Before You Break! Why Study Breaks Are Important

The Benefits of Study Breaks and How to Use Them Effectively

When faced with looming exams, it can often be a student’s first instinct to cram, pull all-nighters, or study for long periods of time uninterrupted. While this may work for a few students, studies find that studying without regular breaks can actually decrease academic performance and results. In addition, it can lead to anxiety, depression and insomnia! Research suggests that short mental breaks, doing something completely different, will actually help you to focus. Study breaks can improve retention and understanding over longer periods, as well as relax your mind.

Making study breaks successful

• Make a note of where you are stopping
• Set a time limit to your break, and stick to it
• Change your scenery
• Know yourself, and don’t start any activity that you could easily get lost in
• Get back to work as soon as your break ends, without stressing about how much there is left to do or procrastinating

What not to do in a study break

• Update your Facebook
• Phone or message a friend
• Anything to do with the subject you’re studying
• Start a new series
• The same thing you did in your last break!

What to do instead

• Exercise: take a walk, kick a ball around, or dance to your favourite song
• Meditate
• Nap for 10-20 minutes (any longer and you’ll just feel drowsy!)
• Make a (healthy) snack
• Read a book or magazine

How can BrightSparkz help?

Ask your tutor to help you plan your study timetable, as well as advice on what study methods you should use based on your Learning Styles Assessment. If you need extra lessons to help cement in some of the concepts you need to know for your exams, either contact your tutor, or get in touch with your BrightSparkz office to book extra lessons today (email Cape Town or Joburg). If you’re totally at a loss for how to study, book a Study Skills Crash Course with our Educoach! Click here to find out more.

Written By: Tessa Cooper, BrightSparkz Blog Writer

Surviving the NBTs: What you need to know

What you need to know about the National Benchmark Tests

The National Benchmark Tests (NBTs) are South Africa’s version of the SAT’s. These tests determine your academic readiness to enter university. The NBTs are necessary because of the variety of school curricula in South Africa, as well as the differences in the level of education provided country-wide. These tests therefore provide an even playing field – a national benchmark against which to score students. University admission and placement are determined by the NBTs.

There are two types of NBTs, and which test/s you need to take is determined by the university course you are applying for (most universities have this information available on their websites). The Academic and Quantitative Literacy (AQL) Test needs to be written by all applicants. The AQL tests language and mathematical literacy skills, and may be taken in both English and Afrikaans. The Mathematics (MAT) Test tests only mathematical skills. Both tests are multiple choice, and you will have 3 hours to write each test.

The National Benchmark Tests test your ability to apply prior knowledge in a way designed to test problem-solving and lateral thinking. The results will indicate your likelihood of being able to succeed academically at tertiary level. These results are sent directly to the university/universities you have applied to. As a result, you will only need to write one set of tests, even for multiple applications. For more information on what is in the tests, click here.

When do I need to write?

This will be determined by the date that the course you are applying for needs the results by (this will be on the university’s website). The NBT test schedule provides the date that each test’s results will be sent to the various universities. This normally takes about a month, so make sure you plan ahead!

Where can I write?

There are a variety of venues in each province that host the tests, as well as in most countries neighbouring South Africa. For a full list, please see venues. If you live in a remote location, you will need to apply to the NBT Project to have a venue set up near you, or you can apply to be a remote writer.

What are the costs involved?

To write one NBT costs R80. To write both (must be written on the same day) will cost R160. You can pay on the EasyPay website, or you can visit an EasyPay Paypoint (like Pick N Pay, Shoprite or Checkers). You will need to register for the NBTs before you can pay.

How can BrightSparkz Tutors help?

While no past or sample papers are available for the NBTs, and specific course material is not available, extra tutoring lessons in maths and languages can help you! If you want lessons specifically for this reason, please let your BrightSparkz client consultant know, so that they can find the best tutor for your needs. Find a tutor here.

If you live in a remote location, and need to write a remote test, BrightSparkz can also help you to find an invigilator to oversee your NBTs. Find an invigilator here.

 

Written By: Tessa Cooper, BrightSparkz Blog Writer

Managing the New School Term

“What I learn today doesn’t make yesterday wrong, it makes tomorrow better”.

Just as the stress of the exam season has subsided, the stress and anxiety that comes with a new school term starts to arise. We understand that a new school term can be daunting for both children and their parents, and while it cannot be avoided, there are those unnecessary stresses that can be combated.

 

How to combat unnecessary stress and make the most of the home-stretch:

  1. Keep a routine

Keeping a routine is one of the most promoted yet underestimated and underused pieces of advice. Having a routine makes many of the things in our lives that would otherwise be unpredictable, completely predictable – which then puts them in our control and minimizes the stress potentially attached to them. We also often underestimate how much time we waste during a day that can quite easily be spent on a productive and beneficial activity, had we had a thought out schedule and anticipated it. For example, packing a book and reading in the car in early morning traffic or on the way home is a great time to get your reading done when you would otherwise be doing nothing anyway. This also frees up the time you would have spent reading, and can now be spent on other things – allowing you to achieve a lot more, in less time. Where are you wasting time that could possibly be better spent if you had a schedule and planned for it?

  1. Set goals and daily tasks

How would you like to finish this year? What would you like your report to look like when you hand it to your parents? If you aren’t proud of where you are academically, then it’s time to start deciding where you would like to be, and what you need to do in order to get there. Set some long-term goals for yourself, and then determine what steps need to be taken each day that will get you closer towards your long-terms goals. This requires discipline, and sometimes saying no to other activities that a probably way more fun, but I can promise that you won’t regret it when you receive that report card at the end of the term.

  1. Prepare in advance

If you are anything like I was at school, you probably wait until the very last minute to do everything: to get out of bed in the morning, to do your homework, to start assignments. And as I’m sure you’ve already discovered, this inevitably always ends in a last minute rush that sends your stress levels through the roof! Let’s try getting out of procrastination station this term and start preparing for what will be coming, and keep coming, whether we prepare for it or not. Something as simple as packing your bag the night before can do wonders for a good start to the day, and will even help you to sleep better.

  1. Don’t fall behind

Having to catch-up a day or two’s work may sound like no big deal, but what happens when a day or two rolls over into a week or two? We understand that getting home after a full day of school to sit down and spend more hours on homework can be exhausting, and quite frankly, entirely unnecessary. But homework is here to stay whether we like it or not, and fortunately, has not killed anyone yet. The best way to avoid homework stress is to get it out of the way as soon as possible. After you’ve arrived home from school and had something to eat, dedicate the next hour or two (depending on your Grade and workload), to complete that day’s homework. If you’re able to, you can even move ahead with certain tasks or exercises if you know there will be some days where you might have less time to do homework due to sports etc. This leaves the evening free to do things that you enjoy, without having the guilt and anxiety of what’s still waiting for you in your school bag hanging over your head.

  1. Go over your work each day

One of the best ways to ensure that you’re able to keep up with your workload is by spending some time each day (+- 30 minutes) becoming familiar with what is new. This allows everything you learnt during the day to be processed and reinforced in your brain, which not only increases your ability to recall the information (memory), but also helps you to identify parts of your work you don’t fully understand. You can then spend some time making sense of the work you don’t understand, or make a note to have your teacher or tutor explain it to you. Making sure you understand your work daily also helps ensure that you don’t fall behind as previously mentioned.

  1. Still make time for the things you enjoys most

Have you ever heard that saying: “Too much of anything is a bad thing”? You may assume that cutting out sports and any other extra curricular activities will give you more time for academics, and therefore improve your marks, but truthfully, it’s going to end up costing you far more than is necessary. Creating a balance in your life is very important and cutting out the things you enjoy most will most likely result in resenting what’s left – school and homework. While academics are incredibly important, so is your health and fitness, and it has actually been proven that keeping active and making time for the things you enjoy will positively impact other areas of your life as you develop increased energy and better concentration. But remember, in order to make time for the things you enjoy, you’ll have to have a routine to determine what amount of free time you do and don’t have.

 

How BrightSparkz can help:

  • Private tutoring

BrightSparkz Tutors offers one-on-one, subject specific tutoring that takes place in the comfort of your own home or a venue of your choice. Tutors aim to identify the gaps in knowledge, while simultaneously facilitating learning through lots of practice, revision of theory, and interactive discussion of the subject matter.

Our tutors are unique individuals, who are selected carefully based on their specific strengths in their chosen subjects.  They not only have excellent knowledge of the subjects they tutor, but also a passion for tutoring and helping learners reach their potential.

