Many sixth years are feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of preparing for the Leaving Cert. This is completely normal and will be experienced by all exam candidates during this year. One of the most important skills that any young person can develop when managing Leaving Cert stress, or indeed any other form of stress, is to focus on what we can control and to take one day at a time.
Most students are highly motivated to meet the challenge of the Leaving Cert year. Some 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?
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 Leaving Cert preparation, despite 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. A student who has trouble getting started, should begin today: start small and plan exactly what is to be achieved by the end of the study session. This will help motivation and allow students to keep track of their progress.
Make sure to set goals. It can be extremely helpful to set smaller goals for each stage of the year and work towards achieving those, rather than focusing on June. Students should firstly think about what they would like to achieve in their Leaving Cert for each subject and then consider the grades they achieved in the fifth year exam. Then, they should set a target for each term. For example, ‘what grade would I like to get by the October midterm’, ‘for my Christmas exams’, ‘mocks’ etc. Each grade should be a little higher than the previous one. Monitoring these goals and adjusting work accordingly will help students reach their targets by the end of the academic year.
Focus on excellent homework. Doing good homework, practising questions and keeping up with the teacher are all great ways to ensure that students are on track, but at some point they 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 a student begins 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