Joe’s Jotter: Performing Well in Difficult Subjects (Case Study – Maths)

As you settle into the new year, teachers and parents totally understand that even though you are making great strides, you still have plenty of fears. From speaking with students over the years, 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 revising all subjects and getting your head space right.

Preparing for one of your less favoured subjects is a blatant case of having to ‘get on with it’. Of course, it is easier to revise and work on subjects you enjoy and are good at, but you must not ignore the others. Studying and preparing the ‘frog subjects’ is probably the biggest challenge you will face in school. You must prioritise these subjects on your weekly ‘Lifestyle Study Timetable’. I will detail how to setup this timetable in a later blog feature. Author and reconstructive surgeon, Jack Penn, once said:

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

Building Confidence in Maths

Maths is one of those subjects that many students find difficult. To me Maths is about grafting to understand the basics, building your confidence, and not being prepared to give up easy. Always start by attempting the easier topic questions (usually the part a’s and b’s) and subsequently graduating to the part c’s and d’s. You should check your work as you go against a good quality solutions book and thus be constantly ‘learning by doing’. Here are some of my top tips to improve your performance in Maths (and its exam) at any level.

Joe’s Top Tips for Success in Maths

  1. Put formulas, explanation of words and keynotes into a little pocket notebook.
  2. Practice as many past exam questions as you can and check your answers against a fully developed and explained solutions book.
  3. Challenge yourself to try and come up with a second method of doing questions.
  4. Try to approach each question from different angles. Always write down something. Do not be afraid of making a mistake.
  5. Draw a diagram (if possible) and label it to simplify a question.
  6. Be familiar with what is and what is not in your log tables.
  7. When studying, exhaust all attempts to answer an exam question before referring to your solutions book. Do not give up easily.
  8. Read each question in Maths carefully underlining the key words and phrases.
  9. At all levels, if you feel overwhelmed by the length and difficulty of the course – start with basic Algebra
  10. Find yourself a study buddy to share questions and resources with. Discuss problems with each other and encourage.
  11. Use various Internet sites as a companion to improve your Maths skills.
  12. Consult your teacher about problems with topics or specific Maths questions during and after class.
  13. Start by attempting basic questions for each Maths topic, building up to a full exam question. Answer the exact question being asked.
  14. The word FAIL in Maths for me means First Attempt In Learning
  15. Do not be afraid to explain a solution to a question with words if you cannot do so with numbers and symbols.
  16. Spend five to ten minutes daily going over what you have learned in class that day.
  17. Every time you write down a formula, draw a box around it to help you remember it. Check if this formula is in your log tables. If not, you need to memorise it.
  18. Anything that you type into your calculator (related to a question) must be written on your answer book/copy also.
  19. Have all resources present when doing Maths questions i.e. Full Maths set, pencil, calculator, and log tables.
  20. 3rd and 6th Years, practice as many previous exam questions as you possibly can.
  21. Rewrite sample questions given in your textbook to get an understanding of the basics.
  22. It is ok to look at a solution to a question if you have tried your best to solve it alone. Use the answer to figure out the exact method for the question. Re-do it without help.
  23. Work with groups of friends on harder Maths questions. Bounce ideas off each other in order to understand and learn from their thinking.
  24. Always write out every single step of your answer. This will be easy to look back, revise and follow later.
  25. Talk positive about subjects you find difficult. Don’t throw away your shot at success by talking your way into failure.

In next week’s Joe’s Jotter, I will advise 2nd and 3rd year students on how to restart their revision routine. Don’t miss it. To view last week’s feature article on ‘How to Efficiently Review your Exam Scripts’, click here. Get in touch if I can help you in any way. Joe.

‘Sail on the Seas of ambition and land on the shore of success.’

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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Photo:@ZhangChaosheng

Joe’s Jotter: Your Guide to CAO Options 2022

 

The results of the State Examinations Commission (SEC) jury are now in as we await round one of CAO offers on Thursday September 8th at 2pm. Successful students will be sent an e-mail from the CAO with round one offer(s) from 1.30pm onwards on Thursday. Students who do not receive an offer will get an e-mail from the CAO with their ‘Statement of Application Record’.  All students should again check that all details on this e-mail are accurate to ensure the CAO has not made an administrative error.

Over the next few days, it is sensible not to overly predict what will happen with your CAO application. Predicting points for courses can be a futile exercise, as points on a given year are determined by demand from students for a course, combined with the number of places on it. Unfortunately, there is no magic formula for predicting what can happen.

Accepting a Place

On Thursday, you may get two possible offers; one from your level 6/7 list and one from you level 8 list, assuming you have filled in both. Level 6 courses are ones offering a two-year higher certificate, which are found mostly at the Institutes of Technology. Level 7 consists of three-year ordinary level degree courses, while level 8 are honours degree courses. You may be offered a third level place from both lists; however, you can only accept one. You have until 3pm on Wednesday September 14th to accept your place.

Once you accept a place on a course from your list, you cannot be offered a place on a potential course below it (on the same list) in future rounds. You can however be offered a place on a course above it (on the same list), irrespective of whether you accepted your initial offer or not. You can always move up on your listings, but never down.  Note that if you do not accept an offer and no subsequent offer is made to you, that original offer will be distributed to another applicant in the next round.

If you are offered a place on any course, I would advise you to do some serious research on its content to ensure it is suitable one for you. You can do this on Qualifax or the specific college website. Do not accept a course that you don’t really want to do, as you may end up dropping out and possibly paying full fees (€3,000 approx.) the following year. I feel that it is important to be somewhat passionate and have a degree of curiosity about a course and subject matter in order to study and research it for three or four years.

Remember that the level 6/7 route is also a viable option for students. In many cases, you can subsequently progress to complete an ‘add on year’ to reach your level 8 degree target. This course transfer process is known as ‘Advanced entry’. If you accept a level 6/7 course, you should then think about a potential pathway to maximise your qualifications later. A phone call to the third level college may be worthwhile to get more Information on this. If you are in doubt about anything CAO related over the next few weeks, you can contact them through the correspondence section of their website.

Deferring a Place

If you wish to defer the place you’ve been offered, contact the third level college directly (not the CAO office). They will ask you to confirm your deferral by e-mail. The college will subsequently send you an e-mail confirmation of this status, which you should retain.

In order to take your place on this course the following year, you should re-apply to the CAO and simply enter that one course on your CAO. You should not enter other courses unless you have changed your mind about accepting the one you have deferred.

Available Places

The available places facility of the CAO website will re-open on Friday September 9th at 12pm. These courses can be applied for by any student. Applicants must meet the normal minimum entry requirements for a given course. Previously published points in earlier rounds should not be taken as an indication of the points required for entry to an available places course. The role of the available places facility is to advertise new courses that have been launched since the CAO deadline. They also advertise courses where all places have not been filled on them i.e. demand wasn’t as high as expected. The available places application procedure is similar to the ‘Change of Mind’ one. Available places courses are added daily on the CAO website, so a regular check in here is recommended.

Available places, although limited, may be a saving option for those who didn’t get their desired course and aren’t sure about accepting another offer they don’t really want. Again, my advice here is to research the course really well. The UK’s version of available places is called ‘clearing’. This is also worth a look if you are willing to travel and have your heart set on something. When I was doing my exams in the 1990s, there was really only one way into courses and by inference, careers. Now, there are so many routes and pathways you can investigate. No matter how bad things are, ‘You always have options’.

Script Reviews and Appeals

If you do miss out on the course you had your heart set on, you should seriously consider reviewing your scripts with the possibility of an appeal (completed through a shorter timeline from now on) later. Under the new system this year, upgrades after rechecks will not see students lose out on college places which they have achieved the required points for (unless they are unlucky enough to lose out through ‘random selection’, which can happen at any stage of the process). Some third level institutions will allow you to complete a ‘Second chance’ Maths exam to reach a specific grade requirement and therefore be accepted on a course you have enough points for.

Details of how you can review your exam scripts and the appeals process has now been released. I will publish advice and full analysis around this in my next ‘Joe’s Jotter’ feature article on this Tuesday 6th September at 11am.

Apprenticeships and PLC Courses

If a CAO offer doesn’t come your way, don’t lose hope. Apprenticeships and PLC courses are also real options for you. Full Information about these options is available on the Careers Portal website. Apprenticeships were traditionally based around the crafts, but many new ones have emerged (almost fifty in total) including in areas such as Accounting, Commi Chef, ICT, and Insurance etc.

While Ireland now needs more graduates for the health, teaching, and IT sectors, it also needs those with the skills acquired through the various apprenticeships. For every eight students attending higher education, only one of these will be in an apprenticeship. I think the minister needs to continue to work on re-addressing this balance through consistent encouragement, promotion, and expansion of this sector.

