Joe’s Jotter: The ACE Guide to Exam Preparation from Home (Part 2 of 6)

The Routine of a Daily Lifestyle (Study) Timetable

Routine and structure to me should be based around what I call a ‘Lifestyle Study Timetable’. Through this, you plan exactly what you are going to do during each part of your day. The best starting point is to make a list of sub-topics to be revised for each subject; do this on a A3/A2 sheet of paper so that you can see a full picture of all the content you need to cover (for each subject) between now and the exams. Each sub-topic on this sheet is ticked off as it gets completed. The next step is to rank your subjects (one to seven) in the order that you enjoy/excel at them. The first four subjects being the ones you are good at/enjoy, with subjects numbered five to seven being the ones you are not so fond of/not the best at. Numbers five to seven are the subjects you need to allocate more time to on your daily timetable each week. Each daily timetable should be written down to help you be more accountable to it i.e. More likely to complete it. It will also allow you to monitor progress at the end of each day and you can check back, as required, on exactly what you got finished.

Write out (then photocopy) or type your Lifestyle (Study) Timetable template, so that you can print copies and fill it in each day. If you are a dis-organised person, you should set Identical start, finish, break and mealtimes day after day, thereby establishing a clear routine. Call me boring, but it works! I would be up and running by ten thirty a.m. each morning at the latest. Try and get up at the same time to crystallise your routine. Be super organised from the night before, so that you can start straight into it the next morning, without having to de-clutter or prepare/find materials. If you are feeling super energetic, you also have the option of following your subject timetable from school.

I recommend you write out a new timetable each evening for the following day. On this timetable, inbuild your breaks, exercise, time out chatting to friends, tv time, family time etc. Below is a partial sample of what a Lifestyle (Study) Timetable might look like (Increase the Zoom level to get a closer look if viewing on a device). As you can see, each revision ‘block’ is thirty minutes long and there is a five-minute break at the end of each block. Use short breaks to check your phone or get some air. Exercise of any form far out ways time spent on your phone or console; Fact. I would never have the phone in your study area. Putting it in a different room will allow you to focus on what you should be doing. Take a good thirty-minute break after every two to three hours work. Reward your efforts.

A Sample ACE Lifestyle (Study) Timetable*

*Based on the Standard School Week.

It isn’t a great Idea to start the day with TV or a blast of your games console; leave that to the evening as required. Eat a good breakfast. This should be made much easier by the fact you won’t have to eat at seven or seven-thirty a.m., like when you are attending school. From listening to my own students, I know that many of you avoid breakfast and this is a bad practice. Breakfast gives you the brain fuel to sustain energy levels until lunch time and improve concentration/memory for all your tasks. Just eat something no matter how small (and I’m not talking about a bowl of coco-pops here either).

In my opinion, Leaving Cert students would need to be doing between five and eight hours revision a day at home. This is broadly in line with what you would do between school and homework during normal class times anyway. Revise subjects and topics early in the day that may not be your favourite. Leaving subjects you enjoy until the evening makes so much sense, as you won’t need as much energy and enthusiasm for them then. Tackle what you don’t enjoy first, and the day’s work will become easier. I would question how beneficial music in your study area is. For the last subject of the evening, it may be useful to get you through it, but may ultimately just end up being a distraction. You will know yourself if the tones from your headphones are helpful or not? Is the information still sticking? Be honest and sensible with yourself here.

If you have a timetable/list of tasks set out for a day and things go wrong, just try to finish the day well and start again with a new timetable/list the following day. Try to be kind to yourself, remembering that anything in the past is not something you can do change anymore; you need to move on, start again tomorrow and try your best. Target specific topics in each subject instead of revising very generally. At the end of each day, review how your day went and start winding down at least an hour before bedtime. According to a recent survey, it is recommended that teenagers get between eight and ten hours sleep a night (apparently just over half of you are actually getting this). If you are at home studying, there is no excuse for not getting enough sleep (but not too much either).

To view last weeks blog on ‘Five keys to Holiday Motivation’, click here. The link posted last week for this feature has changed, so apologies for that. Joe

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More details about Joe’s ACE Tuition Classes for Junior and Leaving Certificate Students (Maths and English), ACE Career Coaching, and his Award winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below. Be sure to pick up your copy today!

W: acesolutionbooks.com

FB: facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/

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*****

© Joe McCormack 2020

Joe’s Jotter: Five Keys to Holiday Motivation

As we enter our Christmas holidays, we will all enjoy a well deserved break. However, don’t leave it until the day before school to open the school bag again. Depending on what year you are in, you will know yourself how many hours revision you need to put in over this period. Read the below list of pointers and Implement them today to improve your productivity over the festive season.

  1. Reward yourself:

Don’t forget to ‘have a life’ as you prepare for any upcoming exam. Reward yourself after a long study session with a trip to the cinema or visit to your friends. Try hard to develop your own balance between work and play. Ultimately, reward yourself with breaks, taking a reasonable one after every good hour’s work. There is nothing wrong with rewards like chocolate, ice-cream or a packet of gummy bears; as everyone who has done something constructive deserves a little thank you. The best reward you can give yourself on study days are breaks.

  1. Stay connected:

It is important to keep up communication with your friends and family at revision time. Let them know how you are feeling especially if you are anxious about a particular subject. You will feel so much better about a problem if you ‘chat’ about it to someone. It can be easy to get cut off from the outside world when you are highly focused, so try not to let this happen. Balance is the optimal situation here.

  1. Use your family:

Using your family to help is a useful means of learning that few utilise properly. Some of your siblings will have completed exams and may be able to pass on some good quality information or advice to you; so remind them to save their notes for you. Even if the content of their notes isn’t suitable for your learning style, their methods and notes structure could give you some ideas on preparation of your own.

Get your parents involved and tap into knowledge and practical advice they may have on subjects they enjoyed in school. Get them to examine you on topics, they don’t need to be experts on course sections as they can refer to Information from your book in front of them. All you need is their willingness to ask you loads of questions.

  1. Stick to your plan:

Whatever plan you have for the next three weeks, try and stick to it as best you can. Working in retail every hour over Christmas won’t get you any extra points. As I always say, ‘you can work for the rest of your life’ (including college). Try and balance time wisely if you do happen to have a job.

On a given day, if you plan for nine a.m. as the start time for revision, get up before then, have breakfast, get ready and commence at that exact time. The students that do well are those who apply this self-disciplined approach and it guarantees that you are getting maximum efficiency out of your time. A high level of satisfaction will come when you get your exam results; knowing you gave it your all.

  1. Try and maintain some routine:

Getting to bed at a reasonable time and getting plenty of sleep will allow you to stick to your goals and plans. This also applies to holiday periods. We all loose our routine over the holidays and that’s ok too. However, try and get back into better habits when the new year turns as January 6th approaches. This will allow your body to be somewhat adjusted when you return to early school mornings. Over your holidays, enjoy yourself but keep doing the basics: eat plenty of fruit and veg, drink plenty of water and get loads of sleep. Rest and replenish and get ready for the battles ahead.

To view last weeks entry on ‘Brilliant Advice from Former Students’, click here. Tune in to next week’s blog where I will give you full details on Part two of ‘How to revise more effectively from home’. Joe

*****

More details about Joe’s ACE Tuition Classes for Junior and Leaving Certificate Students (Maths and English), ACE Career Coaching, and his Award winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below. Be sure to pick up your copy today!

W: acesolutionbooks.com

FB: facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/

#:    #JoesJotter

*****

© Joe McCormack 2020

Joe’s Jotter: Brilliant Exam Advice from Former Students

It is a long time since I sat in an exam hall, so I wanted to have a chapter in my book ‘How to ACE the Leaving Certificate’ where student opinions were aired, and feedback was relevant. When I read this chapter now, I feel it gives a great sense of the reality and pressures of the exams from a student’s perspective.

I have listened carefully and recorded information from students who have been through both the Junior and Leaving Cert exams over many years. I also surveyed sixty existing sixth years for their first-hand experience, asking them to think back to how they were feeling and their approach to the Junior Cycle exams; what they did right, what they could have done better, big mistakes and importantly what they learned. I asked these students to provide some study guidance for current fifth and sixth years. The advice below is useful to all Secondary School students but particularly pertinent to those doing exams in 2021.

Advice from former students to help you maximise your learning in school:

  • Start revising now.
  • Everything happens for a reason.
  • Start practising exam questions.
  • Practice exams at home under exam conditions.
  • Separate notes with labelled dividers to make topics easier to find.
  • As you approach exams, continue to attend class to the end.
  • Failure to plan is planning to fail. Plan each day using your homework journal.
  • Once an exam is done, take a break, move on, and start thinking about the next exam, never look back.
  • Homework, revision and creating good quality notes are all good forms of study.
  • Breaking a topic into bullet points is a brilliant way to help you remember it.
  • Get into a weekly routine of study, exercise, social life etc., i.e. Every Monday; do the same thing, same for Tuesday etc. Stick to this consistently and you will be able to plan ahead better.
  • Do extra study in the part of the day you feel more alert depending on whether you’re a night owl or an early bird (This only applies to weekends and holiday periods obviously).
  • Exercise will keep your mind fresh. Walking, gym sessions, cycling, swimming, or Zumba classes are all good. Do something you enjoy, whatever that may be.
  • From the month of January onwards, you need to put a proper Lifestyle (Study) Timetable in place.
  • Prior to the exams (the last six weeks), do morning trial runs on various foods to ensure they digest well. You will definitely need to eat something substantial for breakfast on the days you are doing exams.
  • Be ruthless with your time. Allocate a time limit for each part of a question (depending on the marks available for that part).
  • Social media commentators and mock papers only speculate about the contents of the final exam papers. Nobody really has a clue what’s on the paper, despite what they may say or have read online.
  • Believe in yourself. You have come so far and have so many talents that cannot be measured by any final exam. Your results in this exam will not affect how proud your parents are of you or how important you are to all your friends.
  • You need to figure out how best you learn. Some students learn by writing things out repeatedly, some by talking it out in groups, some by listening to recordings, some by reading, some by Internet research and others by typing out keynotes. A combination of the above learning styles may be your key to success.
  • Try not to approach the exams with a negative frame of mind. If you constantly think ‘I have to do so much study’, it will be like carrying around a bag of coal. If you don’t like a subject, think ‘This subject isn’t my favourite’ as opposed to ‘I hate this subject’. Thinking about life more positively can help you approach problem solving better.
  • Share work around in a small group. Have information sharing sessions in someone’s house. This reduces the amount of preparation you need to do in each subject, as your friends will already have done the research and checks on it. Sit down with the group and explain things to each other. Write down the key points from the shared session to enhance your own set of notes. If you are not comfortable in a group, get yourself a study buddy for the subjects you find difficult.
  • Start revising now (again!). Joe

To read last weeks extremely popular feature on ‘How to ACE your Christmas Exams’, click here.

*****

More details about Joe’s ACE Tuition Classes for Junior and Leaving Certificate Students (Maths and English), ACE Career Coaching, and his Award winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below. Be sure to pick up your copy today!

W: acesolutionbooks.com
FB:
facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/
#:    #JoesJotter

*****

© Joe McCormack 2020

Joe’s Jotter: How to ACE your Christmas Exams

First, Second and Fifth years; you will be commencing your Christmas exams soon. In the case of Second and Fifth years, it is another step towards your State exams and of course you want to put on a good show for work done over the last few months. Consequently, your preparation needs to start now for these exams. If you have very little revision done up to now, it’s not too late to salvage a decent percentage to set you up for the second term. It is never too late to start revising. Here are ‘Six of the best’ tips to ready yourself for the upcoming challenges:

  1. Set up a ‘Lifestyle Study Timetable’.

You need to put some kind of a plan in place for the next few weeks and I believe the ‘Lifestyle Study Timetable’ fits that bill. There is a full chapter dedicated to this in my ACE Study Guide book. In summary, draw out a weekly timetable containing thirty minute study blocks each tagged with a five minute break after each one. Each block will contain a topic from one of your subjects. Prior to entering topics required to be revised; enter your school times and all the leisure activities or events you will be involved in that week. Keep some catch-up blocks free each weekend in case plans change. It is better to have a plan that may need tweaking than no plan at all.

  1. Consolidate.

I would advise you, at this point, to consolidate the main topics you have studied since September. Prepare no new material while also being realistic what you can get covered in a couple of weeks. Your teacher should be able to give you a broad outline of the main topics for consideration for this exam. After Christmas, you can take on more of the course with a new timetable in preparation for the summer exams.

  1. Summarise.

Start writing out summaries in your own words, whether this is using notes from your teacher or Information from your textbook. I am a firm believer in having your own set of notes that you can read and understand easily. As with any exam, you do not want to be trawling through pages of notes as deadline day looms. Bullet points, postits, pocket notebooks and flash cards are great companions for these summaries. Put these good habits in place now.

  1. Tend to all Subjects.

It is important not to neglect the subjects that aren’t your favourite or that you may not excel in. The first piece of homework you tackle every evening should be from these subjects and they should also get more time (blocks) on your ‘Lifestyle Study Timetable’. You are better off to have the majority of your scores for subjects around the middle as opposed to having very high and very low percentages across a mix of subjects. Focus on your weaknesses, as it is likely your talents in the other subjects will balance overall grades out. This also applies within subjects. Getting very low scores in certain subjects can really drain the confidence and leave you wondering “Where do I go from here”?

  1. Listing and Ticking.

List out the set of topics (subject by subject) you plan to cover for these exams onto an A3/A4 sheet. Put an ‘S’ beside a given topic when summarised and then tick it off when you feel confident you could answer a potential exam question on it. Having these lists on your wall will provide an added incentive to get more done. Ticking off each list and watching the workload shrink will help you feel so much better about how your revision is progressing.

  1. Build Yourself Up.

Eating well is important as your body is more inclined to break down with colds, flu’s and bugs at this time of year. It will be really difficult to do any constructive preparation if you develop that niggling cold or sore throat. In my opinion the best foods to enhance your system at this time of year are porridge, lemon/orange juice, hot soups, curries, stews, hot roast dinners, mugs of hot drinks and of course loads of water, to name but a few. Sugary cereals or Energy/Fizzy drinks will never improve your health or help illness resistance. Get your parents on board here making sure they have stocked up the nutritional and warm homely winter foods to get you through to the last Christmas exam.

In summary, put a good solid effort into your revision over the next few weeks and you can relax then and enjoy Christmas with your family and friends. Your endeavours will be worth it when you see your grades being posted out in January. Take pride in your work at school, just as your parents take so much pride in everything you do. Joe

To read last weeks feature on the factors to take into account in relation to remaining at higher level in subjects, click here.

*****

More details about Joe’s ACE Tuition Classes (Maths and English), ACE Career Coaching, and his ever popular ACE Maths Solution Books for the Junior and Leaving Certificate can be found via the links below. Be sure to pick up your copy today!

W: acesolutionbooks.com
FB:
facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/
#:   #JoesJotter

*****

© Joe McCormack 2020