Wednesday 20 September 2017

Negative thoughts creeping in around exam time

Q I am beginning to worry that I won't do as well in the Leaving Certificate as I hoped. I have devoted so much time in recent weeks to some of the practical projects required by one of my subjects that I feel I won't have enough time to spend on revising all my other subjects. I may have to repeat next year to get the points I need. Will I have to repeat all subjects?

A Firstly, do not start entertaining negative thoughts so soon. But you touch on an interesting dilemma, because many students realise that the amount of time they spent on practicals or coursework may be disproportionate to their workload as a whole.

However, there are three weeks to go to before the start of the written exams, and you have time to do plenty of good revision. You probably are well aware of your own timetable -- it is available on

There always is a problem balancing revision of all your subjects, and some are more important to you than others.

If it comes to repeating the Leaving Certificate to improve points, most students are not likely to have to repeat all subjects.

The general rule in CAO is that you count the points from your best six subjects gained in one sitting only, but you may obtain the subjects necessary for college entry and course requirements over a number of sittings of the Leaving Certificate.

So, for example, if you need to pass Irish and maths as a requirement of entry for the college or course that you are applying for, but you are taking them at ordinary level, and may not anticipate counting one or other of them for points purposes, you could leave one or both of them behind in a repeat Leaving Certificate (once you had got the necessary grade), and concentrate on your six strongest subjects in your repeat Leaving.

Conversely, if you got enough points for your course in your first sitting, say an Engineering level 8 degree course, but did not get the grade C3 in Higher Level maths, (which is usually an essential course requirement for Level 8 engineering degrees) you could repeat just maths, and use your points from the previous year.

The one exception to this rule is undergraduate medicine in the five Irish medical schools. Since the introduction of the new selection procedures including the HPAT test, the rules state that: in order for school leavers to be eligible to compete for entry to undergraduate medicine, they must both (a) achieve a minimum of 480 points and (b) meet the minimum entry requirements for each medical school for which they have applied and these must both be achieved in the same sitting of the Irish Leaving Certificate Examination, or equivalent.

Remember the following key points:

  • Know the format of each exam
  • Follow the time-honoured advice of reading through the exam paper before starting it.
  • Know what marks are awarded for each section of the paper. Concentrate on the most valuable sections.
  • Develop the habit of using the exam paper as a resource. For example, in a language papers, all kinds of words and phrases are available in comprehension passages which you may find useful in another question.
  • Stick to the point when answering a question.

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