  • Online Platforms

BrightSparkz Online is an award-winning online Maths and Science App tailored to South African learners from Grade 8 – 12. It covers all content for Maths, Natural Science, Physical Science and Chemistry, and is suitable for both CAPS and IEB learners. The app provides top quality resources, breaks up these curriculums into manageable sections, and is an excellent way to supplement your child’s one-on-one lessons.

  • Study Skills Workshops

BrightSparkz Tutors has partnered with an outstanding Educational Psychologist who offers insightful study skills workshops, designed to benefit Grades 8 – 12 in particular, in order to help your child make the most of their education and tutoring. For more information on when and where our holiday workshops will take place, please contact us on edupsych@brightsparkz.co.za.

 

It’s never too late for your child to start combating stressful habits and taking control of their education. But neither you nor your child have to do it alone – BrightSparkz Tutors are ready to help. Just click here, provide us with your details, and we’ll get right onto looking for the most suitable tutor for your learner’s needs.

 

Written By: Ashleigh de Jager, BrightSparkz Blog Writer

Top 10 Universities in South Africa

Many learners may feel unsure about where to enrol for their tertiary education. I have compiled a list of South Africa’s top 10 best Universities. I have assembled this list according to much research, Africa.com, student opinions, reviews and the reputable Times Higher Education World University Rankings.

According to www.timeshighereducation.co.uk, “The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2014-2015 list the best global universities and are the only international university performance tables to judge world class universities across all of their core missions – teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook. The top universities rankings employ 13 carefully calibrated performance indicators to provide the most comprehensive and balanced comparisons available, which are trusted by students, academics, university leaders, industry and governments.”

Additionally, Africa.com collected both quantitative and qualitative data to determine which of the many universities in South Africa make the top 10 list. A variety of criteria were considered including the following: a) undergraduate and graduate school reputation among higher education peers; b) student selectivity for entering undergraduate class; c) quality and quantity of faculty research, including depth of research facilities and engagement beyond immediate community, and d) international student ratio—the degree to which institution draws students from outside of its national boundaries.

While no one university is a perfect fit for everyone, I do hope that this list provides some helpful and important information when deciding where to study.

1.) University of Cape Town (UCT) University Of Cape Town

Established in 1829, UCT is South Africa’s oldest university and makes a frequent appearance on yearly varsity ‘best’ lists such as the Times Higher Education World University Rankings list. The university is considered the top research institution on the continent, with more “A” rated researchers than any other South African university. It is the highest ranked African university in both the QS World and the Times Higher Education world university rankings. According to the latest Most Recent World University Rankings at www.timeshighereducation,co.uk, UCT places at number 124.

Other than offering the best sports management diploma in the world (as recently bestowed by the Edunivarsal International Scientific Committee), UCT is also considered one of the country’s most environmentally friendly universities. Over the past five years a number of sustainability projects were launched, including Green Campus Initiative, an effort focused on making UCT more environmentally-friendly.
Notable alumni include heart surgeon Christiaan Barnard and at least three Nobel Laureates, including biophysicist Sir Aaron Klug (also a WITS alum), the late Professor Alan MacLeod Cormack, and author JM Coetzee.

2.) University of the Witwaterstrand (WITS) Johannesburg

Wits is considered to be one of the top research universities on the continent and boasts 20 South African Research Chairs, seven research institutes and 20 research units. Just less than 900 academic staff members accommodate over 30,000 students, ten percent of whom are international students.

According to the latest Most Recent World University Rankings at www.timeshighereducation,co.uk, WITS places between numbers 251 – 275.

WITS University has one of the largest fossil collections in the Southern Hemisphere, 14 museums, 2 art galleries, and 12 libraries.
Noteworthy alumni include former South African President Nelson Mandela (he studied law in the 1940s), political activist Helen Suzman, former judge Richard Goldstone, and businessman Patrice Motsepe. The university is also the alma mater of three other Nobel Prize Laureates; biophysicist Aaron Klug, biologist Sydney Brenner, and author Nadine Gordimer.

3.) Stellenbosch University, Western Cape Stellenbosch University

Located near beautiful wine regions; Stellenbosch University has been deemed one of the top research universities in the country. 28,000 students are taught by 915 lecturers and close to 10 percent of those admitted are international students. Providing accomplished tutors. According to the most recent World University Rankings at www.timeshighereducation.co.uk, the University of Stellenbosch places between numbers 276 – 300

The University’s own iShack system was developed to improve the living situations of those living in informal settlements through the use of a basic solar energy system. The initiative was recently awarded a grant by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that will help upscale the project. With a strong emphasis of research throughout all departments, its Desmond Tutu TB Centre recently won an international prize for its research on childhood tuberculosis (TB) and its community-based approach to TB and HIV care.

