Joe’s Jotter: Leaving Cert 2023 results up by 10% on average in just 5 years

With Leaving Certificate grades ‘apparently’ rising recently, I decided to do my own comparison analysis of the Leaving Certificate from the years 2018 and the recent 2023 results. There had already been a steady rise in performance and points over the last ten years anyway, but a recent sizable increase was now apparent (See Table 1 below). So, are our students working harder or is there something going on in the exam system?

Upon inspection, the percentage of students scoring a H4 or above in 2023 (A H4 is between 60% and 70% at higher level) has produced very surprising results. In the eleven subjects I sampled, the average increase (H4 grades or above) when comparing Leaving Cert 2018 to 2023 was 10%.

Table 1: The percentage of students that scored a H4 or above in LC 2018 and 2023

To summarise the data, we see double figure increases in just five years in Technology, Engineering, Irish, DCG, Home Economics (S&S) and Maths. Across the eleven subjects, the average percentage increase was 10%. I believe that the sampling of 11 subjects in this case is enough data to allow us to infer deductions about the results as a whole. The results would indicate that it is now difficult to compare the results of Leaving Cert students who completed exams before 2018 to the 2022 or 2023 cohort; and of course we are doing so. This throws up a lot of questions about where our education system is going. It seems a new benchmark has been set for future student results, and we aren’t going back.

10% is significant in my view. Imagine you got a 10% increase in your salary at work. The champagne corks would be figuratively popping as you calculate the substantial difference it would make to your budget each month. I feel that Leaving higher level subjects have been devalued, as there is no way students are performing that much better now than they did five years. When I look at my own students and the numbers they have just posted in their Christmas exams, I don’t see them having substantially more knowledge than the cohort I taught five years ago, with respect to both results and potential.

Is it a ‘medal for everyone’ mentality now? How can we compare Leaving Certificate results before, during and after the pandemic? I view this type of Grade Inflation as ‘optics’, and how Ireland’s PISA scores ‘need’ to be reflected globally. I welcome the proposed upcoming Leaving Certificate review. There will be increased emphasis on continuous assessment; but there must be proper teacher input, and my understanding is that it has been minimal enough so far.

In relation to continuous assessment,  AI and allowing students work on their own would be a big concern for me. A teacher, I know well, ran their annual Christmas exam online for their LC Maths students recently. During the exam, students were asked to leave their cameras on as they completed it. Afterwards, he discovered (to his disappointment) that four of them had typed equations from the questions into a website or AI tool to help them find the answer. The reason he was certain of this was that five or six steps were missing from their page and even the greatest mathematician born couldn’t have made the jump to the final answer without the steps. This showed me that we have a long road ahead with continuous assessment and indeed AI. There are great kids out there as I always say, but temptation can be too much sometimes. The Integrity of any continuous assessment based model is bound to run into challenges like this, not to mention unknown issues that we will encounter. With increasing marking scheme flexibility and grades rising, the original bell curve is now recast. In September 2021, Minister Foley said that grades would return to “more normal levels” in 2022. This did not happen.

Third Level Implications

Students are now evidently being marked up for their efforts and are possibly heading to college with unrealistic expectations. Higher points mean students may take on third level courses that are too difficult for their actual academic ability. Career Guidance teachers and Parents need to be tuned into this fact; in case it is lost on our students. Do the graduated class of 2023 know how to extract critical information well? Students are scoring higher than ever, but are they more knowledgeable than their predecessors? Will these recent upgrades serve our students well for third level study and future life? How and why students choose their courses is more important than ever and we all wish them well. Joe

More details about Joe’s Maths Tuition Classes for 5th & 6th Year (Leaving Certificate Higher Students 2024) and his Award Winning ACE Maths Solution Books for all students can be found via the below links:

ACE Maths Classes: acesolutionbooks.com/ace-maths-tuition
ACE Maths Solution Books: acesolutionbooks.com/ace-solution-books-package/

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Joe’s Jotter: Preparing a Junior or Leaving Mock Paper in Maths

As third and sixth years prepare for their Mock Paper in Maths, here are some quick pointers to help them be ready. Some students get quite anxious about the Mock examinations, but I always feel the focus should be on preparing and being ready for the final June exams.

