How to survive your leaving cert

Bev from kindly gave us permission to publish her blog post below titled ‘Study tips: How to survive the Leaving Cert year without losing your soul. Or even deleting your Facebook.’…

This guide is specifically aimed towards Irish students in their last year of school, since that’s what I’ve been through myself. It could probably be applied to any major exams, though – A Levels, etc.

First of all, I understand the world of pain you’re in and would like to offer a huge virtual hug. I’m not some aul wan writing for a Sunday paper supplement who did their Leaving Cert in prehistoric times and has forgotten the hellishness of the experience. I finished my own in 2010, so the wound is still fresh, so to speak! Learning shouldn’t be such a stressful ordeal, but with the current education system in Ireland, it’s just something you’ll have to cope with. If you were going to start some kind of revolution, you should have really begun it a couple of years ago.

Realise that searching Google for ‘study tips’ isn’t helping. It’s up there with procrastineating and procrasturbating as a top way to waste time. You know what to do, really: get your books out, read them, make notes over and over again, and do your homework. It’s simple really. It’s just incredibly boring, especially if you aren’t interested in what you’re learning about. I did find ways to cope along the way, though, so hopefully these tips will help.

  • Don’t stop going out. Don’t make ridiculously strict study plans, because what you need is balance. Feeling guilty and as if you should be doing work all the time isn’t healthy, so plan ahead. Give yourself a couple of hours a day for TV or lazy internet browsing. Go out and have fun at the weekends, provided you don’t get lasting hangovers that stop you doing any work for a long time afterwards!
  • Relax about the mocks. They do not matter. I can’t say if it’s the right or wrong thing to do – you know what suits you – but most people I know* used the internet to find out what was coming up on the papers. Others treated it as they would treat the real exam. When you get your results, keep in mind that the correctors are often out of their heads on pills.** So try not to get angry if you do a lot of study and get bad marks. And don’t get too comfortable if you did f-all and they were fine, either. The teachers correcting the proper exam will know what they’re at. Reading through the papers with your class teacher should give you a better idea of how you’re doing, if you’ve been marked badly.
  • Go to school. ‘Study days’ …bahaha. GOOD ONE! Get out of your house to study. Sign up for after-school study, or go to a library. It’s nice to go home to relax, rather than having your room clogged up with notes and reminders of school. This is something I didn’t actually do – though I should have. However, I will say that the satisfaction of clearing out half the Amazon rainforest worth of notes and handouts from your room when it’s all over is incredible.
  • When you’re feeling horrible, think of the future. It’s so close to the end, and the feeling when it’s over…just, wow. Enjoy the process of filling out the CAO or UCAS or whatever, if that’s what you’re doing. Give it some thought and look at what you’ll be studying in depth. Imagine yourself doing those subjects, and follow your heart rather than looking at points or the prestige of certain colleges. Trust yourself over any guidance counsellor! This is the best guide I found for trying to work out what to do. But there’s always the option of taking a year out, or changing your mind later on. Again…relax. What makes the year so dreadful is the hysteria and pressure teachers and the media create. Ignore them. It’s important, yes, but you’re not going to die if you make a mistake now.
  • Do lots of past exam questions, hand them up to teachers to be corrected, and base your notes on those. Much more practical than learning whole books! The amount of information that’s completely irrelevant to the exam is vast – look at the size of them all, like. If a question is going to be asked, chances are it has already been asked, in different phrasing.
  • If you haven’t done a thing yet, you’ll be grand. You can still do well. If haven’t done anything by the February mid-term, all is not lost. It’s possible to begin studying at Easter and do okay. For the species of student that actually cannot do any work or concentrate on this shit at all because their life is filled with things that are much more exciting and they have no willpower …I can’t say that this is foolproof, only that it worked for me. Use those two weeks between school ending and exams beginning for the biggest cramathon of your life.

I hope that this will be of help to someone, and if you have any more to add, let loose in the comments section underneath!

*NOT ME of course, prospective employer! ;D
**Prob not, in all fairness, but they do make mistakes.

Original post;

13 thoughts on “How to survive your leaving cert”

  1. tanx a mill..this really settled me!!cause i was so nervous about everything from mocks, CAO, orals and everything, but your right it is not worth worrying…

  2. Repetition? This guy knows what’s good. Cheers for the best, most realistic advice I’ve got this year!

  3. “Realise that searching Google for ‘study tips’ isn’t helping.”
    that’s how i found this! ‘porcrasurbating’ has been added to my vocabulary!

  4. Exam Survival Kit

    These exam tips were written by a 2010 student in July last year for her sister. Hope it helps.

    The Place

    Set aside a special place to study every day. Soon your brain will associate this place with being in ‘study mode’ and that will really help.

    – Preferably not in your bedroom, because inevitably you’ll end up lying on it to study and falling asleep.
    – Make sure it’s not too stuffy and has plenty of light so you stay awake.
    – Preferably not right in front of a window as that can be distracting (or just close the curtains)
    – Turn off your mobile phone and laptop (ALWAYS!) – It’s way to easy to get distracted
    – Make sure the room is clean and the desk is clear before you start studying, -otherwise you will use this as an excuse to procrastinate by cleaning it up as your mind will be too ‘cluttered’.
    – Have a bottle of water (and maybe some kind of snack, like nuts or dried -mango) as these will stop you getting up to get food and will keep your brain alert.
    – Don’t have any background noise – use earphones to block out even as this will also ‘clutter’ your brain, giving you less space for important information.

    The Technique

    Each day look in your homework journal and see what’s due over the coming week. Then number your homework in order of what you will do first, as this gets the cogs of your brain working.

    Try to do your learning homework last, as it’s more likely to be remembered the next day that way.

    When doing your homework, really spend time on it as this is better than any extra study you may have planned. Your teacher is getting you to revise this class work for a reason, so make the most of it! Remember, they are the experts not you!

    If you have any questions while studying, make sure you either write them down to ask your teacher the next day, or (even better) search for the answers yourself in your book. For example, you are studying Biology and learning about the respiration system: you read about red blood cells, which you have already covered but do not fully remember. Go back to the Chapter on blood and remind yourself. When you yourself are interested in the answer to something then it will stick in your mind a lot better.

    When you have to learn a diagram for biology, a theorem for maths or even a rule for grammar and it won’t go into your head, write/draw it onto a note card and blue tack it onto your bathroom mirror, or beside the toilet, or even put it on a shelf by your kitchen table. The amount of time you spend on the loo, brushing your teeth or having your breakfast, reading toilet humour books or the back of cereal packs really does add up, and even if only subconsciously the shapes on these note cards will start to stick into your head after a while. Plus it gives your brain something interesting to do.

    Be prepared to do some weekend studying! However, recreational time is so important too, so until it gets to be a few weeks before important exams, you do not need to be learning for 9 hours every Saturday and Sunday (unlike what your teachers will tell you). You will just get overly stressed and then depressed when you learn that your friends have a life while you don’t.

    For most subjects nowadays it is very easy to find free podcasts on the internet (especially ITunes) that talk about your subject. RTE has done many special podcasts for the Leaving Cert with little tips that really help.

    For History, NewsTalk has done a special Leaving Cert series which gives you some extra info thus giving you an edge on other students.

    For Languages, tape cds normally come in your school books which if listened to regularly, even if it’s just in the background can really help to get your ear in. I listened to these on my iPod sometimes while lying in bed trying to sleep – you can get so bored your mind drifts off elsewhere.

    Also I listened to the cds while going jogging. It is far too easy to stop doing exercise in 3rd or 6th year because you can use the excuse that you should be studying. This is a terrible idea. Doing sport is the best way to refresh your mind and body. It also prevents you from looking like crap when you’re out celebrating your results! Normally people listen to music on their iPod while doing sport so no one will know if you’re really listening to a lecture on Parnell. Similarly, if you’re on a train/bus to school, no-one know what you are listening to. And these time of waiting to get to somewhere else pointlessly waste up valuable study time – also if you have to spend less time studying then you can have more time doing fun stuff so it really is a good thing to do.

  5. Coco, this was written by a woman 😛
    And also, this is a fantastic little assurance speech! Thank you 🙂

  6. i have no idea where to begin studying ! i am totaly lost. sitting here now, trying to learn the first out of 20 picture stories. really wish this could all just be over ! thank you for the post !

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