PLC’s courses can be used as a springboard to a certificate, diploma or even a degree course. Personally, I find the courses section of the Careers Portal website brilliant for researching these courses and this site will also show you a route to move from your chosen PLC course into higher courses at third level later. This allows you to map out your future pathway. It is worth noting that the minimum entry requirements on PLC courses is usually lower than third level ones. Once you get your foot on the first step of the ladder, it is a lot easier to keep climbing. Stay positive. What’s for you won’t pass you by.

Keep an eye on my Facebook page (link below) for more Information on the CAO and college offer process. To view last week’s feature article on ‘Navigating Secondary School as a Special Educational Needs (SEN) Student’. click here. Joe

‘Put you at the centre of decisions for the next while. Look after you.’

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

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

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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: Useful Insights for Parents on…Secondary School Maths

 

I think it may be interesting for both students and parents to consider the following observations I have become aware of in Maths over the last number of years. Maths is a very emotive subject, and everyone has their own way of understanding and practicing it. This presents its own set of difficulties. The below insights and observations should help you as a parent to reach out and help your child with Maths in a more positive way. Read on…

The Second Year Maths Dip

Firstly, in general, I have noticed that some of my students (and those of my colleagues) experience a slight dip in performance in Maths during their second year in secondary school. This is partly due to workload and the fact that the first-year common course is quite basic. This dip for girls is not as pronounced as for boys. There is also a drop off in fifth year, but it isn’t as extreme as the second year one. If your child is heading into second year, you need to be aware that this could be the case for them. I believe that working diligently on their algebra, fractions, and general numeracy (external to the calculator) are the key elements to overcoming barriers. These topics are the three main pillars of Junior Cycle Maths and underpin and are linked to every other topic on the course.

We all need to keep in mind that online learning has not suited some students and that they have missed out on that key face-to-face contact with teachers, especially in Maths. As a parent, it is important that you encourage positivity around this subject and remind them that every student in the country is in the same boat. From a personal point of view, I noticed that last year’s Junior Cycle class did struggle (more than usual) with a variety of topics, but it did eventually come together for them in the end. I expect that the incoming third year cohort will take a while to settle back (through no fault of their own) this year. In fairness, it may take many of them until after Christmas before they settle down into a pattern of revision and work across all subjects. It is understandable that they may not hit the ground running this year and we all need to be cognisant of this.

Girls – Go for it!

From the students I have taught since the Project Maths syllabus was introduced in 2008, I have noticed another trend in my classes. I have spotted that female students are less likely to take risks when attempting past exam questions. The new phrasing of questions on Maths papers suit boys better, as they are less conscious of what they are writing down and are less afraid of being wrong. In my opinion, it is important for girls to express their opinions freely and openly and we, as teachers, need to help them develop this skill. I think it is important for all students not to get unduly perturbed if they cannot get a certain part of a question out perfectly. In Maths now, it is more important to go onto another question (within the allotted time), instead of looking to complete every single question part absolutely perfect.  I feel that Churchill’s (not the dog) quote is quite apt for our modern day Maths syllabus.

“Perfection is the enemy of Progress”.

Winston Churchill (Former Prime Minister of the UK)

One does not really have time for 100% perfection on a Maths paper as they tend to be ‘question packed’, and unlike other subjects, there isn’t time for admiring your work. Students should apply this principle across the board to all their Maths tests in 2022/23.

The New Practical Style Questions

Thirdly, girls especially need to practice more exam questions involving engineering and mechanical parts. My reasoning for this is that, in general, most of the student cohort studying Engineering, Construction studies and Design/Communication Graphics (DCG) at Leaving Certificate are boys, and girls are not being exposed to this specific type of learning. With more everyday life practical questions being the order of the day in Maths, it is inevitable that more technical and mechanical questions will appear in years to come, and girls and parents of girls need to be aware of this. This trend will slowly become more pronounced if the Governments’ promotion and focus on the Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects continues and I expect it will.

Always Follow Your Passion

Lastly, in a survey conducted a few years ago, twenty-nine percent of Irish parents surveyed thought that technology subjects weren’t suitable for girls and fifty-three percent of girls in secondary school dropped STEM subjects due to pressure from their parents. These statistics may be contributing to the lack of representation of females working in STEM. Students and parents need to be aware of the excellent third level courses and future career opportunities available in these areas for both genders. Students need to be encouraged to explore all avenues of interest and follow their passions. Pursuing a spinoff of the subjects that a student enjoys each day in school wont set them too far wrong. Joe

**You can achieve more than you actually expect.**

 

To view last weeks feature article on ‘Transitioning into 1st Year or back to school’, click here.

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: Was your Revision Good Quality this Year?

 

Students,

Did you struggle to find the best ways to revise this year? