTube videos


There are many different techniques when it comes to using flashcards, but the most popular (and effective) one has to be the spaced-repetition technique known as the Leitner study technique.

Before you start with the Leitner study technique, get a hold of at least 3 boxes – with each box representing a different study time and level of difficulty.

So, how does the Leitner study method work? Let’s take a look:

  • Start by creating flashcards based on a learning concept from one of your subjects.
  • Gather a minimum of 3 boxes and label them as ‘Box 1’, ‘Box 2’ and ‘Box 3’.
  • Place all your flashcards in ‘Box 1’.
  • Study from your flashcards and place each one you get correctly into ‘Box 2’ (these are concepts you’ll review every 2nd day)
  • Put the flashcards you answered incorrectly back into ‘Box 1’ (these are concepts you’ll need to review daily).
  • The cards from ‘Box 2’ will then move to ‘Box 3’ as you go along and answer them correctly. If you get the answer incorrectly, you move them back to ‘Box 1’.

The goal is to move all your cards from ‘Box 1’ and ‘Box 2’ into ‘Box 3’.

Online Resources

Plenty of online resources can be found online and are a great way to study as they give you extra information about your exams. 

One of these resources is an education app known as Matric Live, which is an exam simulation app that allows you to write past exam questions conveniently from your mobile. 

The app is free to download during exam season and comes with several features:

  • Play: Test your knowledge while competing with your friends and other learners from various schools to see who will rank number 1.
  • Learn: Find past exam questions, lessons and videos about all your subjects and learn all the material to earn points.
  • Exam: Take the exam in a live virtual environment and see if you can complete all the questions before the time runs out. 

You can download the app on Apple iStore or Google Play


YouTube has tons of online lessons, guides and study tips to help you with your matric exams. 

To help get you started, we gathered a list of YouTube accounts that give free lessons, tips and tricks on a variety of grade 12 subjects:

learners practising with past exam papers

Get Plenty of Rest During Matric Exams

Remember to get plenty of rest during the exam period to keep your mind fresh and focused while you study. If you don’t get enough sleep, you won’t be able to take in all that information as your body and mind will be too tired. 

The Department of Education recommends that learners get a minimum of 8 hours of sleep at night and drink plenty of water during the day.

Practise Studying with Past Exam Papers

Practising with past exam papers is undoubtedly one of the most effective ways to prepare for your final matric exams. The reason why this study method is so effective is that it gives you a sneak peek of what to expect from the exams.

Here’s how to get the most out of the past exam papers:

  • Take an open-book test with your past exam paper
  • Mark your answers with the freely available exam memorandums and identify any questions you struggled to answer 
  • Re-learn the challenging material
  • Take a closed-book test and give yourself a mark
  • Re-learn any material you are struggling with
  • Take a final closed-book test and time yourself

Take Regular Breaks When Studying

It’s important to take regular breaks while you study to refresh your brain and increase your energy levels. The recommended amount of time for a study session is between 40 and 50 minutes, with a 10 to 20-minute study break in between.

Breaks that are cut into 15-minute intervals are ideal, as this leaves you with enough time to get some rest in between all that studying without you getting distracted. 

What you choose to do during your break is entirely up to you, but try to avoid going on your phone as this could lead to a rabbit hole of never-ending TikTok videos. 

You can spend your study breaks in healthy ways by either drinking a glass of water, eating a nutritious snack or taking a walk outside

learner studying for matric exams

Stay Positive During Matric Exams

Having a positive attitude will keep you motivated during the exam period, which leads to an overall focused and healthy mind. Although this is easier said than done, try your best to stay grounded during exams until they’re over. 

The best way to do this is to have a game plan in place so that you can go into the exam hall with confidence. Beyond setting aside enough time to study for your exam, it’s a good idea to plan for the exam day so that you are able to remain as calm and ready as possible.

Here are 5 tips on how to prepare for exam day once it arrives:

  • Make sure you have all your stationery (pens, pencils, paper, calculator, ruler, eraser)
  • Get to your exam at least 1 hour early
  • Use the toilet before entering the exam hall to avoid disruption
  • Make the best of your 10 minutes of reading time by reading all the questions carefully, and be sure to mark the easiest questions first to get the ball rolling
  • Check the mark allocation for each question and circle them with a pencil if you need to – so that you know how to answer each question

Be Organised with Your Study Material

It’s important to be organised with your study material so that you don’t lose anything important prior to your exams. 

Be sure to separate all your study notes and categorise them by subject and unit. Store your study materials in the same place (where they won’t get ruined) and be sure to categorise all your subjects using separate folders for each one. 

This will help you stay on top of things so that you don’t spend hours looking for your notes or panicking before the exam!

Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Never be ashamed to ask for help, because sometimes, Googling the answer just isn’t enough. If find yourself struggling with a subject or unit, don’t be afraid to ask someone for help. 

Staying quiet is setting yourself up for failure, and you’ll only regret it once exam day has arrived. 

There are people out there who would be more than happy to help you with your questions, so be sure to ask either your teacher, tutor, parent, guardian or friends to assist.

Once you get to your exam, don’t worry if you still find the question or subject confusing. Just answer all the exam questions you feel confident about first, then move on to the more challenging ones. 

At the end of the day, all you can do is try your best, so study hard and remember to enjoy your final few weeks of matriculation!

When Do I Get My Matric Results?

Once matric exams are over, you’re going to wait a few months before your results will be released. After getting your matric results, you’ll need to see if your results meet the criteria for the institution you’re wanting to apply to.

If your matric results do not meet the criteria for applying to a university –  don’t worry! You can always take matric bridging courses.

If you’re happy with your results, then great! You can move on to the next step: Applying to university. As with anything in life, studying at a tertiary institution comes at a price.

Luckily, Fundi offers student financing that covers a range of educational costs, including everything from tuition loans to accommodation. Try our loan calculator to learn more.

Related Articles