Dr Ciara Kelly: 'If those eejits can do the Leaving cert and survive so can you'
So the Leaving Cert starts on Wednesday. God knows it's been a long time coming and for better or worse thousands of young people around the country will sit in school halls and try to stop their legs from shaking under the desk as they line up their pencil cases, Tippex and rulers.
First up, well done on getting this far without cracking under the pressure. The LC in particular puts a strain on students wholly disproportionate to its relevance. The truth is if you don't get your number one choice on your CAO application - chances are you'll get something else probably as good. Or indeed if you're very focused on a set career path, you'll find one of the many back doors into it if that's what you want - irrespective of the Leaving Cert. Plus, the truth is what you think you want at 18 is very possibly not what you'll want at 25 or 40 - as most teenage romances bear witness to.
So keep a cool head and do not allow yourself to become flooded by any of this.
* If you're feeling the strain take a break, have a brisk walk, a cup of tea and do some breathing exercises.
* Plus tell someone. If you're feeling overwhelmed talk to your parents, a teacher or your guidance counsellor. A bit of advice and debunking of your over-blown fears by someone objective always helps calm you down.
* I also think it's important to maintain perspective. Almost everyone in the country does the Leaving and if those eejits can do it and survive so can you. Plus the old adage - things never turn out as bad as we fear - also holds true.
* The main thing now is preparation as opposed to study. Make sure you've all the stationery - pens, pencils, rubbers, or any maths or art stuff - all ready to go. Make sure you know how you're getting to school and leave plenty of time.
* Get in some snacks for the exams. Sugar may be the new smoking according to some gobdaws but it comes into its own when an energy burst is required halfway through paper two.
* And use your secret weapon - sleep! Yes adrenalin kicks in to keep you going even on little sleep in an exam situation. But when it kicks in when you're well rested - you'll perform at a much higher level. So aim for eight hours the night before every exam.
* Cramming works! Don't believe anyone who tells you otherwise. And if you feel you don't know where to start because you're stressed, just hit the subject for the following day. If you know what's likely to come up - great. Focus on that. If you haven't a clue - then just read your notes or the book for as long as you can before it's time to get that lovely sleep. It's amazing what will come back to you on the day from that last cramming session.
* If there are important things you need for an exam, like formulae or quotes or some kind of a list that you really struggle to remember, do this: ignore everyone outside the exam hall, read the stuff you can't remember over and over and over outside. Recite it. Do not stop doing it even when they tell you it's time to go in. Keep re reading. Be the last person into the hall. But keep repeating it over and over in your head. The minute they tell you to start - do not start. Write down on the back page everything that you were just learning off by heart, outside the exam hall. When you've regurgitated the formula/theorem/quote on to the paper start your exam, knowing that the bit you always mess up, is on the back page, word perfect for when you need it. Welcomes.
* Lastly, be smart in your exam - use every bit of available time. If there's three hours and six questions make damn sure you write for a full 30 minutes on each of them. Don't stop, even if your hand feels like it's falling off! Be neat. Underline stuff. Use headings. Make whatever drivel you're handing up look presentable, even if you're bluffing. READ THE QUESTION CAREFULLY! Don't spend ages writing about the causes of World War II when they've asked you about Hitler's motivation!
* So hold your nerve and spew out everything you know and it'll all be grand! Lastly… the very best of luck! We're rooting for you.
@ciarakellydoc Ciara presents 'Lunchtime Live' on Newstalk, weekdays 12-2
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