Monday 23 April 2018

And so it begins - here are some last-minute exam tips from the experts

Going to college

Guidance counsellor Aoife Walsh
Guidance counsellor Aoife Walsh

Aoife Walsh

Today is the day for which sixth year students, and their families, have been preparing for many years. It can be a stressful day, but, in my experience, and excluding a few hours before the exam begins, the worst of the stress has now passed.

It is amazing for all involved how quickly students settle into a new, daily routine; there are often minimal nerves as the days and weeks progress.

By today, most of the work is done. Now it is important to maintain balance, wherever possible. The Leaving Cert is both a physical and mental challenge and there are a number of things students can do to ensure they are in the best possible position to meet it.

Before each exam, students should take time to go over notes and think about what is to come. They should make sure that the structure of each exam is familiar and, if there is more than one paper in a subject, know exactly which questions are covered on which paper. They should also be sure to understand which sections allow choice and which are compulsory.

A student who opens the paper and feels they don't know anything should accept this is nerves and begin writing. They should write anything, even if they think it is not relevant. The process of writing allows the brain to start making connections and more relevant information will begin to flow.

It is essential too to know the timings for questions, and stick to them. Students should not stay longer on a particular question than they had planned, even though they may be tempted. If a student runs out of time on a question, they should leave it and return later.

Most importantly, students should always stay to the end of the exam and make additions to answers, where necessary, or reread the paper looking for any errors. If a candidate remembers something once they have left the exam hall, it is too late. It is important to be able to walk away from each exam knowing that they have truly given it their best.

While working through each paper, candidates may find information for different questions popping into their head. They should make a note in the rough work section and return to add them in later.

Once an exam is completed, students should move on and avoid post mortems. Spending too much time reviewing the paper, or trying to figure out what mark was achieved, will not change the grade but is likely to increase stress and anxiety or affect future exam performance. Similarly, avoid other students who may wish to discuss exams in too much detail. It is likely this person is just trying to make themselves feel better. Put yourself first and walk away.

Students should try to take some time to relax after each exam, especially if there is more than one in the same day: have lunch, chat to a friend, have a little walk, before moving on to reviewing notes for the next exam. Brains and bodies need a rest to perform at their best.

Best of luck to the class of 2017. You're nearly there!

Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin

Important dates


Information Sessions - Roslyn Park College, Dublin


Deadline to reply to offers made before May - UCAS


Summer School - Maynooth University


Open Evening - Dublin Business School


Open Evening - National College of Ireland


Priority closing date for renewal applications - SUSI

June 19

Summer Camp - University College Cork

Q. One of the courses I listed on my CAO has been cancelled. What should I do?

A. Every year, a number of courses listed in the CAO handbook are cancelled. In addition, a number of new courses are released after the publication of the CAO handbook. The CAO posts a list of such courses to all applicants in preparation for the opening of the Change of Mind period.

The lists are also available on the CAO website, appearing as Important Changes in the CAO handbook. CAO applicants may use the Change of Mind period, up to July 1, to make amendments to their choices.

Among the courses included on the cancellation list are DC292 Arts Joint honours with Gaeilge, and DC122 Computational Problem Solving and Software Development, both in DCU. This will, no doubt, be disappointing for some, as both degrees provide students with in-demand skills.

Interesting additions for which applicants may apply through the Change of Mind system include Culinary Arts and Gastronomic Studies, available at both level 7 and 8 (GA378 GA382) at GMIT and common entry Engineering (DK843) at DkIT.

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