Friday 15 December 2017

Tips for making the most of pre-exam study

Going to college

Guidance counsellor Aoife Walsh
Guidance counsellor Aoife Walsh

In recent weeks I have spent a lot of time meeting students who are concerned about their study habits, most commonly Junior Cert students. The problem usually lies in one, or a combination of the following areas.

Simply not studying

This is often a result of an overly packed schedule of activities such as sport and social events, which has become unrealistic as the exams approach. The first step is to find the times in the week when it is possible to revise, then draw up a realistic schedule and try to commit to it. Begin by entering all the times the student cannot study, such as training, music lessons or grinds (grinds should not be counted as study). Then, schedule in time for dinner and travel etc. Finally, all the times the student intends to study should be entered into the timetable.

Be active and test

Many students report that they study by reading a chapter and highlighting what is important, but revision should be a very active behaviour. One's brain should be constantly searching for and trying to remember information.

When approaching a new topic of revision students might try reading the headings first. For each heading they should ask 'what do I remember about this?' and jot down a few words to represent that they already know. If they don't remember anything at all, that's okay: they should note it and spend time on it later. Next go to the questions at the end of the chapter/section and read through them. This will give an understanding of what the author thinks is important. Students should be mindful of how many answers they already remember - this helps motivation.

Then they should read each section and, at the end of each one, jot down what is important. I like to do this on a mind map. Now, students should test themselves, either in their head or by completing sample questions from past papers, or both.


Students should minimise the distractions over which they have control, including turning off their phone. If a student is distracted, they should note it and then return to work without becoming frustrated or chastising themselves. It is a good idea to keep a page handy and tick it each time there is a distraction and then return to work. The student should notice the incidences of distraction decreasing.

Without being aware of monitoring when you become distracted you are likely to continue day dreaming.

Finally, students should set timed tasks and challenges, for example, 'I will read this section in two minutes,' or 'I can draw this diagram in five minutes'. This means that the learner becomes more actively engaged. This should help them to keep focused and make better use of their time.

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

Question: The closing date for late applications to the CAO is May 1. What does this deadline mean?

Answer: The normal deadline for CAO applications is February 1, but applicants may apply for the first time between March 5 and May 1. These are considered late applications, which may be made for all courses excluding ‘restricted courses’. A restricted course requires applicants to present a requirement, such as an audition or portfolio, as well as Leaving Cert points. Apart from the ‘restricted entry’ issue and a higher fee, late applicants are at no disadvantage with regards to college entry.

A student who wishes to apply to the CAO for the first time after May 1 will only be able to do so through ‘available places’. These are places that are unfilled because of lack of demand, or after all offers have been made and waiting lists exhausted. They are advertised on the CAO website for part of July and after Round 1 offers offers in August.

Important dates


Open Day — Bray Institute of Further Education


Medicine/Dentistry Entrance Exams for Debrecen Uni Hungary — Dublin International Foundation College

May 1

Closing date for Late Applications — CAO

May 3

Online application for campus accommodation opens — Maynooth University

May 4

Open Day — Blackrock Further Education Institute

Open Day — Griffith College Dublin

Open Evening — Irish College of Humanities & Applied Sciences

Information Sessions — Roslyn Park College

Reply to offers by this date for decisions received by March 31 — UCAS

Irish Independent

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