The Leaving: How was it for you? Stars tell of their memories
Pat Kenny, publisher Norah Casey and radio presenter Mairead Farrell tell Laura Butler about their memories of the Leaving Cert.
BROADCASTER Pat Kenny still has nightmares about the Leaving Certificate, over 40 years later.
The RTE presenter told the Irish Independent that he has regularly woken in the middle of the night with fears over sitting his Irish paper and feels that the format should be scrapped.
"Our teacher went missing through illness in the months beforehand. We had a substitute teacher in, but it got in on me and have over the years woken up that I'm going into the exam completely unprepared.
"I ended up getting an A grade, but somewhere in my subconscious the seed was planted, so it does really live with you," he said.
Kenny (65), whose daughter Nicole will be among the thousands of students to sit the exams over the coming three weeks, said that while it is a stressful experience – it does not define your life.
"Nobody ever asks how you did in it after you leave school, ever. In life it's not something that comes up and employers don't ask about it either.
"It's more stressful than university exams, by a mile. But if you want high points, you learn stuff off by heart."
He continued: "It has to be redesigned for the 21st Century. We don't need to know a lot of this stuff now, we have Google.
"When the minister says he wants to make it less predictable, that's grossly unfair without reforming it. The only way people can get through is by guessing what will come up; betting on it.
"To change it around and mess with the minds of students without reforming it would be wrong.
Harmonia publisher Norah Casey believes that even if a student performs poorly in an exam situation, it does not mean they will not succeed professionally.
"The Leaving Cert trick is learning how to regurgitate information," she told the Irish Independent.
"It's tough to judge people's performance solely based over an exam that lasts a couple of hours. I'd say try to do the best at the subject you think you're the best at.
"Study hard in those areas and then hopefully you can go on and build on that."
Casey sat her Leaving Certificate at just 16 and still feels her stomach churn every June. "The stress levels are enormous. I was one of those who didn't study enough in advance, so I ended up cramming and shoved everything into the last few days."
"It's blown out of proportion in terms of importance, but at that young age, it's the most important thing in your life. You know you'll be judged against your peers and likewise you don't want to let people down," the mother of one said.
Today FM anchor Mairead Farrell, who described herself as "a consistent C-grade student", said the key to getting through the ordeal was to remain calm.
"I never got worked up the way lots of people did. I was always average and aware of what I was capable of doing.
"I was the baby in the family and there was no pressure from my parents.
"Looking back now, I'm raging I took such a relaxed approach. I didn't fail anything and got to college, but ended up doing something in college that I hated."