The State Exams are almost here with English papers kicking off proceedings on Wednesday June 7th for Leaving Certificate and Junior Cycle students.
Donegal Career Guidance Counsellor Rory White has these top tips to help ensure you give the exams your best shot:
You have reached the end of May now, the studying is almost at an end and the exams are close on the horizon. Your thoughts should now turn to preparing yourself properly in order to give yourself the best chance of doing well. Preparation is always key to success, so follow these useful tips to help you give them your best shot!
- Familiarise yourself with the exam papers
Just like in previous years, because of disruptions caused due to the pandemic, the State Examinations Commission have made adjustments to some Leaving Certificate papers. The changes relating to your subjects can be viewed here. The changes should typically allow students much more choice and give more scope. Essentially the exams should be more manageable for you and allow you to be able to tailor your preparation more. Take the time beforehand to work out how you can make the most of these changes. Get to know the layout of the paper. See what you can leave out. Know the Marking Scheme. Listen to the advice of your subject teacher.
- Get to know your exam timetable
Print off a copy of the exam timetable and highlight all the exams that you intend sitting. Some days you may have more than one exam or you may have several days between exams. This should help you prioritise your final days of study. Note the dates and start times to ensure that you don’t miss an exam or arrive late. Here is a link to this year’s LCE Timetable and LCA Timetable.
- Time management and exam strategy
Time can be an enemy in exams for many candidates. Getting your time management under control will be key to doing well. It is a good idea to work out how much time you can afford to allocate to each question or section. Consider the weighting of marks given to each question and allocate the time accordingly. Try to stick as closely as possible to your timings. Even if you don’t get the question finished – move on. The few extra marks you garner in finishing a question may be worth sacrificing to pick up many more marks going for a new question. Have a watch on the table to help you here.
Be strategic about how you go about deciding what order to answer the questions in. They do not have to be done in chronological order. Read the exam paper in its entirety first. Select the questions that you will answer and then begin with your strongest area. This will give you confidence and get you off to a good start. Leave your least knowledgeable sections to last. Pay attention to the questions that have most marks and do not waste too much time on short questions. Pay attention to the action words in the question. If you are asked to ‘List’ then do exactly that, don’t waste time with a paragraph. On the other hand, if you are asked to ‘Explain’ or ‘Describe’ then likewise, spend the time doing that as there will be more marks for these type of questions. Finally, try to avoid doing extra questions. Do your best with the required ones you have chosen and develop the answers as much as you can.
- Ensure you have all the necessary equipment
Some essentials you should bring with you to the exam.
Comfortable writing pens: There will be lots of writing, so use your favourite kind and have a few of them. Highlighters: Useful for highlighting keywords/quotes on the exam paper. Pencil and colouring pencils: Useful for sketching diagrams required in some exams e.g. Biology and Geography. Scientific Calculator: You may need this for a number of exams. Make sure it is permitted and don’t forget to check the batteries. Have the right clothing: Try to wear comfortable clothing during the exam. The exam halls may be well ventilated so make sure that you have enough layers in case it gets cold. Water: Sipping water keeps you hydrated and maintains your concentration levels. Sipping water can also help to steady nerves. Try not to drink too much as you don’t want to waste precious time going to the bathroom. A 500ml bottle is plenty. Snack: Ideally you will have eaten well before your exam. If you haven’t then a banana/some nuts or a cereal bar could help keep hunger away. Avoid any noise or distraction that might disturb the other candidates. Watch: Your exam centre should have a clock, however, you may place your watch on the table to keep a closer eye on time. Smart watches are not permitted into your exam centre.
- The night before your first exam
Many students can be nervous and anxious the day before the exams start. However, these nerves tend to calm down significantly and students get into the swing of it once the exams are under way. A good night’s sleep is very important to ensure your energy and focus levels are high. Rather than study right up until bedtime the night before, focus a little on relaxing yourself. Finish your studying in the early evening and do something that will help you to wind down, relax and sleep better. Go for a walk, swim or cycle. Kick a ball around for an hour and get some fresh air. This will help you sleep better and is great preparation.
- Prepare properly on the days of your Exams
Allow plenty of time to get ready and get to your exam centre. The hard work is done so it should just be about last minute looking over key words/notes/formulas.
Eat a decent breakfast, you will need the fuel to give you energy and help maintain your focus. Arrive to your exam centre in plenty of time to avoid being flustered at the start of your exam. Everyone is different when it comes to the time immediately before exams. Some students like the company of their friends, for others this can heighten anxiety. Be selfish here and do what is best for you. A walk in the fresh air alone or with a sole companion may be more beneficial.
- Trust yourself. You’ve got this!
You have been working towards these exams for almost two years now and you have gained a lot of knowledge during that time. All of that time and effort will pay off. Be positive, give the exams your very best shot and show the examiner just how much you know about these subjects. Think positively and be confident!
- Remember the Leaving Cert is not the be-all and end all
Finally, one thing is for certain. The Leaving Certificate, although important, will not define your life. If things do not work out with your exams or you do not get into your first choice, do not worry as there are so many other pathways that will get you to where you want to go. In a few short weeks this will all be behind you and you will be forging a new exciting path for yourself at the end of the summer. You will look back and wonder what all the fuss was about!
The very best of luck to everyone!
Rory White is a Ballybofey-based Guidance Counsellor currently working with CareersPortal.ie, Ireland’s National Career Guidance Website. He previously worked with Donegal ETB in Finn Valley College, Stranorlar and is a member of the Donegal Branch of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors. For more than ten years he has been helping Leaving Cert and PLC students as well as adults choose a college course or decide to change their career journey to start something new. Rory’s columns on Donegal Daily share advice on making informed career and education decisions.
– Rory White BA/H.Dip in Guidance & CounsellingTags: