Shane Nolan gives us his tips on achieving the best grades for your Leaving Cert.
Everybody knows to drink plenty of water, get ample sleep and eat well/exercise during exams. But twenty bottles of Evian, hibernating and doing a Rocky-inspired regime isn’t going to transform you into an A1 student. That’s largely up to how much and what method of study you do.
Here are five simple things that might help when approaching the Leaving Cert exams:
1: Choose an order for answering your exam paper
This should be pretty straightforward and is probably already the case for most students. How are you going to answer your exam paper? Chronologically, backward, jumping from section to section? For languages like French and Irish, it is vital that the written sections be looked at before the comprehensions, allowing time to be thinking of ideas, correct expressions etc. For other subjects, it will depend on what question looks the nicest and may entirely change on the day but it doesn’t hurt to plan it. It will make it more structured and can only be of benefit.
2: Choose an order - part two
As you might notice, an order is quite important. Many students for business and geography would start with the short questions for a confidence boost and that makes perfect sense. However, you could just as easily start with the best looking long question instead. I say this because almost all Leaving Cert exams (to save French) are difficult to complete on time. At up to three hours long, constant writing can take a toll on the hand. I always left short questions until the middle for a rest. Even better, if you’re running over time you can rush them. Although they are the easiest marks available, it does not take as long as they give to simply tick boxes. It’s worth considering.
3: Oral Exams
This is also self-explanatory, bordering on patronizing. The oral exam for Irish is worth forty percent and should, therefore, get forty percent of the effort (or at least close to it). Studying those awful poems and stories (like Hurlamaboc) instead of the easiest marks available is criminal. Writing about some islander and their sadness in a language you can’t comprehend is far harder than knowing how to say who you are. In about twelve minutes you could have the exam almost passed. Focus on the oral.
Be it rote learning, mind maps, fish diagrams or some alternative chanting-based technique, do what suits you. However, it’s worth considering: do you have an exam day routine? Bottle of water, watch on the table, lucky charm, something stranger. All this might offset stress as at least you know what your plan is, even if not what’s coming up on the paper. I still bring squares of folded cardboard to stop the table shaking before each exam because I’m really organized/mental.
Do actual work and look at what’s getting done rather than what is left to do. Be happy with what you did and relax. Find some sort of system that suits you and stick to it. Use Easter to some extent and try your best. That’s all you can really do.