4.) Rhodes University, Eastern Cape

Whist one of the smaller universities, comprising of only 7,000 students, Rhodes University is one of the most diverse, since roughly one quarter of its students are international. Due to its small student base, the student to teacher / tutor ratio is more favourable at one lecturer to about 15 students.

According to the official Rhodes University website, all of its degrees are internationally recognised and the university’s International Library of African Music (ILAM) is said to the “greatest repository of African music in the world”. Additionally, the university’s school of Journalism and Media Studies is thought to be one of the best in the country.
Notable Rhode students include virologist Max Theiler (who was awarded a Nobel Prize for developing a yellow fever vaccine), author Wilbur Smith, and internationally recognised journalist Anand Naidoo.

5.) University of Pretoria, Pretoria University of Pretoria

Also considered one of the leading research universities in South Africa, UP offers more than 1,800 programmes at its main campus and hosts more than 50,000 students.

It has the highest research output in South Africa, a position it has held proudly since 1997 and in September last year, the university launched a new research initiative focused on the country’s future energy security, IRT on Energy. It’s also set to become the first university on the continent to offer simulated underground mining training at a Virtual Reality Centre. UP is also home to the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS), one of the country’s foremost Business Schools, which offers internationally credited MBA programmes. The university was recently named the top business school in Africa on the UK Financial Times Executive Education rankings list.

6.) University of the Free State, Bloemfontein University of Free State

The University is comprised of three campuses spread across the city, and hosts more than 33,000 students, including more than 2,000 from abroad.
The University prides itself on its 7 accredited Academic clusters, 107 NRF-accredited professors and 18 international research partnerships. The University has also paved the way in forward-thinking, from being the first university in the country to have a Department of Sign Language, and the only institution on the continent that offers a postgraduate programme in Disaster Management.
Noteworthy alum include, Former South African president P.W. Botha, as well as cricketer Hansie Cronje and author Antjie Krog.

7.) University of Kwazulu-Natal, Durban University of Kwa-Zulu Natal

Hosting over 42,000 students and 1,600 staff, this university is the largest in Sub-Saharan Africa. Over 2,500 of its students are foreign, having come from the Southern African Development Community (SADC), China and India.
Its medical school campus is home to CAPRISA, one of the largest and most effective HIV and AIDS research centres in South Africa. It also produced one of the highest university research outputs during 2010, ranking third overall, and thereby contributing close to 12 percent of the country’s research publications by major universities.
Notable alumni include Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, Chief Justice Honourable Mogoeng Mogoeng, and businessman Sol Kerzner.

8.) University of Western Cape, Cape Town University of Western Cape

During the years of Apartheid, the University of the Western Cape was where many non-white political activists from across the country were able to get an education. Now, 50 years since its establishment, the university hosts 15,000 students of all nationalities and cultures.
Earlier this year, the university achieved the inaugural Green Campus of the Year award for its many environmentally-friendly enterprises, including its recycling projects and the use of solar powered golf carts for campus workers to get around. UWC is also dedicated to the research and development of free and open-source software. It is the only African member of the Open Courseware Consortium.
Political activist Allan Boesak, and Danny Jordaan, CEO of the 2010 Fifa World Cup, have both graduated from UWC.

9.) University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg

The University of Johannesburg has four campuses located across the city and caters to just more than 48,000 students, of which 2,000 are international. The university places great importance on research and has over 20 research centres and around 90 rated researchers. Research has improved greatly, most especially in areas of life sciences, physical sciences, literature, language and linguistics, as well as management science and business commerce.

10.) Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town

CPUT has just over 32,000 students enrolled on its two campuses, one in Cape Town CBD and the other in Bellville. CPUT is known for its take in creative, more specialist areas of study and for its practical, hands-on approach to education. This is a beneficial and worth-while consideration for those who are not strictly academically inclined.

 

Brightsparkz is proud to have tutors from UCT, WITS, Stellenbosch, and the university of Pretoria, we also have some tutors from UWC as well.