Preparing to make the grade
The key to succeeding in the Leaving Cert is organisation. Make out a realistic study plan at the beginning of each term and stick to it. You may only be able to fit in two hours’ study mid-week and that’s fine as long as you make a diligent effort at the weekend.
I found that by doing a half an hour’s study before my homework was a good way to cover material and also your mind is much fresher at this point. Try to do a little study everyday as this keeps you in the frame of mind for the exams.
Use mid-terms to catch up on topics that you really find challenging and ensure that you perfect your strengths as well as your weaknesses, as this will allow you to reach the higher grades. It’s never too late to start studying and by making a conscious effort in the coming months you can really make a difference to your points.
One piece of advice that I would give to any Leaving Cert student is never bank on a question that is deemed to be a dead cert. It happened to me last year where I convinced myself Eavan Boland was guaranteed to be on the paper, and it is a very disconcerting experience to sit in an exam hall and not be prepared.
Learn what your teacher tells you as they know the syllabus better than anyone and always ensure that you have covered enough topics that will allow you to answer all the necessary questions in the exam. Never limit your options for the exam; you have the time to cover these topics so why leave yourself short?
Your most important asset in preparation for the Leaving Cert is undoubtedly your exam papers. Practice really does make perfect and I found that by knowing the exact layout of the paper gives you added confidence in the exams.
What I did to practice for the Question A in Home Economics was take out a blank sheet and time myself to write the answer in 20 minutes, as time is very limited in this exam. At first the quality of your answers will not be exceptional, but over time you will notice an improvement in your work. Do this for every subject and you will reap the rewards.
Also, I found the marking scheme to be very beneficial as it allowed you to focus on the key points and subsequently get the grades you desire.
In terms of preparation for the orals, you really do need to practice. Write out the essential topics that you will need to discuss and always write more than you intend to say. There is nothing worse than saying too little and always remember to be cheerful and enthusiastic about the language you are speaking. A friendly approach and a smile can go a long way in an oral exam.
It is so important to take time out. Go for a walk every evening after school, ring your friends and enjoy the occasional nights out with your classmates. Get involved with activities in your school and really enjoy the last few months you have left in secondary education. Also, look out for your friends at this time and ensure that they are not getting over anxious, it is important to remember the Leaving Cert is not a competition and that a problem shared is a problem halved.
You have to be motivated and understand that the hard work really does pay off. June can seem a long time away, but looking back now the time really flew. Don’t look back and say I wish I studied harder, it’s January now and your dream course can still be achieved with a little hard work and organisation. Going to college is the best experience of your life and I can’t emphasise enough how much the tedious hours of study really do pay off.
You have 21 weeks. Make the effort. I wish you all the best in your exams.
Eileen’s top tips
- Get organised
- Don’t bank on dead certs in Leaving
- Practice, practice, practice
- Always take time out
Eileen Kelly was recently awarded the top Home Economics grade in Ireland for the Leaving Certificate 2010 examination.