  1. Focus on getting the timing right for each question on the day. This is one of the main ‘learnings’ to take from the Mocks. You should come away with better timing skills.
  2. Practice easier past exam question that you feel confident on beforehand. I wouldn’t take on ‘rock hard’ or new content that may actually sway your existing confidence.
  3. Write down all the formula’s that you need to know for the exam (those that are not in your Log Tables). Be very familiar with what formulas are in your Log Tables.
  4. I would give the textbook a break for a short period. Know the core skills and use your notes from class to help you tackle more straightforward questions in preparation.
  5. Do Maths revision in short bursts. Maths can be quite intense, especially if you take on longer past exam questions. Forty mins max and then take a break. Stay fresh!
  6. Rotate your Maths revision between topics over the next few weeks. This will keep your brain more tuned and aid motivation. Note all the key points into a hard back.
  7. Target three main topics on both Paper 1 and Paper 2 (Leaving Certs) as opposed to trying to cover the whole course. It isn’t possible in two weeks. Sensibility rules!
  8. Get advice from a Maths teacher. Ask your teacher ‘how should you best prepare for the Maths mock?’ Each teacher will have their own take on best to prep for this exam.
  9. Invest in a good Maths Solutions book. This will allow you to check your solutions to questions in a step-by-step manner at home. ACE Maths Solution Books will help here.
  10. Be realistic with your Maths Mock exam. You have still so much more to cover in class and haven’t actually sat down to do a full exam paper yet. Time is still on your side.

To find out more about how to approach the Mock examinations for all subjects (among other topics), there is a full chapter with advice and guidance on it in my ACE Study Guidebook entitled ‘How to ACE the Leaving Certificate’ for all subjects. This textbook is suitable for all students from second year to sixth.

Wishing you all the luck,

Joe.
ACE Maths Tuition
W:
acesolutionbooks.com

Joe’s Jotter: Does your Secondary School child eat breakfast?

Students, you have heard your parents and other adults say many times that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” and that indeed is a hard fact. A decent breakfast will give you the energy to start each morning, help balance your weight and allow you to complete the tasks and challenges you face every day more efficiently. Breakfast is equally as important for children as it is for adults and a healthy one is a vital part of our health and wellbeing. The importance of breakfast as the first meal of the day has been scientifically proven; so in fact your parents are actually correct.

Imagine food is the fuel for your daily activity. During exams and indeed school time, your body will demand good quality clean fuel and regular refuelling in order to nourish itself and maximise your concentration, starting first thing in the morning. I’ve had my own experience in relation to eating breakfast. In my early teaching career, I didn’t eat anything in the morning until my first small break (eleven o’clock). During the early morning, I found myself regularly on edge and low in energy. I noticed that just before this break, my body was actually craving food and my focus had diminished. Basically, what was happening was my blood sugar levels had dropped too low and my concentration was poor during my first two hours teaching each day and I knew it.

Good Morning Habits

As an experienced teacher, I am familiar with students’ poor morning eating habits. Many students don’t feel like food, or their stomach is unsettled early in the morning. Students who eat late at night may be getting messages from their stomach that their body is still living off those energy stores. That’s OK. But students: ‘Please just eat something’, no matter how small, to kick-start your system again. If you think about it logically, your body has not fuelled up for eight to ten hours during the night, so denying it any longer makes no sense at all, especially from a blood sugar and energy point of view.

There are hundreds of good breakfast options that aren’t that time consuming to prepare. These include Smoothies containing fruit, plain yoghurt or chopped fruit with whole grain cereals and milk. A mixture like crushed nuts, a small dollop of organic honey and plain yoghurt can be quickly made and eaten. Homemade granola bars are great for when you’re on the go and better than the sugar-packed store-bought ones. Get your Parents to make you a batch or have a go yourself for the craic.

Personally, I would recommend the following foods for breakfast: Oats, Muesli, Grapefruit, Watermelon, Greek yoghurt, Smoothies, Wholemeal bread, Scrambled eggs, Bananas, Low sugar cereal, Actimel, Low sugar orange juice and Low sugar multivitamin juice. If there are healthy wholesome foods you find hard to consume for breakfast, put other foods on top so that their unpalatable taste is masked. An example of this is to put bananas, fruit, yoghurt, or honey on your porridge (cooked oats). I have found that my performance, energy, and concentration has improved greatly in school during the day now that I have introduced porridge into my diet. I recommend you try it for yourselves.

Your Role as Parents

Parents, if your child skips breakfast before school, they are more likely to be tired throughout the day and will have reduced concentration levels. Preparing and encouraging them to consume a breakfast that is packed full of fibre, carbohydrates, grains, and protein will help boost concentration levels, improve memory, and will stop complaints of hunger as the morning progresses. If breakfast is a busy time of day in your house, then feeding your children what they need quickly might be a daunting experience, but it doesn’t have to be. By stocking up on all the ingredients you need beforehand, you can deliver quick healthy breakfasts that they will enjoy. By preparing breakfast the night before, or getting them to prepare their own, you can cut wasted time in the morning. Avoiding the ‘Coco Pops’ style breakfast cereal is certainly one that’s recommended.

Six Compelling Reasons to Eat Breakfast

  1. The Gap: Breakfast is the first meal you eat after sleeping through the night. You may not feel it, but your body is actually craving food and needs refuelling.
  2. Fighting Sickness: Skipping breakfast weakens your immune system and may increase your chances of becoming ill quicker as a result.
  3. Concentration Levels: A correlation between concentration and our ability to perform tasks has been proven through research. Food is known to enhance concentration.
  4. Serotonin Boost: Eating breakfast boosts levels of serotonin (a mood enhancer chemical that helps you feel better and maintain stability throughout the day).
  5. Increased Variety: Breakfast foods like whole grain cereals, eggs and porridge contain plenty of vitamins, minerals, and fibre, and add great variety to your diet.
  6. Good Start: A scheduled healthy breakfast will help your body run like a well-oiled machine all day. It is the best start to any busy day and heaven knows we need that now in 2024. Joe.

“Breaks are your reward for hard work.”

More details about Joe’s Maths Tuition Classes 2024 for 5th & 6th Year (Leaving Certificate Higher Students) and his Award Winning ACE Maths Solution Books for all students can be found via the below links:

ACE Maths Classes: acesolutionbooks.com/ace-maths-tuition

ACE Maths Solution Books: acesolutionbooks.com/ace-solution-books-package/

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Joe’s Jotter: Practical tips to ready yourself for any Exam

Most students realise at this stage of the year that it is time to settle down into a proper homework and revision routine. If you’re unsure about how to get the best out of yourself, here are some simple but practical recommendations to get you on track. This guidance applies to all Secondary School students, no matter what exam you are preparing for.

  1. Structure your Day.

If tomorrow is a non-school day, it is important to have a plan written down from the night before as to what tomorrow will look like. Having a somewhat set routine will keep you grounded and help you be organised. Waking and going to bed on a routine, eating a proper breakfast, showering, dressing yourself, knowing what topics you will tackle and indeed knowing when break times are –  will all greatly help.

  1. Be Aware of You.

Be aware of how you are feeling and ensure you get plenty of rest and healthy food. Make sure and keep in touch with friends and family to keep you sane and maintain motivation levels.

  1. Short Revision Bursts.

Oscar winning actors wing it. But that’s not you. Research has shown that you need to keep revisiting Information regularly for it to stick in your head. Limit revision bursts on a topic to thirty minutes. This is where short summaries are key. Using postits, summaries, flashcards and mind maps are all tools you should have in your revision toolbox. There are so many different ways to revise, so be sure to utilise them as much as you can. Reading from a book is a very small part of preparing for any exam in 2023.

  1. Write Down your Goals.

At the start of each week, write down how much/what you would like to revise and complete. Ensure you know what sub-topics need covering for each subject by consulting each subject teacher. Set realistic goals that you can achieve in seven days. If you find you are having success and a certain approach is working for you: keep repeating that process. Use common sense by playing to your strengths.

  1. Start Today.

By the law of averages, you may not be super motivated about exams right now. Motivation will increase as you see subtopics being ticked off and completed in front of you. Just get started and then keep going as best you can.

  1. Sleep is always Important.

Sleep refreshes brain cells allowing you to wake up refreshed and begin storing more Information in both your short and long term memory. If you are feeling too tired at your study desk, stop. Time spent in ‘Zzz’ land will actually be more productive at that stage.

  1. Compare Yourself against Yourself.

Always try to compare yourself against yourself, not others. How can I improve my last test result? How can I be more efficient with my revision this week compared to last? etc

  1. Limit Time on your Phone.

Limit social media and phone time over the next few weeks. The only way to do this is to leave the phone out of the bedroom and check in on it during breaks. Any time I take a snap survey in my classroom, 90% of students admit that their phone is a distraction. Students have already acknowledged this as a big problem, but still ignore it.

  1. Take it One Small Step at a Time

Remember that a big mountain hike starts with the first small step. Get on the first rung of the ladder by planning out the topics and subjects you will revise tomorrow, remembering that you can only reach your goal of success by taking it step by step, hour by hour and day by day.

  1. Think About Being Finished

Picture yourself walking out of the exam (you are preparing for) and meeting up with your friends. Picture the weight that will be lifted off your shoulders when it is all over. Use these thoughts to provide you with extra motivation and focus for each task.

Did you find this article Interesting? My two hundred page Study Guidebook entitled ‘How to ACE the Leaving Certificate’ for all subjects is packed with an abundance of guidance for any kind of exam preparation from Second Year upwards. Click here for more details. Joe.

“Listen to your body. Rest or sleep if you are tired.”

More details about Joe’s Maths Tuition Classes  2024 for 5th & 6th Year (Leaving Certificate Higher Students) and his Award Winning ACE Maths Solution Books for all students can be found via the below links:

ACE Maths Classes: acesolutionbooks.com/ace-maths-tuition

ACE Maths Solution Books: acesolutionbooks.com/ace-solution-books-package/

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Joe’s Jotter: Revising subjects that aren’t your favourite

Junior and Leaving Certs,

As you prepare for your upcoming mock exams, teachers and parents totally understand that even though you are making great strides, you still have plenty of fears. From talking to students, I find it’s not the full set of exams that cause concern; it is usually only one or two subjects. Naturally everyone has their own talents and subjects they prefer. Personally, I was better at the Sciences than the languages, but I persevered and got the grades I wanted in the languages I chose. Sometimes subjects you are not looking forward to are the ones that have you on guard and you end up doing better in; A paper on the day can go well in an exam you were dreading. I regularly hear welcome surprise coming from students on results day, with comments such as “I didn’t expect that result in xxxxx”. The moral of the story here is that too much concern about a subject could end in false worry and be draining you of energy; energy you need for studying and getting your head right.

Not crazy about this subject

Preparing for one of your less favoured subjects is a blatant case of having to ‘get on with it’ i.e. ‘Eating your Frog’. Of course, it is easier to study and work on subjects you enjoy and are good at, but you must not ignore the others. Studying and preparing your ‘frog subjects’ is probably the biggest challenge you will face during your exam year. Author and reconstructive surgeon, Jack Penn, once said:

One of the secrets in life is making steppingstones out of stumbling blocks”. 

Prioritise Subjects

In order to deal with a subject you find difficult, you need to prioritise it on your Lifestyle (Study) Timetable. It should therefore be ranked in your top three subjects and entered first onto the timetable with the possibility of including more study blocks for it than other subjects. In subjects you struggle with, you need to: ask for plenty of help from your teacher, work with a study buddy, find ways of learning that best suits you, break topics into manageable chunks, write a good set of notes that you can relate to and understand, think outside the box and ultimately dig in and persevere. These are all the characteristics of successful students when they face obstacles. This is one of my favourite quotes and is relevant here:

Someone once told me not to bite off more than I could chew; I said I’d rather choke on greatness than nibble on mediocrity

                                                                                                                                                                                Unknown

Train as you will play

Practising past papers is a vital part of revision. It allows you to test what you have learned, what you need to revisit and gives you a taste for the pressures of the exam ‘environment’. The weekend is the best time to practice past papers as you have more flexibility then to create ‘exam timing conditions’. You should train as you play; if you get used to timing yourself and keeping an eye on the clock, it will come naturally on the day. This is one of my ACE tips for success. Remember; only test yourself on material you have studied from the course. The earlier you get practising exam questions against the clock in all subjects, the better. 

Use small (A5/A6) hardback notebooks

Use a small hardback for each subject, writing down the keywords/phrases and vocabulary for each topic as you meet them. This will help to improve your knowledge and understanding of a subject. The beauty of a small hardback is its portability. It can be carried around with you, adding variety to your learning. I always give my students one at the start of each year and prompt them to input important information into it every so often. By the end of the year, they have a pocket size set of keynotes that is great for revision. When revising a topic from your textbook, select the key words or phrases which will help you to remember what the topic is about, and then transfer them into your hardback. Your hardback will be a useful resource that you can dip in and out of as the exams approach and it won’t seem as daunting as a big refill pad! Joe.

“The examiners want you to succeed in your exams.”

More details about Joe’s Maths Tuition Classes 2024 for 5th & 6th Year (Leaving Certificate Higher Students) and his Award Winning ACE Maths Solution Books for all students can be found via the below links:

ACE Maths Classes: acesolutionbooks.com/ace-maths-tuition

ACE Maths Solution Books: acesolutionbooks.com/ace-solution-books-package/

 

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