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Leaving Cert Diary: ‘I’ll be OK, Mam bought me a 50-pack of biros and, sure, what else do I need?’

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Leaving Cert diarist Shona O’Kelly, from Athenry, Co Galway. Photo: Ray Ryan

Leaving Cert diarist Shona O’Kelly, from Athenry, Co Galway. Photo: Ray Ryan

Shona O'Kelly, Irish Independent exam diarist

Shona O'Kelly, Irish Independent exam diarist

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Leaving Cert diarist Shona O’Kelly, from Athenry, Co Galway. Photo: Ray Ryan

Here we go. I can finally experience that ‘this may be the worst Wednesday of all time’ feeling endured by so many before me.

In a way, I’m thrilled that the day is finally here. Nerves have left me entirely incapacitated for the last week, and I have done nothing productive in several days. The week preceding the exams is indeed more of a ‘can I just get this over with?’ time than anything else.

Covid-19 has certainly made life difficult for young people, yet I can’t help but selfishly feel that it has worked in my favour as a Leaving Cert student.

Since September, my study has been incessant. Don’t be fooled. This is not due to my dedication as a student but rather the lack of opportunity to do, well, anything else.

Before the pandemic, sixth year was characterised by nights out, concerts, and all other events involving alcohol. This could not be further from my experience.

Nevertheless, the complete absence of a social life this year gave me lots of time to consider studying.

And now, after one of the wettest months of May on record, I’m beginning to think a higher power is manipulating nature purely in the hopes that I achieve 625 points. It feels good knowing that someone has my back.

But enough about me. It has, without a doubt, been a challenging year for all Leaving Cert students. With normal school replaced by remote learning after Christmas, many of us grappled with online work. Virtual classes certainly took a toll, whether it was due to ancient laptops or dodgy wifi. Regardless, our days of Zoom lessons and Google Classroom are behind us. It’s time to focus on the positives. And what positives they are.

The Leaving Cert class of 2021 will face a set of exams like no other.

There are fewer questions to be answered, which means more choice and heaps of time. Never before has there been an element of such choice in the Maths papers. For the first time, students are not obliged to answer a question on Shakespeare in English Paper 2. I can just imagine the envy of those still haunted by the soliloquies of their past.

Despite all the stress and talk of stricter marking schemes, these arrangements have been made to benefit us and to accommodate for the absence of face-to-face teaching. We must remember that.

Lastly, if any of my fellow sixth-years happen to be reading this (why aren’t you studying?), here are some words of advice: don’t underestimate how hard you have worked. Be confident, have faith in yourself, and go in with guns blazing. As you read this, you may even be finished with English Paper 1.

From here on, the time flies. At least, that’s what everyone says. I hope they’re right.

As for me, I’ll be OK. Mam’s bought the 50-pack of Bic biros and, sure, what else do you need?

 

Shona O’Kelly is a Leaving Certificate candidate at Presentation College, Athenry, Co Galway


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