To celebrate Youth Day, Presto Books has made its study hacks guide available for free to South African learners. It’s worth R100 and can be downloaded for free via their app, which is available on the Google Play Store.
Presto, a youth-based startup, produces a range of study guides for Mathematics, Accounting, Physics, and Biology, which are available via the Presto app now, as well as monthly life skills guides.
These study guides have been prepared by top performing South African students. The students involved include a Rhodes Scholar, as well as the learner who came first nationally in 2012.
“We believe that this guide can improve the marks for all learners in SA”, says Shivad Singh, the 24-year-old founder and CEO of Presto.
In addition, Presto’s life skills guides are R5.99 per month, while their four matric guides – Maths, Accounting, Physics, and Chemistry – are only R9.99 per month. A worthwhile investment to help prepare for the September exams.
To get your free Study Hacks guide, search for “Presto books” in your mobile app store or follow this link. Once you have installed the app, simply click on the Study Hacks book to get the free book for yourself or your child.
In conversation: Shivad Singh
We had the opportunity to discuss how technology and study aids can help improve the quality of education outcomes for South African learners and what areas learners should be focusing on with the final exams looming.
Cheryl Kahla: The Study guide space in South Africa has been relatively static for years. A trip to the local book shop will reveal that a lot of the same companies are doing the same things they’ve been doing since I was in school.
With the demands on students and changing teaching methods, how can we disrupt the way we support education in schools?
Shivad Singh: The aim would be to provide more computer labs or tablet devices, packed with engaging content through videos, gamification, and text.
There should be personalised learning journeys, where students are able to access information on the subjects that they understand and need more time working on.
Ultimately, students need to master each concept before they move onto the next and this will be done through adaptive learning. For example, there would be recommended videos to correct mistakes in the previous session.
With the right software and devices, good teachers can then spend more 1-on-1 time with students. Furthermore, the correct software and devices will help learners with inadequate teachers or inadequate teaching time, which is sadly the reality today in South Africa.
Your new product is focused on distilling study and subject advice down into guides for learners. Do you think that schools put enough emphasis on the skill of studying material?
How can your guides assist learners who feel like they’re working really hard but aren’t getting the results they think their hard work deserves?
When I was in school, I don’t remember being taught how to study effectively. Schools need to put more emphasis on study skills, as these skills are transferable to all of the learner’s subjects.
Once you learn how to study effectively, it is like having a Swiss army knife that can cut different types of materials.
Our study guide is packed with strategies from the top performing students. They show that studying is a skill and ultimately shows you that studying smartly is more effective than studying hard.
Some of the things that you will learn in the guide are how to prepare for your exam, productivity tips to cut your time in half, how to actually learn, exam taking strategies and creating laser-like focus.
Our other guides are Matric Maths, Accounting, Physics, and Chemistry because those are the guides with the lowest pass rate. The guides are written by learners who received a high 90% or 100% in the subject which they have written.
Since it is written by students, we know exactly what the student needs when it comes to what to focus on and watch out for in the exam. The guides are also simple, beautifully designed and full of jokes to make the learning process more engaging.
We also have four life skills guides which are aimed at making the student a more holistic person by teaching them how to decrease stress and living a happier life, creating a success mindset and helping you to find your purpose in life.
One exciting thing I often note is that learners who excel academically tend to excel in extracurricular activities as well. These learners seem to be able to fit inhuman amounts of work in, especially over exam periods, while average students struggle to stick to any kind of study plan.
In your opinion, besides mastering the skill of studying, is this down to planning and motivation? Or are they just wired differently to be able to manage their work more effectively? Is it possible to for anyone to work the way these high performers do?
I believe that everyone has the capacity to be a high performer – if they put in the work. When you look at students who excel academically and in extracurriculars, there may be a mixture of nature their environment) and nurture (their family) that developed them into this high performer.
For example, the school may place a high emphasis on cricket (nature) and the parent may start private cricket coaching (nurture). Furthermore, it’s proven that exercise and doing hobbies leads to better academic scores.
Most extracurricular activities involve the two, so I can see why that leads to better academic achievement. These high performers now have the habit from a young age of doing many extracurricular activities while managing their workload. They automatically know how to plan their time well.
So, these high performers are wired differently from those who struggle to stick to a study plan. Many people think that we can’t change who we are. However, the latest research proves that we can change our genes and brain cells.
A recent discovery is one of neuroplasticity which is the ability to rewire and create new neural circuits at any angle to make substantial changes in the quality of life.
Nerve cells that fire together, wire together. So this means we can eliminate the unhealthy habits or the thoughts that we may have inherited or cultivated as a result of our past by rewiring our brain. When you rewire your brain, you rewire who you are.
The best way is to create new habits, by starting small. So if you see yourself as a “poor student”, start with one positive study habits and jog for 1 km (Unless you are like me and stop at the 100m mark).
South Africa is a country with significant disparities in resources available to schools and learners. How do you see technology helping to close the gap that is created by lack of resources?
Technology can solve the problem of limited resources due to its ability to scale.
For example, many learners have a phone. They can be taught from a mobile app (like ours) and access content at a much cheaper price than printing just one textbook.
Our study hacks guide costs R5.99 per month instead of a textbook which can cost over R300. As broadband speeds, data costs and devices decrease in price, it will eventually become cheaper to provide Internet connectivity and world-class content to the classroom.
The above will help close the gaps for schools with inadequate teachers and lack of resources. However, the technology will not be the means to solve the education problem.
As education researcher Nic Spaull believes that there needs to be a radical prioritisation and focusing on the foundational phase (Grade R-Grade 3).
This is because 78% of learners do not learn to read for meaning in any language in the Foundation phase. Spaull explains:
“There is now strong evidence that the best way of improving learning outcomes throughout the system is by focusing on basic literacy and numeracy in the first three years of school.”
You’ve been working in this space for a while and have a good idea of the struggles a lot of learners will be facing soon. If you had one tip or piece of advice for everyone going into exam rooms in the coming months, what would it be?
It’s been scientifically proven that we perform at our best when our mind is calm and relaxed. This can be achieved through multiple strategies such as not studying the day before.
My friend, who is a lecturer, and my other co-author of the study hacks book also gave this controversial advice. However, they were both one of the best students in their year so it’s worth taking note of this.
Learners can also do deep breathing, meditation, yoga or any form of mindfulness exercise to put you in a calmer state.