Saturday 21 September 2019

Dr Ciara Kelly on exams: 'Take it from someone who has four degrees. Here's why you can do this'

Dr Ciara Kelly
Dr Ciara Kelly

Ciara Kelly

One week and three days to go. And I, for one, am relieved. This has been a long time coming and, I think, the sooner we get on with it and we get it over with, the better. The massive pressure of the build-up to the Leaving Cert is easily as difficult to cope with as the exam itself.

And, I think it would be great if our kids could separate the two things and just do the exam without the long, horrible lead in - whilst that would still be a stiff test, it would not be the waking-up-in-a-cold-sweat, naked nightmares that haunt so many of us for the rest of our adult life.       I think this last week is, of course, about doing the final bits of revision - I would not have the qualifications I have today if cramming didn't make a difference! But it is mainly about staying calm and getting your head in the right space. We are now gearing up for the main event. This is like the moment before a boxer enters the ring and he is hopping from foot to foot readying himself for the fight. The mindset of how you go into a set of exams is probably as important as what you actually know about the subjects you're being tested on.

There are people who know tons of stuff on any given topic but fail to perform on the day - which is incredibly unfair. But equally, there are people who have the bare bones of knowledge, but punch above their weight when they sit in that exam hall - which may also be unfair - but if you're going to be one of these, it's so much better to be the latter. And that's all down to holding your nerve and being absolutely determined to do your personal best on the day.

This is not the time for concentrating on what you don't know, or what you didn't do by way of studying, and letting it undermine your confidence. This is the time for sucking up the last crumbs of whatever you can jam into your brain on any given subject and then regurgitating it to the best of your ability.

I did a pretty good Leaving Cert and I have four degrees, so take it from one who knows - it isn't always how clever you are or how much you've studied - some of it is down to exam performance and that can be worked at. I might talk about some tricks I learnt over the years exam wise next week. But, for now, what I want you to do is believe.

* Believe you can do this and do it well.

* Believe, that even though you didn't do all the work you should have - or indeed all the work some of your class mates did - that doesn't matter.

* Believe that it's totally possible for you to write all the right answers for those exam questions - in 10 days' time. People often get lucky about what comes up.

* Believe that you can sometimes dredge up things from the darkest recess of your brain - even though you only half remember them - when you are in the zone and focussed.

You should view these exams as an opportunity for you to show them exactly what you can do. You certainly have enough knowledge to fill a few pages, so make sure you display it for all to see.

There isn't a huge amount of time left, so I'd be condensing any given course down to a day and making sure on that day I hit the six most important bits of the course - bearing in mind that that's not a reason to panic if they aren't what comes up.

Parents, your job now is to tell them no matter what happens it's going to be OK, there's always more than one way to skin a cat in terms of achieving your goals. And there are back doors into studying, or working in every area, from fine art to medicine - if first preferences don't materialise.

Your other job is fuel provision. Food. Snacks. Drinks. Coffee. Make them available around the clock. Plan what foodstuffs they'd like for exams, too, and get them in. Lots of people bring jellies for sugar, or even those boiled coffee sweets for a little caffeine hit. We are nearly there and it may well turn out way easier than you expected. You can't know what you don't know - just make sure you tell them absolutely everything that you do.

@ciarakellydoc Ciara presents Lunchtime Live on Newstalk radio, weekdays 12-2pm

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