How to prepare for the Leaving Cert

By Brian Mooney

For sixth years the pathway ahead is now clear. If the Leaving Cert can be delivered in its full manifestation of written papers and project work across all subjects, it will be at the last possible moment. Nobody now knows, nor can know, if this will be possible, as all decisions will be based on the best medical advice in June.

Again, subject to medical advice, tuition will be provided for two weeks in July, immediately prior to the exams on July 29.

So, my advice to Leaving Cert students and their parents is to forget about all the speculation about the what ifs, and leave it to the professionals to figure out, when they are in possession of all the relevant facts and advice from Dr Tony Holohan.

All that students can do now is work with their teachers online, or by phone if broadband difficulties make online work impossible, for the next four weeks until Friday May 29, when full time tuition will cease.

You are then advised to take a total break from examination preparations for two weeks to recharge your much-depleted batteries.

Your teachers have been asked to stay available to you in the second half of June and into July, to support you prior to the planned return to school in the weeks running up to the planned written papers.

How can you use the next few weeks to boost your chances of doing well in your Leaving Certificate?

Get up at the same time as you normally do, so that you get maximum benefit from each day. If you stay on in bed in the mornings, you will quickly find yourself sleeping half the day and staying up half the night which will do your examination preparations no good whatsoever.

Never attempt a past examination question without marking your performance against the marking scheme answer available on the State Examination Commission website

Don't talk to your classmates about what study you are going to do, and don't listen to other people about what they are doing. Lots of your friends don't tell the truth about what they are doing or not doing.

To ensure that you get the maximum benefit of the weeks remaining, you should now draw up a day by day study plan of action, to cover every day of the next four weeks, that is focused on specific examination questions, across the full range of papers, that you are studying.

In this plan, allow for good breaks for meals, rest, exercise, and family life. You want to be in peak physical and psychological condition, when you eventually must sit down in front of your written papers.

Reading a book is not studying – it's reading a book. Set a target: "I will revise this topic for 45 minutes". Take notes as you go. Put away the books. Do an exam question. Now that's study.

Get familiar with the layout of each exam paper. Some papers are tricky, and complicated instructions could throw you on the day.

Don't prioritise any one subject. All subjects should get equal time.

Print Chief Examiners' reports for your subjects, which are available on the SEC website. These reports give sample answers which you can use as a guide for answering style.

Divide up work with a few school friends. Have a Zoom meeting. Teach each other what you learned. Then write out brief notes from each other’s work.

Don't try to guess what is going to come up on any paper. Every year students emerge devastated because they listened to rumours about what was coming up. The truth is anything can come up.

Understand what you are studying, Rephrase in your own words where possible. Students who do well in exams don't just list facts. They demonstrate real understanding of the answer.

Doing well in examinations is 50 per cent technique and 50 per cent knowledge of your subject matter. You have absorbed many times more information over the past two years, than you could ever present in your Leaving Certificate. Two students with the same amount of information on a topic may get radically different grades, depending on how they both present the information to the correcting teacher.

Learn over the coming weeks to present the information you currently have, in the most correctable friendly manner, so that you will get the best grade you can achieve in the examinations in July and August. Now is the time for writing clear, concise, notes in tidy folders.


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