Saturday 17 February 2018

How to make the most of Leaving Cert year

Guidance counsellor Aoife Walsh
Guidance counsellor Aoife Walsh

Aoife Walsh

At this time of year, my sixth-year students return to school wanting to achieve the best Leaving Certificate results they can. While they often feel anxious about the challenge ahead, they are definitely motivated. Some students find it difficult to turn this motivation into action from day one, and flounder for a number of weeks. So, how do we maximise this motivation and make the most out of the year ahead?

Firstly, the students who struggle to get going are often the ones who have not established a good work routine before sixth year and they can feel anxious that they are behind already. For these students it is so important to forget about all they have not done; this has passed and can't be changed. There is still enough time ahead to reach potential, but it is important to start immediately.

The saying 'tomorrow never comes' can be true for many during the Leaving Cert year - despite a student's best intentions. Students often report that they intend to start studying on Monday, next week, after the mid-term or after Christmas, but unfortunately this goal can be continually delayed.

If a student has trouble getting started, then my advice to them is to begin today. Start small and plan exactly what is to be achieved by the end of the study session. This will help motivation, allow students to keep track of what they have achieved and improve grades.

The best thing any student can do to make the most of their year is to set goals. The Leaving Cert is such a big challenge that, at this stage, the achievement of certain targets can seem like an impossible task. It can be extremely helpful to set smaller goals for each stage of the year and work towards those, rather than focusing on June.

Students should firstly think about what their desired grade is for each subject and then consider the grades they achieved in those subjects during the fifth-year exams.

The next step is to set a target for each period/term in the year ahead - 'what grade would I like to get by the October mid-term, for my Christmas exams, mocks?' As they go through the year, each target grade should be a little higher than the previous one. Monitoring these goals and adjusting them accordingly will help students reach their targets by the end of this academic year.

Doing good homework, practising questions and keeping up with the teacher from day one are all great ways to ensure that students are on track to achieve their goals.

However, at some point students will have to sit down and memorise information in order to succeed. Nobody enjoys this part of the process, but it is unavoidable and the earlier you can begin the better. Doing this every day over the year will pay off, as students will find new information is easier to learn and will not have to revisit it later in the year.

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

Important dates


Queen's University Belfast Open Day (2 days)

September 12

Career Zoo, Convention Centre, Dublin

September 15

St Mary's University College Belfast, Open Days (2 Days)

September 16

University of South Wales, Undergraduate Open Day

September 19

Ulster University, Coleraine Open Day

Question:  I took ordinary level Irish at Junior Cert and did well. Should I try for higher in the Leaving Cert?

Fifth-years are making decisions on levels in core subjects such as English, Irish and maths and these choices can be challenging.

My general rule of thumb is that students should always take the highest level they can cope with, without risking failure. From 2017, a student who achieves a H7 grade (higher level 30-39pc) will receive 37 points, the logic being that had the student taken the ordinary paper they would have achieved an O3 (ordinary level 70-79pc) and should be rewarded accordingly. This may encourage students to take the higher level.

Students must also achieve matriculation requirements - certain minimum grades to be considered for a course. In the new system, where a D3 is currently the minimum requirement in a subject, this will be replaced by an O6/H7. Students should take on board the advice of teachers and guidance counsellors when making their decisions.

Irish Independent

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