Joe’s Jotter: Grade Inflation 2023 – Remarkable Subject Stats

With Leaving Certificate grades ‘apparently’ rising recently, I decided to do my own comparison analysis of Leaving Certificate results from the years 2018 and 2022 as per Table 1 below. There had already been a steady rise in performance and points over the last twenty years anyway, but a recent sizable increase was now apparent. So, are our students working harder or is there something going on in the system?

Upon inspection, the percentage of students scoring a H4 or above in 2022 (A H4 is between 60% and 70% at higher level) has produced very surprising results. What amazed me from looking at the statistics was how grades in many subjects have jumped. In the eleven subjects I sampled, the average increase (H4 grades or above) when comparing LC 2018 to 2022 was almost 10%. As a Maths teacher, it is particularly concerning for me to see a cosmic jump in my own subject. I feel that Leaving Cert higher level Maths is now consequentially devalued, as there is no way students are performing that much better in four short years.

 

Table 1: The percentage of students that scored a H4 or above in LC 2022 and 2018

Sample Subject Percentage of Students achieving a H4 or above (2022) Percentage of Students achieving a H4 or above (2018) % Increase for students between 2018 and 2022
Music 97%  89% +8%
Technology 83%  72% +11%
Engineering 81%  70% +11%
Irish 79%  70% +9%
Design & Comm Graphics (DCG) 79%  70% +9%
Home Economics (S&S) 79%  68% +11%
Accounting 69%  63% +6%
Biology 68%  61% +7%
Chemistry 67%  61% +6%
Maths 81%  60% +21%
Physics 68%  59% +9%

*Source: Data from www.examinations.ie

From this data, my feeling is that you cannot compare Leaving Cert students who completed exams before 2018 to the 2021 or 2022 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.

Is it a ‘medal for everyone’ mentality now? How can we compare Leaving Certificate results before, during and after the pandemic? Even the recent 2022 results (with Covid 19 a much less significant nuisance) are very high. I view this Grade Inflation as ‘optics’, and how Ireland’s PISA scores ‘need’ to compare globally. I welcome the Leaving Certificate review now, with a view to more continuous assessment; but there must be proper teacher input.

With increasing marking scheme flexibility and grades rising, the original bell curve is being rewritten. Students are evidently being ‘marked up’ on their efforts and are possibly heading to college with unrealistic expectations. Can the class of 2023 actually revise and prepare their own high quality notes? With many struggling in first year in college, it seems no. Students are scoring higher than ever, but are they more knowledgeable than their predecessors? Radical percentage increases over short periods of time does not sit well with me. Will these changes serve our students well for third level study and future life? To be honest, I am doubtful. Not everything in life will be handed to you. Joe

More details about Joe’s Maths Tuition Classes 2023 for 5th & 6th Year (Leaving Certificate 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: Why Should Secondary School Students 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 2023. Joe.

‘Breaks are your reward for hard work.’

More details about Joe’s Maths Tuition Classes 2023 for 5th & 6th Year (Leaving Certificate 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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Photo:@ZhangChaosheng

Joe’s Jotter: How to Remain Motivated during Holidays

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 these few weeks. Have a read of the below list of pointers and try and implement two or three of them in order to maintain some semblance of revision over the holidays. It will make your life much easier having continued some constructive habits over Christmas.

  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 long revision days are breaks. I am a big believer in a five minute break after every thirty minutes revision.

  1. Stay connected

It is important to keep up communication with your friends and family during revision times. Let them know how you are feeling, especially if you are anxious about a particular subject or upcoming assessment. You will feel so much better about a problem if you ‘chat’ about it to someone. Also, it can be easy to get cut off from the outside world when you are highly focused; so try not to let this happen. Always try and find your balance between work, rest, and play; remembering that everyone’s balance is slightly different.

  1. Use your family

Using members of your family to learn material is an avenue 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; so remind them to save their best notes for you. Even if the content of their notes isn’t suitable for your learning style; their methods, notes structure, style and layout could give you some fresh new ideas in 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 parts of the course you are struggling with, as they can refer to Information from your book or notes in front of them. All you need is their time and a willingness to ask you loads of questions. Get the conversation going together to promote extra learning.

  1. Stick to your plan

Whatever plan you have for the next three weeks, try to 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’ (this includes college). Try and balance time wisely if you do happen to have a part time job. I am not a major fan of 6th year students working part-time, but that’s just my opinion.

On a given day, if you plan to start revision at 9am, 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. Time and tide wait for no man (or woman). Keep things ticking over during holiday time. 

  1. Try and maintain some routine

Getting to bed at a reasonable time and getting plenty of sleep will help you to stick to your goals and plans. Do this as best you can, even during holiday periods. We all lose our routine over the hols and that’s ok too. However, try and get back into better habits when the new year turns and your first day back in school approaches. This will allow your body to be somewhat adjusted when you return to those early mornings. Over your holidays, enjoy yourself while maintaining some form of sensibility: eat plenty of fruit and veg, drink plenty of water and get loads of sleep. Rest and replenish both physically and mentally and get ready for the encounters ahead.

Tune in to next week’s blog where I will publish Part two of ‘How to Revise More Effectively from Home’. Joe

‘On bad days, put one leg in front of the other. Move, don’t stand still.’

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

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

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

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Joe’s Jotter – Should I Persevere with Higher Level Maths in 2023?

 

More students over the last few years have taken on the task that is Leaving Cert Higher Maths. In June 2022, out of the 57,347 who sat a Leaving Certificate Mathematics Paper, 21,265 of them opted for higher level (37%). Even though the bonus points are very enticing, students need to be careful and be fully aware of what exactly they are embarking on. In my experience, there is a lingering doubt among many 5th and 6th years about being able to tackle higher Maths. Scoring low grades in class tests doesn’t really do much for confidence, but it doesn’t automatically mean you should change level. The question is: Should you remain battling higher level Maths or is it worth the time and effort at all?

This article should reassure those suitable for higher (those who fight the good fight day after day) that they can in fact achieve what they are aiming for. Each year, deciding Maths levels is a tricky issue for students and involves many considerations. It is made even more complex in this subject with the bonus points at play. For those of you who are unsure about higher Maths, it may be worth applying some logic to any inclination to switch. As well you know, us ‘Maths creatures’ are very logical beings lol.  I find that logic is more factual and definite in making decisions like this. It may be more sensible to apply a touch of it here, rather than just using pure emotion. Don’t get me wrong: your gut feeling is important too; but read on to understand what I mean…

I Can Take on this Challenge

Firstly, there is a misconception out there that if you fail Maths, you fail the full Leaving Cert. This isn’t true at all. The two worst things that can happen if you are unsuccessful in Maths is that you will have that low grade for Maths on your CV. Or, if a certain grade in Maths is a requirement for a specific third level course, you will not be offered that course no matter how many points you get; that’s as bad as it gets.

I think having a good Interest in Maths is a great starting point in taking on higher level. Enthusiasm for this subject will go a long way to achieving your desired goal in it.  Students, do you secretly enjoy the challenge of those long practical questions in double classes, or do you dread the thoughts of Maths homework each night? Do you like working with numbers or are you mis-understanding the majority of your teachers’ methods? These are some initial questions to ponder.

Personally, I feel that students know in their heart what level Maths they should be doing. If you feel in your gut that you are lost in class or if it is taking too much time away from other subjects; then reflect and talk it through now. If your anxiety about the subject is getting too high and your grades are dropping, it may be time to move. Definitely, if you have struggled to grasp much of the basic Algebra in fourth and fifth year, it may be a sign that the standard is too difficult for you. However, remember also that there are so many varied topics in Maths, and you may have a flair for some and no real interest in others. Very few of us are good at everything, even the best of the best.

Head Above Water

I always feel that students scoring above thirty percent (approximately) in Class, Christmas and Mock examinations should be able to raise their game to get over the line in the State exams. Students scoring consistently below thirty need to look into their heart and start conversations with their teachers, parents and indeed themselves about what to do. It is important not to remain in the class for the sole reason that your parents want you to do honours. Only you know the content of the Maths course you are studying and how it is going for you. Many students and even some Teachers place too much emphasis on the spring Mock result. I disagree with this premise and prefer to look at the bigger picture. From a percentage assessment point of view, I feel you need to look at a combination of exams sat (even fifth year ones) and indeed your Junior Cycle grade. Keep in mind that the upcoming mock examinations in springtime tests topics across the complete course at a time when you haven’t fully completed it yet.

Is there a Template for Staying or Going?

My intention in this article isn’t to outline a template for who should remain or drop down, as there are a lot of factors that need to be considered. I am simply encouraging you to reflect and balance the argument for yourselves. Over the years, I have taught a substantial number of students who I considered borderline higher level students. Many of them remained at higher and actually ended up outperforming those I perceived as rock solid higher level candidates. Maybe these students felt like they needed to work harder and hence prepared better consequently. There is a lesson in this. American Basketball player Kevin Durant once said, ‘Hard work always beats Talent when Talent doesn’t work hard enough’. The statistics also stack in your favour.  In June 2022, 98.4% of students who attempted higher level Maths got a H6 grade or above and therefore picked up the 25 bonus points. That is extremely high!

In general, your teacher won’t put you too far wrong when decision time arrives. By the middle of sixth year, they know your strengths, weaknesses, and the limits of your capabilities, assuming they have taught you since the start of fifth year. Timing is also an issue. If you do need to drop down to Ordinary level, I wouldn’t leave it any later than Easter. This gives you some time over the Easter holidays, and when you return for the final term, to get familiar with the Ordinary level standard and format of the exam paper. Changing levels on the day of the exam is totally unadvised and should not be considered.

Factors That Will Guide Level Choice

In summary, think about and discuss the below factors in detail with your parents and teachers before attempting to change levels in any subject. Along with mock performance, here are the other factors to consider when making decisions regarding level changes:

  • Your teacher’s opinion.
  • Your ‘potential’ points change.
  • Your Junior Cycle performance.
  • Your attendance in class thus far.
  • Your ‘working relationship’ with your teacher.
  • How much you enjoy studying the subject.
  • Results in previous Christmas and Summer tests.
  • How much of the course you have done thus far.
  • Your own gut feeling and attitude towards the subject.
  • Results in all your class tests since the beginning of fifth year.
  • The amount of effort you are putting into this subject balanced against others.
  • Minimum entry requirements for third level (e.g. a H6 in Maths maybe?).

Before making your final decision, take out a piece of paper and write down all the pros and cons of remaining at higher level or changing.  On the back of the sheet, write a few paragraphs on how you are actually feeling about it right now. Keeping the above list of factors in mind, the answer you are searching for should appear somewhere within these pages as your thoughts and feelings stream out. Use these thoughts to answer your own doubts and plough on from there. Contact me if I can advise you in any way. Joe

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

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

ACE Maths Solution Books: acesolutionbooks.com/buy-my-books

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Joe’s Jotter: How to Become More Competent in Maths 2022

Grasping a subject of difficulty is always a big challenge for even the best students. One of those subjects is too often Mathematics. Maths seems to have developed a ‘bad boy cred’ over the last twenty years, but I feel things are getting better slowly and I know students feel more positive about it since the introduction of Project Maths in 2008. In general, I think students are enjoying the more practical approach in the subject since these changes. The existing course is however still quite long, and you need to box clever in order to pin it down. Many students are still trying to come to terms with the number of words on Maths exam papers and indeed how they link to the concepts. I totally get this. However, I still believe you can learn to grasp the key concepts without being born a Maths genius.

Can Anyone Be Successful at Maths?

People regularly ask me about this, and I believe Maths is a subject everyone can do well in by being willing to try different methods. For sure, parents have a role to play here, so students should get them involved. Parents can get involved in homework from an early age and should be encouraged to send notes to the teacher if there is a particular area their child is struggling with. Above all, it is imperative that Parents pass on a positive attitude about Maths early on. A ‘can do’ attitude gives the student belief that they can face problems in the subject and come through them. Encouragement and positivity are the most constructive way any parent can help boost their child’s ‘Maths conviction’.

Maths is Learning by Doing

To me, Maths is a subject where you need to be continuously ‘learning by doing’ and the importance of attempting exam style questions cannot be underestimated. Reading through questions and text like you do in other subjects will not work in Maths. Having access to a structured solution book for exam questions is important. Inevitably with some challenging questions in the subject, you will run into difficulties getting started and this is where having the first line or two of the solution can be extremely helpful; a detailed solutions book is ideal for this. I believe that referring to the first part of a solution and then revisiting the question yourself is a very efficient way of developing key Maths skills. This technique isn’t one much practiced in other subjects, but Maths is unique in itself as we know.

Skills That will Improve Your Maths

You must adopt different approaches to improve success in Maths. A genuine attempt to start a question in Maths will allow you to gain momentum and progress to apply the concepts you have learned in class. In my experience, the biggest stumbling block to achievement in Maths is getting the question started; but a single grain of rice can tip the scales. In general, if you are finding it difficult to get started and feel lost in Maths, start by practicing the part (a) questions in your past exam papers and work your way upwards to part (b) and so on. If you are an exam student, go back on your 2nd or 5th year notes to refresh those key basics. The majority of students just fire notes from previous years in a corner. Past notes should be stored carefully for ease of access later. It’s amazing how much you will recall about what you wrote down and what advice your teacher gave you back then. This is a good starting point. As you always hear me say, Algebra is jewel in the crown at all levels. Maths is about having a go, knowing the tricks, when to use formulae, consistent practice and really believing in your ability and the work you have done. Joe

“The harder you work, the luckier you get. Every effort will open a door.”

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

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

ACE Maths Solution Books: acesolutionbooks.com/buy-my-books

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Photo:@ZhangChaosheng

Joe’s Jotter: My ACE Pointers to Help Students Settle Back into Revision

Students,

As we reach the end of our first month in school, you may be struggling to return to some kind of a revision routine. Here are six useful signposts for all students to get you back into the swing of completing homework and revising classwork.

  1. Take regular breaks.

Yes, really! Taking short five-minute breaks every thirty minutes should keep you fresh and focused. However, make sure that five minutes doesn’t turn into an hour! Go for a short walk, call up a friend or have a snack and then come back to your work on time. Some studies have found that having a natter with friends can have a positive effect on memory and that laughing increases serotonin (the body’s chemical that makes you happy). It is important to leave your study area during your breaks to get a change of perspective and return with renewed energy for the next session. Enjoyable breaks will allow you to become more efficient with your study blocks. Setting mini targets like completing a long exam question followed by a prolonged break is a smart way to operate.

  1. Stay alert and interested.

When reading, it is a good idea to make notes or highlight key terms. I believe you should always revise with a pen at hand. I feel that just by reading a piece of text, you are not actively engaging with it. In my experience, you will remember more by summarising it or even just by making red or green sub notes on the page. This method keeps the brain tuned in to the task at hand. Other learning methods you might consider for variety include YouTube videos, online quizzes, or creating mind maps. If you find yourself struggling to stay alert, you are probably tired, and it may be time for a break or retirement for the evening.

  1. Be ruthless with your notes.

Many students go to educational institutions after Christmas to boost their store of materials and, of course, their confidence. However, I have seen many students over the years become overwhelmed with too much material and they just end up getting swamped, not knowing where to start. In subject areas you find difficult, reduce your material into manageable, thought-provoking snippets. If you take notes in class, make sure to date and keep them for revision later. Dig out last year’s material requiring revision at this point. It is important to keep a record of what topics you have done in class and how long your teacher has spent on them. This will ensure you are clear on what has been covered and what still needs to be investigated. Being persistently consistent in relation to your notes is a big factor in doing well in exams.

  1. Set goals and keep records.

Setting goals will help you monitor your study and will give you something to work towards. If you under perform in a class test, set a mini goal for your next test to improve by a certain percentage. In your school journal, write down all your goals and check them off as you complete them – name it a ‘Junior Cycle or Leaving Cert bucket list’. Ultimately, use long-term goals to motivate you to ACE the short-term ones. Long-term goals might include a points target in your Leaving Certificate, a possible trip to third level or scoring that rewarding job later. A short-term goal will help you get where you want to be long term. Reviewing the success of your short-term goals every two weeks will give you a sense of achievement. An example of a short-term goal could involve summarising and understanding a chapter from your book and completing a past exam question relating to it. All my successful students over the years have created plans and set goals for themselves.

  1. Earn your rewards.

Don’t forget to ‘have a life’ as you develop a routine that works for you. Reward yourself after a long study session with a trip to the cinema or visit to your friends. Ultimately, reward yourself with breaks, taking a reasonable one after every good hour’s work. There is nothing wrong with the odd bar of chocolate, ice-cream, or packet of gummy bears; everyone who has done something constructive deserves a little thank you. Earn rewards with each thorough revision session you complete. This will Increase motivation and improve your overall revision output.

  1. Start thinking about Past Exam papers.

Those of you in Exam years: Are you familiar with the layout of each exam paper and its marking scheme? If not, you need to get checking. You can source all the past exam papers in the ‘Examinations Material Archive’ section of the examinations.ie website. If you are doing exams in 2023 and haven’t a set of exam papers for each subject, don’t delay, get them today. A large part of your revision should be to assess and practice answering questions from past exam papers (under time pressure) on the topics you have covered in class. Remember also that each subject’s exam paper is different, so you need to familiarise yourself in each subject. You need to find out the exact layout and style of each individual paper. Is there a choice in sections? How many questions do you need to attempt in each section? Are there short/long questions or both? And most importantly, how long can you plan to spend on each individual question? Being super familiar with paper layout is key. Joe

‘Eat that Elephant, chunk by chunk, bit by bit, step by step.’

More details about Joe’s Maths Tuition Classes for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate (2023) and his Award Winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below.

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

Joe’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert

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Joe’s Jotter: How 2nd and 3rd Years Can Make the Most of their Evenings

Students, as we come towards the end of the first few weeks back in Secondary School, it is important now that you get into a routine of homework and revision, both during the week and at the weekend. Breaks are important for all students who are putting effort in at home each night, as well as giving yourself some wind down time before bed also. Over the next few months, try and improve the standard of your homework. Always take pride in how you complete written homework. Doing homework like a mini exam is the best form of preparation for your any upcoming tests. Here are four more practical tips you can try to get the more out of your evenings.

Be positive

Being positive will vastly improve your attitude towards study and therefore its quality. You should always focus on what you have studied, what you have learned or what you know as opposed to continually looking at what needs to be done. When you come across an awkward question, you need to box it off properly in your mind. Instead of thinking, “we haven’t covered this!” or “how is this relevant to what I know?”, you need to reflect on how it links into your subject, topics within the subject and what your teacher has taught you in class.

The same goes for studying prior to the exam. Take control by changing the way you speak about your preparation. Instead of saying “I should be studying more”; be good to yourself and say, “Well I did a solid two hours this morning and will go back to it tonight”. Change “I should be…” to “I’m going to…” Research has shown that positive language can lead to more positive results. If you say: “I can’t climb that wall”, you are less likely to succeed in the task, as your brain has almost been auto programmed to fail. As a Maths teacher, I love this equation of positivity:

Positive attitude + Positive actions = Powerful results

Look after your eyes

You will be doing plenty of reading from textbooks, summary notes, post-its, flashcards and the likes over the next few years, so it is important to look after your eyes during this period. The expert’s advice on reducing eye strain is to apply the twenty-twenty-twenty rule. That is to take twenty seconds to look at something twenty feet away and repeat this every twenty minutes. Going outside on your breaks will get some fresh air to the eyes. Another good exercise is to simply rest your eyes in the palm of your hands for a few minutes, making sure that no light gets through. Too much time on devices wouldn’t be great for keeping your eyes fresh. Just saying!

Rotate your learning

The brain can only concentrate on a subject matter for a certain time period. At times, when I was penning my ACE Study Guidebook, I needed to get away and come back to it in order to maintain my focus. Rotate your work between memorising content, writing, oral work, audio, Internet research and watching documentaries etc. Most importantly, rotate your subjects. We all enjoy discovering about subjects we find interesting, but it is so important not to forget the subjects you find difficult or the ones you are just not as interested in. Rotation of stimulus will trick the brain into performing better and going for longer.

Become an active learner

During study sessions, always have a pen and a highlighter to hand. You should mark the key points onto your textbook, write brief comments at the side of the page or underline the important sentences. This information should then be transferred to a summary page later. I really like this method of revision as it reduces the quantity (amount) of notes you have to analyse and there shouldn’t be a need to revisit that part of your textbook again. Active learning is a great way to keep yourself tuned into what you are studying. Spend time thinking about how you can use your life experiences and places visited to enhance essays or answers with a few extra bells and whistles. Individuality and drawing on your personal experiences are what every Teacher and examiner is looking out for in your answers. You need to try and stand out a bit from your fellow students.

Next weeks ‘Joe’s Jotter’ will provide students with six ACE pointers to settle them back into revision. Don’t miss it. To view last week’s feature article on ‘How to Perform Well in Subjects you Find Difficult’, click here. Get in touch if I can help you in any way. Joe.

‘Record all revision done so you can track whats what later.’

More details about Joe’s Maths Tuition Classes for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate (2023) and his Award Winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below.

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

ACE Maths Solution Books: acesolutionbooks.com/buy-my-books

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Joe’s Jotter: The Best Ways to Navigate Secondary for a Student with SEN

 

Students who have Special Educational Needs (SEN) can struggle with various different tasks each day at Secondary School. As teachers and parents of first year students, we want to make their transition to Secondary School as smooth as possible.

The Additional Educational Needs (AEN) Coordinator manages resources for the one in four students (ESRI, 2017) who benefit from support that goes beyond standard classroom teaching. Resource Teachers provide such support and often facilitate learning in small groups or on a ‘one to one’ basis. Practical supports are provided by Special Needs Assistants (SNA’s) to allow some students access the curriculum as independently and inclusively as possible. Many schools have autistic classes where ‘best practice’ in inclusion means that autistic students are supported by the whole school community to develop their strengths, meet their potential and enjoy school life alongside siblings and peers.

This feature article should provide some sapient advice on how you can help your child navigate their day-to-day engagements more seamlessly. It also contains some useful advice and informative recommendations for Parents of Students with SEN that are already attending Secondary School (2nd Years upwards). As I see it, the support they require is twofold: ‘Home’ Support and ‘School’ Support.

 The ‘Home’ Support

  1. Photocopy their timetable, have copies in their locker, on the fridge, in their journal and for their pocket.
  2. Photocopy their bus ticket. Have a spare ticket in their school bag, at home and in their school locker in case it is misplaced.
  3. Get colour coordinated folders. Give each subject a colour. For example, all English related work and notes goes into a green folder. Put a green sticker on the English textbook and English copies and colour code ‘English’ green on their timetable. If you have a map of the school, then the room where English class takes place should also be shaded green. Everything ‘English’ related is green and so on for each subject.
  4. If using a locker key, make multiple copies and get a springy key chain so that they can attach it to a loop on their pants or skirt. Alternatively, use a combination lock and get them to memorise the code between now and the start of school. Mark with nail varnish or spray paint to make it brighter and easier for them to see their property from a distance.
  5. Have a stash of spare copies and additional stationery material in a cupboard at home. Let them know where it is, so that they can draw on it as things go missing or get filled up.
  6. Have a morning checklist on the fridge for: books, lunch, keys, jacket, PE gear etc.
  7. If possible, arrange for them to tour the school before day one. It is also a good idea to do a trial run of their trip to school to get an idea of the route and timing. This will avoid any travel trauma’s during week one. Leaving extra time, if possible, is wise of course.

The ‘School’ Support

  1. If possible, arrange that they meet as many of their subject teachers and year head prior to starting back or as soon as is possible. This gives them certainty about who will be working with and helping them this year.
  2. Look into having a safe and reliable person that they can approach for help and advice in school on a daily basis.
  3. If they have a Special Needs Assistant (SNA), make sure that person has a copy of their colour coordinated timetable, a spare locker key and a copy of the bus-ticket. Provide this person with anything else that might smooth the transition back to school for your child.
  4. Make it your business to get to know your child’s Assistant Principals and Class Tutor as soon as the year commences. Connecting with teachers is always a good start to any year.
  5. Have a notebook that they can write in during the day in case they find something challenging. Both of you can reflect on it together when a suitable time during the week arises, in order to see what challenges might need to be overcome.
  6. For the first hour each evening, allow them to breathe and relax when they get home. Do not expect them to talk immediately after school. It is advisable to allow them some quiet wind-down time first.
  7. Advise them to choose/request a Locker at eye level and at the end of a row. This is so important, as all their classmates and other classes may be scheduled to go to their lockers together, leading to mayhem at times. Having to reach down with people blocking their path can be especially challenging for someone with social or communication difficulties. This is definitely one practical suggestion that will ensure they are on time for each class and that they can get access to the correct materials for each class quickly also.
  8. Encourage them to link up with a buddy or designated person in each subject class, so they can text them to find out what homework they have, should the need arise.
  9. If they are using a laptop, most Secondary School books now come with a code written inside to allow the eBook version of it to be uploaded digitally. This means they can leave more books at school each day, lightening their load.
  10. Getting to know the school secretary, for both you and your child is very worthwhile, as this person will have an awareness of who your child is and what their challenges are etc. With high volumes of traffic, any extra support or eyes around the Secondary School environment can help greatly for those who struggle in various practical ways.
  11. Be aware that your child may get side-tracked at times, realising then that their class is already gone to the next period. This actually happened to me in first year and it’s not a good feeling. Talk to them about what to do in this scenario. Again, an idea for them might be to go to secretaries office. Talking through a few of these little potential situations can really ease their mind as they will retain a visual of what to do should they occur.

To view last week’s feature article on ‘Transitioning to 1st Year from Primary’, click here.

‘Sometimes, if you don’t take a risk, succeeding may become difficult.’

More details about Joe’s Maths Tuition Classes for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate (2023) and his Award Winning ACE Maths Solution Books are available below.

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

ACE Maths Solution Books: acesolutionbooks.com/buy-my-books

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Photo:@ZhangChaosheng

Joe’s Jotter: Choosing your Course (My CAO Countdown II)

Investigate each Course’s Content

Student’s, in order to rank your courses in a way that suits you best, choose ones you really want to do (not necessarily the ones your friends are doing or ones your parents want you to go into). Choose for you and no one else. When choosing a course, be sure to examine closely the module descriptor associated with it. This tells you the exact layout of the course, how many credits each module has, how the exams are assessed, how many hours you will spend on each module, how the learning will take place and exactly what you will learn about. Investigate the exact modules you will be studying for each potential course. This is my most important piece of advice. You don’t want to be heading into the winter thinking ‘I am not interested at all in any of this stuff’ #nightmare.

The CAO is not the Only Show in Town

If you have not applied to the CAO or do not receive a CAO offer, there are other options. You should go on the SOLAS website (solas.ie) now to investigate further education alternatives. One could be: Further learning with your local Education and Training Board (ETB); for example, Louth & Meath Education and Training Board (LMETB). Many ETB’s offer Post Leaving Cert (PLC) courses which will give you a Level 5 or Level 6 qualification, just below what you would come out with via the CAO system. These courses are one or two years in duration and often involve practical work experience with companies. The fees for these courses tend to be lower than your standard CAO courses and grants are available in many cases also. You can progress thereafter to a level 6, 7 or 8 course.

PLC courses allow you to see if an area of study or work may suit you. Some courses in third level set aside a quota of PLC (QQI) students to fill course places each year. If you achieve the required results in your chosen PLC course, a third level institution may accept you onto one of their courses. You should verify this will be the case beforehand by ringing up the college and asking them about accessing a specific course via the PLC route. You can find the full list of PLC courses on www.fetchcourses.ie or contact the Further Education College directly. Examples of PLC courses that students regularly progress further from are Pre-Nursing, and ICT. For each CAO course, you will also be able to view (on cao.ie) what PLC requirements will get you a place on a given CAO course. This is well worth researching over the next few weeks to cover your bases.

To enhance your skills in a certain area, you can go also down the apprenticeship training route by checking out www.apprenticeship.ie. The apprenticeship scheme has been recently expanded to include employers and jobs in many fields. Many of these companies involved would be delighted to take you on and help you grow and learn on the job. Apprenticeships were traditionally only for crafts persons like carpenters, electrician, plumbers etc. While these still exist, there are now new ones in ICT, Accountancy, Engineering, Insurance, Catering and Financial technology (Fintech) etc.

A traineeship is also another option which can be considered. A traineeship is based around making you more employable by improving your skills. These tend to be a short duration courses (12-18 months) and are mostly run by the ETBs. Many apprenticeships and Traineeships are ‘Earn as you learn’ based and therefore you can attain your qualifications and get a few quid to live and pay for accommodation also.

If you feel right now that the ‘direct route’ third level journey isn’t for you, have a good look at the above alternatives over the next few weeks. It is imperative to have a little plan in the background, should you not get what you want (See below). You may not even need to use it, but it will certainly give you comfort having it there on the back burner.

You must have a Plan B, C and D

I have spoken to hundreds of students over the years who had their heart set on one course and when they didn’t make it, they had no fall back plan. Your 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th and even 6th choice on your CAO form are really important. You would need to be content enough to accept these should it come to that. I cannot emphasise enough about the importance of checking out the module content of each course you choose. Genuinely ask yourself: ‘Would I do this course’?. This then sets the platform for your Plan B, C and D. Have a look at Part 1 of ‘My CAO Countdown’ advisory for specific questions you should ask yourself when deciding on your courses. If there are a limited amount of courses you really want above all others, contact that institution, and ask them ‘Is there any other way to get into the course by studying something else first, as opposed to the direct points route?’. This could be very useful Information later should things not go to plan.

Remember, if there is a subject matter you really enjoy or a course you feel you would be really good at, you may need to be open to travelling or living in another part of Ireland. Do not rule out the possibility of the UK (UCAS), the Netherlands, Poland, Italy or other European (UNICAS) countries. Fees and demand have dropped for some courses in Europe that are very popular here. Usually, your results do not need to be as high to study courses in the UK and Europe, compared to Ireland. Do that bit of exploration here if your heart is dead set on something. This is an alternative Plan B to consider. Just like in Ireland, places in certain courses may become available when not filled in earlier rounds.

Six Final Key Points of Note

  1. Keep an eye on the CAO ‘alert list’ for new courses emerging in various colleges on www.cao.ie. Courses are added here on a continuous basis in the ‘Applicant Resources’ section of the ‘Course’ Tab on CAO.ie. You can add these into your CAO listing before July 1st (5pm). These courses are not in your CAO handbook (hardcopy). They may also come in at lower points, as many students may not be aware they even exist and will not have them on their listing. As this article goes to press, twenty four third level institutions have courses on the ‘alert list’. Subsequently, if there is a lower than expected application or take up of certain courses, these may be added to the ‘alert list’ after CAO round one.
  2. If you have applied for the HEAR or DARE scheme, you will find out if you are successful or not at the end of June. You will also be able to appeal any decision made from these schemes from early July. Information on HEAR and DARE is on www.accesscollege.ie.
  3. For those of you who have applied for Medicine in various Universities, the HPAT results are due out around the end of June.
  4. The Leaving Cert results are due out the end of August, with the first round of CAO offers due to be issued a few days later. Don’t plan a ‘Leaving Cert holiday’ then!
  5. Students will be able to view their exam scripts (which I would recommend) soon after the results have been released. I will publish further guidance on this at the end of August, so keep an eye out for that. Subsequently, students will be able to appeal their grade in each subject (as required) by filling in a form provided by their school.
  6. I would recommend you sign up to the excellent https://careersnews.ie/ to keep up to date with announcements, CAO developments and news from third level institutions. They send a daily update to your inbox, which is very useful during those few weeks.

I will circulate another advisory article just before CAO Round 1 results are published in late August/early September.

To read Part 1 of this CAO advisory article, click here.

In the meantime, wishing you good luck with your upcoming choices. Joe

 

More details about Joe’s Maths Tuition Classes for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate (2023) and his Award Winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below.

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

ACE Maths Solution Books: acesolutionbooks.com/buy-my-books

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Joe’s Jotter: Why Practicing Past Exam Questions in Maths is Crucial

 

Practicing past exam questions is essential if you’re looking to score highly in either Higher or Ordinary level Maths this June. Similar question types come up regularly; but you still need to revise all the topics on your course, as the Maths exam isn’t predictable anymore. Both sections (A and B) at Leaving Cert higher and ordinary levels are important and the correct amount of time must be left for the longer questions in Section B, as they tend to require more thought.

The new Maths syllabus at both Junior and Leaving Certificate level is quite crowded with a lot of material to get through, not to mention trying to link up topics in true Project Maths style. Incidentally ‘Project Maths’ was the name given to the subject ‘Mathematics’ when it was rebranded in 2008. It has now reverted to ‘Maths’ after this bedding in period.

Why Past Exam Questions are Key!

With so much to cover during class time, it is difficult for teachers to expose their students to any substantial level of past exam questions during term time. The reality is that many teachers will only fully complete the course after Easter, through no fault of their own. It is up to each individual student to dust off their book of past exam papers and start by initially attempting the part (a)’s and (b)’s of as many exam questions as they can. Initially focus on topics you have covered yourself in class in order to build up your competence. My advice is to work on the last six or seven years past papers to get a grasp on what comes up in certain topics. If your exam paper book is filling up, re-print the papers in it. These are free to download on the examinations website. Set your stopwatch and test to see can you really do a question against the clock without your notes.

‘Do an exam question a day, and start today’

Doctor Maths, the Poet.

To commence, attempt all past exam questions to the best of your ability with guidance from your textbook and class notes. This allows you an access route into questions you are unable to start. Subsequently, refer to a good solutions book to see how accurately you are progressing. With an unprecedented level of detail, my exam paper solutions (ACE Maths Solution Books) at both Junior and Leaving Certificate levels are an ideal companion to revise Maths effectively for this year’s exams. You should start by practicing and familiarising yourself with the language used on past papers. 5th Years also need to start planning ahead. Most Maths teachers will put past exam questions on a 5th Yr Summer Maths Paper.

Your exam paper focus should always be on practicing previous official state exam questions under time pressure. Replicating exam hall pressure is a brilliant way to hone your skills and really check if you can complete the question asked within the time limit allocated. I would start by taking on a short question or two against the clock, and then a longer question, until eventually you feel confident enough to take on a full paper. Constantly doing questions out from your textbook will never fully prepare you for a full sit down test paper in Maths. This is where a lot of students are going wrong.

 

 Using Past Exam Questions to your Advantage

Knowing how to work with past papers and making the most of them is a skill in itself. Some key preparation tips to keep in mind while tackling past papers are:

  • Start with questions you can do in order to build confidence and reduce anxiety as you commence your revision routine.
  • Solve as many past exam questions as possible from every topic on the course. This will help you understand the type of questions that are asked and also how much work you still need to do to reach your target score in the subject.
  • Estimate how an examiner would have graded your work by comparing your solution against a detailed Maths solution book. Using a solutions book to mark your own questions will allow you to see how your percentages are stacking up.
  • Maintain an error-log on mistakes you keep making. This will help you get to know your weak points and what traps you are regularly are falling into.
  • Everyone has deficiencies in Maths. To overcome these, attempt extra questions from topics you are struggling with.
  • When solving past questions, make a habit of always timing yourself with a stopwatch. This will help you improve speed and manage your timing better during the actual exam. Practice makes perfect. Treat your revision work at home as the training sessions before the actual matches in the exam hall.

Doing an exam question trial at home every week will greatly improve your performance in the final exam. After some time, you will cut out silly errors and feel calmer about tackling a full paper. This process will give you the belief that you can get the awkward question started or tackle the unseen graph or diagram on the day.

  Commence a Strict Diet of Past ‘Exam Questions’ Today

If I was in 6th year, i would move quickly now onto the strict but ultimately rewarding ‘Past Exam Question’ diet. Here are some directions to consider as you trawl through good quality past exam questions and their solutions over the next few months:

  • You need to get practicing multiple real life application questions (Section B)
  • You need to get familiar with marking schemes and how marks are allocated
  • You need to practice exam questions under time pressure
  • Constantly strive to get used to the wording, layout, and style of past questions
  • Get accustomed to how the examiners are phrasing exam questions now
  • Be conscious of the fact that there is extra text and less numbers on the papers now
  • You need to be aware that you could now be asked to ‘explain your answer’
  • Be familiar with justifying your answers using Maths calculations
  • Practice different strategies for starting unseen or unexpected questions
  • Be familiar with the exact meaning of each word that appears on past papers. Joe.

To view last week’s feature article on ‘How to ACE any Maths Exam’, click here.

More details about Joe as a Maths Tutor for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate (2022) and his Award Winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below.

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

ACE Maths Solution Books: acesolutionbooks.com/buy-my-books

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Joe’s Jotter: Core Skills for Revising Maths Better at Home

In light of the how the last few years have panned out, students (and indeed their Parents) need to examine closely their daily routine to ensure effective learning is now happening. Maths is a subject that tends to take up more time than others and hence 3rd and 6th years should firstly consolidate what they know and then make a list of topics that they need to learn and revise going forward. Spending time on past exam questions and learning the terminology that appears on them is wise use of any student’s time now.

From this point of view, I would recommend that all exam students start a ‘Maths hardback’. Fill this hardback with new words, formulae’s not present in the log tables and keynotes. Divide the hardback into sections, one for each topic on the course. Secondly, when revising at home, students should test themselves against the clock on full or partial past exam questions. Set these as your two main targets for the next few months.

Algebra is the Language of Maths

In Junior and Leaving Cert Maths, you need a good solid Algebra foundation to build on in order to excel in topics like Geometry, Trigonometry, Functions and Graphs and Probability. I estimate that Algebra is linked to at least twenty five percent of Maths exam papers at all levels now. Take time to understand the rules of Algebra especially those linked to expressions, functions, and graphs. With all its linkages, I, one hundred percent        think that Algebra is the most important topic in Maths. The words and phrases that appear in your book and in the past exam papers have become a close second. The State Exams Commission (SEC) now place more emphasis on students knowing and understanding what things mean in Maths, than just traditional numerical calculations.

There is also more ‘English’ than ever on Maths exam papers, and it is crucial that you start familiarising yourself with these words. If you are not familiar with the words and phrases that appear on the paper, you may not even be able to get a question started. This would be an awful shame given the amount of time you have spent learning mathematical concepts on your course. If you have dyslexia, I understand that dealing with words in Maths is doubly difficult. You need to be aware that different words have a different meaning depending on the subject you are studying. For example, the word ‘Evaluate’ in Maths is very different to its meaning in the subject English.

In my book ‘How to ACE the Leaving Certificate’ for all subjects, there is a full chapter advising how you can improve your Maths. In this book, I present and explain one hundred sample key words and phrases to kick start your understanding of the language of Maths. This list is suitable for both Junior and Senior Cycle students, remembering that some of the more difficult words would not appear on a Junior Cycle paper. I would strongly encourage students to add to this list, investigating the exact meaning of words you come across daily. You will learn loads through your own active investigations.

In summary, I recommend that every time you encounter a new Maths word or formula, write down what it means to you in an A5/A6 hardback. This hack can be applied to all subjects and these hardbacks can be carried with you (literally) all the way up to sixth year. Using simple explanations that you understand in your hardbacks will help you recall what the words mean later. Being familiar with the words that appear on a Maths exam paper has now become a key component of success in the subject.

Test yourself at home in Maths

The more ‘exam smart’ you are, the better you will perform on exam day. I have seen the best students do homework to perfection all year, really knowing their stuff, but ultimately not reach their potential In Maths come June. Every year loads of super students misjudge the timing on the paper. It is imperative that you stick exactly to the allocated time for each question. In Leaving Cert Maths, the timing is different this year due to increased choice on the paper. Junior Cycle timing in Maths will be written on the paper.

You should now start timing yourself on past exam questions at home. At Leaving Cert level, part a’s and b’s of Section A are a good place to start. Attempt questions that look familiar first, maybe even consulting your book/notes from time to time. It’s all learning. Once completed, check your workings out against a good exam paper solutions book. If you have struggled to make reasonable inroads into answering, I suggest you re-write the steps of the full solution on a page, really thinking about why each step is important as you write it. Every few weeks, tackle some longer questions and write out the steps (in English) how you would solve it. This better solidifies the method you used in your head.

There are many advantages to creating your own ‘home test environment’. You should constantly test yourself on material revised. During these mini home tests, I would use a stopwatch to ensure you are ‘sticking to the time’ for each individual question part. This is vital across all subjects, but especially in Maths. In creating this little bit of time pressure, you are replicating the exam hall environment. Train as you propose to play is the idea here.

Please do get in touch with me if you have any Maths queries. I would be delighted to guide or help you in some way. Thanks for reading. Joe

To view last week’s feature article on ‘The Many Benefits of Doing Transition Year’, click here.

More details about Joe as a Maths Tutor for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate (2022) and his Award Winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below.

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

ACE Maths Solution Books: acesolutionbooks.com/buy-my-books

*****

*****

Photo:@ZhangChaosheng

Joe’s Jotter: The Many Benefits of doing Transition Year

“I had heard transition year is a doss, but you do more practical work, like projects. You are a lot more tired than in Junior Cycle because you are doing so much. You don’t realise it until you look back.”

Former Transition Year Student

Transition year (TY) is a unique one year programme that links Junior and Senior Cycle together. It is now completed by the majority of students who finish secondary school in Ireland, with seventy five percent of schools offering it. Each school is given the flexibility to design their own TY programme within a broad set of parameters. Some schools view it as an additional academic year of senior cycle; but most schools design it to allow students express themselves and develop and explore new talents.

Will Transition Year benefit me?

The question that all 3rd year students and parents struggle with at this time of year is: ‘Will TY be beneficial to me?’  I feel there are a number of factors determining the success of Transition year for a given student. These include how well the school structures it, the enthusiasm the student has for the programme and how much they buy into it, and the level of variety in the programme, to name but a few.

There is no doubt that if a student does immerse themselves in TY, they can benefit greatly both from a social and developmental point of view. As is evident from the quote above from this former TY, students are engaged in a range of different activities compared to the more academic Junior Cycle. As a teacher, it is easy to spot the 6th year students who have completed TY, as opposed to those who went straight into 5th year. Aside from the obvious fact that students look a year older, they are much more confident in themselves and are a few more steps down the road to maturity than their counterparts. In my experience, this is especially pertinent to boys.

My Top Forty Benefits of doing Transition Year

Listed below are my top forty benefits (in no particular order) that a student may gain by opting for TY. Hopefully it will allow you to make an informed decision if you are a parent or a 3rd year in the process of deciding to opt for it or not. 1st and 2nd Years can also have a read of these to get them thinking about their options post Junior Cycle.

  1.  It is an opportunity to mature especially if you are younger than your classmates
  2. You get a taste of working in everyday jobs in Industry and services
  3. You are given more licence to show and develop your individual personality
  4. Your confidence around meeting and dealing with people will improve greatly
  5. You may get to experience a trip to another country
  6. You may get to sample activities you wouldn’t normally e.g. sports, music, or drama
  7. You will be involved in outdoor experiences beneficial to fitness and mental health
  8. The friends you make in TY often turn into lasting relationships
  9. You will be allowed time to reflect and think about possible future careers
  10. You will get an opportunity to research courses and third level options
  11. You will get more of an opportunity to work in a team during activities
  12. You will feel part of a group, which may have not been the case at Junior Cycle
  13. Having an Identity (being a TY) will increase and enhance your personal self-worth
  14. You will learn to think more independently and listen to instructions better
  15. You may discover new talents and skills through engagement in new activities
  16. It should inspire you to take on more responsibility in Senior Cycle
  17. It will give you time to select the subjects that suit you for Senior Cycle
  18. You will get an opportunity to express yourself more with an expanded curriculum
  19. You may get an option to sample new subjects. e.g. Home Ec or Woodwork etc
  20. You may get a chance to visit places of cultural significance e.g. Museums or Gallery’s
  21. You may get opportunities to accomplish certs. e.g. Gaisce, Driving, ICT or First Aid
  22. You will learn research skills and how to approach employers for work experience
  23. You will get a chance to create, enhance and develop the quality of your CV
  24. You may get to experience debating, which will help your public speaking confidence
  25. You may be lucky enough that your school is involved in a TY exchange programme
  26. There won’t be as much academic pressure on you during this year
  27. You will have more time to join school groups e.g. student council, sports council etc
  28. You will be more mature and a year older heading into senior cycle
  29. More experiential learning during the year will mean more hands on and more fun
  30. You may attend workshops or talks e.g. Drugs, Alcohol or Community groups
  31. You may do a career matching or aptitude test to discover potential career paths
  32. Students may be involved in setting up mini companies (great for teamwork)
  33. Teachers will be more open to exploring what you are personally Interested in
  34. Students may get opportunities to enter local enterprise competitions
  35. You will still work on academic subjects and can continue to develop your knowledge
  36. You can investigate what type of learner you are (useful going into Senior Cycle)
  37. You will leave TY with a whole new set of skills and experiences to kick start your CV
  38. At the end of TY, you will be more mature and ready to make better future decisions
  39. TY’s often tell me that it was their most enjoyable and rewarding year in Secondary
  40. The fun, the bonding, the laughs, and the treasured relationships.

If this is the route you are heading in September 2022, good luck with Transition Year. Joe

To view last week’s feature article on ‘Choosing Subjects for 5th Year’, Click here.

More details about Joe as a Maths Tutor for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate (2022) and his Award Winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below.

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

ACE Maths Solution Books: acesolutionbooks.com/buy-my-books

*****

*****

Photo: @ZhangChaosheng

Joe’s Jotter: Choosing Subjects for 5th Year

Choosing subjects for 5th Year can be daunting enough, and soon many 3rd and all Transition (4th) year students will be faced with that task in school. A 4th year student will have had more time to contemplate options, and so sometimes make more considered choices than those coming straight from the Junior Cycle (3rd year), and this is something Parents need to be aware of. It is important to put some thought into how subject choices may influence career options later. Students should consult with all their teachers and ask them about the level of work that’s required for success in a given subject at a specific level.

Third Level Considerations

Students,

If you have a third level course or career in mind, it is important now to do a little research into its content and investigate if there are any minimum entry requirements to gain access to it. All courses now have detailed descriptions of each module online, listing out exactly what you will be required to study on a year by year basis. It is important to note that no matter what points you achieve; you will not be allowed onto a course unless you achieve its minimum entry requirement (if it has one). This may guide you to choose particular subjects. In the case of compulsory exam subjects (which you will be studying anyway), obviously there is no choice to make there. However, if there is a requirement on your desired course to score a certain grade in a foreign language or other subject, you will need to opt for this subject if your heart is set on that course. However, to this tune, I would strongly recommend you have a plan B and C in place when choosing courses and will discuss the importance of this in articles later in the year.

In relation to specific college requirements, it is useful to know that the NUI colleges (UCD, UCG, UCC, Maynooth etc) require a pass in a third language [excluding English and Gaeilge] for many of their courses. However there are now exceptions to this: UCD has dropped this requirement for Engineering and Agricultural Science, and Maynooth has removed it for

Business, Accounting, Finance and Law. Trinity, UL, DCU and the Institutes of Technology do not have this third language requirement, except for their language courses. Again, the advice here is to double check the requirements online for each individual course.

There are also ‘Subject requirements’ on courses. Examples include: to study Primary teaching, you need a H4 in Irish, Engineering courses may require honours Maths and sometimes a science subject, Medicine may require two science subjects (one being chemistry) and Nursing may also require a science subject. The savvy student will do some research on websites like qualifax.ie and careersportal.ie to get a handle on the exact requirements of courses they are Interested in.

The Eight ACE ‘Do’s’ for choosing Subjects

All in all, when it comes to subject choice, students should think a little about their futures, talk to teachers, look at courses they may have an Interest in and discuss with their peers gone ahead how they found studying the subject. Take your time and choose well. It may be wiser to choose subjects you have an interest in, as opposed to ones you feel you must choose in order to get into a certain career later. It is definitely a balancing act. Here are my eight ACE do’s for subject choice for 3rd and 4th year students:

  • Do…Choose subjects you enjoy learning about
  • Do…Discuss it with as many people as you can including teachers and peers etc
  • Do…Try and keep your options open as much as possible
  • Do…Choose subjects you have some kind of a flair for or Interest In
  • Do…Research each subject’s content on https://www.curriculumonline.ie/
  • Do…Choose subjects linked to a possible future career you are considering
  • Do…Write down the Pro’s/Con’s when trying to decide between two subjects
  • Do…Make the final decision yourself (not your friends, teachers, or parents)

Final Choice Advice

The best advice I can give about subjects is to select ones that keep your options open. You can best do this by choosing one foreign language and ensuring that at least two of the other three subjects picked are ones you have an interest in or flair for. Remember that you will be spending a lot of time studying your chosen subjects over the next two years and the nightmare scenario would be dreading going into that class each day. I myself selected a subject I regretted taking in 5th year, but luckily was allowed switch later. You may not be as fortunate in your school, so try and get it right the first time to save any unnecessary anxiety. I now also have a degree in a subject that I didn’t study for my Leaving Cert. Life can be funny, so my advice is ‘rule nothing out’ and keep as many doors open as possible.

In choosing subjects, always play to your strengths. For example, if business is something you are really interested in, you could choose Business and Accounting (assuming they don’t clash on the school timetable). Similarly, if Science is your area of passion, you could opt for two of the Science subjects i.e. Biology, Chemistry or Physics. Applied Maths or Agricultural Science may also be other options here.

Enthusiasm for any subject will foster a desire to learn more about it and studying these subjects in Senior Cycle won’t even feel like learning. If you are struggling with this decision, get in touch with me via my website below and I will send you some resources that will help. I wish you every success with your upcoming decision. Joe

More details about Joe as a Maths Tutor for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate (2022) and his Award Winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below.

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

ACE Maths Solution Books: acesolutionbooks.com/buy-my-books

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Photo: @ZhangChaosheng

Joe’s Jotter: Grade Inflation 2022 – Startling Subject Statistics

With Leaving Certificate grades ‘apparently’ rising recently, I decided to do my own comparison analysis of Leaving Certificate results from the years 2018 and 2021 as per Table 1 below. Over 90% of students sat 245,850 leaving cert papers in 2021. In comparing the written papers that the students sat against the accredited grades given by their schools, the results show that 68% of accredited grades were inaccurate (i.e. they were at least a grade out compared to what the student scored in their June sit down exams). Firstly, this margin of error is way too high to endorse the ‘Accredited Grades’ process.

Upon looking closer at this data, the percentage of students scoring a H4 or above in 2021 (A H4 is between 60% and 70% at higher level) has produced very surprising results. What amazed me from looking at the statistics was how grades in nearly all subjects have jumped in three short years. Across the twelve subjects I sampled, the average increase (H4 grades or above) when comparing LC 2018 to 2021 was an eye watering 14%. This is substantial.

Table 1: The percentage of students that scored a H4 or above in LC 2021 and LC 2018*

Sample Subject
Percentage of Students achieving
a H4 or above (2021 in Red) (2018 Bracketed)
Music 95% (89%)  +6%
Technology 83% (72%) +11%
Engineering 78% (70%) +8%
Irish 84% (70%) +14%
Design and Communication Graphics (DCG) 88% (70%) +18%
Home Economics (S&S) 82% (68%) +14%
Accounting 84% (63%) +21%
Biology 73% (61%) +12%
Chemistry 80% (61%) +19%
Maths 73% (60%) +13%
Politics and Society 74% (59%) +15%
Physics 78% (59%)  +19%

*Source: Data from www.examinations.ie

From this data, my feeling is that you cannot compare Leaving Cert students who completed exams before 2018 to the 2020 or 2021 cohort; and of course we are doing so. This throws up a lot of questions about where our education system is going. It seems serious inconsistency has set in, with a new benchmark set for future student results.

Is it now a ‘medal for everyone’ mentality, with this seemingly watershed moment in 2020? How can we even compare Leaving Certificate results before and during/after the pandemic? To me this ‘Grade Inflation’ whiffs of optics and how Ireland’s PISA scores ‘need’ to compare globally. I feel that the department has taken the opportunity to ramp our scores right up under the darkness of pandemic cover. From the data and in my view, ‘Accredited grades’ hasn’t worked and isn’t a future option. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t welcome a Leaving Certificate review now, with a view to more continuous assessment.

Adding Increased marking scheme flexibility to this emerging data, the bell curve has all but been eliminated, while shockingly some students who got the maximum 625 points in 2021 didn’t even get their first choice in college. If the model of the last two years remains in place for our 2022 6th years, many of these students will be heading to third level without having the experience of completing a State Exam. This will put them at an immediate disadvantage heading into first year. Students are scoring higher than ever now, but are they more knowledgeable than their predecessors? I doubt it. Radical percentage increases over such a short period of time like this doesn’t sit well with me at all. It may well stabilise itself in future years, but worryingly a new bar and paradigm has been set, and like everything that changes, the genie is out of the bottle now.

See below for details about Joe as a Maths Tutor and his ACE Maths Solution Books 2022.

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

ACE Maths Solution Books: acesolutionbooks.com/buy-my-books

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Joe’s Jotter: Why Secondary School Students Should 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 2022. Joe.

More details about Joe as a Maths Tutor for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate (2022) and his Award Winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below.

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

ACE Maths Solution Books: acesolutionbooks.com/buy-my-books

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