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Grade 11 holds the keys

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An education expert has warned Grade 11 learners to take this year, and their preparation for it, just as seriously as Grade 12 – if not more so.

“Parents, learners and even teachers mistakenly think that Matric is the most important year of schooling, yet Grade 11 is just as important and these years should not be considered as separate milestones, but rather as a 2-year event,” says Nola Payne, Head of Faculty: Information and Communications Technology at The Independent Institute of Education, SA’s largest private higher education provider.

The reason for this is because many institutions – whether public universities or private institutions – make provisional offers for admission based on Grade 11 results, she says. Therefore, learners should give Grade 11 their best effort, and not wait until next year to throw their hats into the application ring.

“Applications for university open in the March of your matric year, but because this is too early for you to have any meaningful matric marks, institutions often use the exam marks from your Grade 11 year as an indicator of your ability to succeed in the course,” says Payne.

“Therefore, if you did not put enough effort into your Grade 11 exams and have the mindset that you will delay the hard work and study until Matric, you may be unpleasantly surprised to find out that it is already too late.”

Payne says that many learners have in the past been disappointed when they receive rejection letters in their Matric year, which would then require them to put in even more effort to improve their marks to a level where they might have a better shot at acceptance.

Additionally, learners often underestimate the difficulty of Grade 11, under the mistaken impression that the real challenges will only follow a year later.

“The work is just as – if not more – challenging than Grade 12, which is often regarded as a revision year. A lot of content is delivered in Grade 11 and can become overwhelming if you don’t resolve early on to keep up and master things as soon as possible,” she says.

Payne notes that higher education institutions usually give one of three replies to applications submitted based on Grade 11 marks:

  • Provisionally accepted
  • Waiting list
  • Rejected

“Once rejected, it is very difficult to have your application re-evaluated, even if your Grade 12 marks have improved dramatically, and especially for those courses which are in high demand,” she says.

However learners whose applications in their Grade 11 year are rejected do have some options left to them, notes Payne.

These include:

  • Applying for the same or similar course at a different institution which may still have space available;
  • Applying for a different type of qualification at the same institution, for instance instead of applying for a degree course, applying for higher certificate or diploma in the same field, or a degree qualification in a similar field, and
  • Working on improving school marks, particularly when placed on a waiting list.

“The waiting list is often a ‘cream of the crop’ selection which is applied once results are known. So  if there are 100 people on the waiting list and your marks are in the top 10, you have a better chance of being accepted,” says Payne.

She warns that Grade 11 is usually not identified early enough as the year when delivery of content assessed in the Matric exams begins, and that Matric final exams often contain more Grade 11 content than that which is covered in Grade 12.

“Learners will find that many of their Grade 12 months are spent practising and revising Grade 11 work. Additionally, exams throughout Grade 11 will mirror the types of assessments one can expect in the final assessment.

“In addition to ensuring timeous placement in a field of study at one’s institution of choice, working hard in Grade 11 also means that learners are able to make the best of the opportunity to practise the study and exam writing skills that will allow them to give the performance of their lifetime when the Matric exams roll around.”

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