Nobody hears the words “Leaving Cert” and gets a warm, fuzzy feeling inside and reminisces happily about the time they spent doing it. You hear those words and there’s an instant feeling of pity towards those doing it and thanking God that it isn’t you sitting those exams again.
Between studying for oral exams, listening exams, and written exams and trying to finish Home Economics and Agricultural Science projects etc., you are also expected to research courses and make sure you don’t miss any deadlines while filling in the CAO. As well as looking up courses, you’re also trying to be realistic about what points you are going to receive because an off day could cost you your course.
Secondary school teacher Anna Flaherty says that the pressure doesn’t come from the exams as such, although she acknowledges that the exams are stressful and “tough”, but more from society.
“Students are under a magnifying glass from people around them and that takes away from a student’s chance to focus on their own capability and flourish.”
The pressure from the outside on wanting to hear ‘how many points did you get?’ can, in Anna’s opinion, make it more difficult for students to relax and “put their best foot forward”. It can be tough to be the best they can be, as the overshadowing worry about what everyone will think about their points can start before the exams even begin.
In regards to the Leaving Certificate itself, she thinks it is “a good preparation for a student’s future as it provides a strong and adaptable foundation for students to start out in life.”
In a comparison to the A-Level Examinations which they take in England, where students must only choose 2-3 subjects after the Junior Cycle, Anna feels that the amount of subjects we study for the Leaving Certificate “provides students with diverse opportunities and areas that they can delve into, again and again, depending on where their choices and interests take them as they learn more about themselves, as they mature with life and when their interests set them upon a more specific and defined path to their future career choice.”
“It also teaches students to balance different elements of learning different subjects and to organize themselves which, of course, takes great skill.”
Anna feels that more help is needed for students to be able to focus on their own capabilities and not be hindered by comparisons.
“This, in turn, will lead to happier and more successful individuals in all aspects of their lives.”
If you’re doing or preparing for your Leaving Cert, I urge you to read this and know that even though everyone puts pressure on you for doing ‘well’ in society’s opinion, just do the best you can do and if you know you have put 100% effort into it, then be happy.
I tried my best in my exams, and I was devastated as I dropped nearly 60 points from my mocks, but at the end of the day, I did my best and it all worked out in the end; I’m doing a course that I love and I have received good results in every exam and assignment so far.
As Anna says to all her students, “Do YOUR best. That’s all that matters in life, then you can always be proud regardless of the results.”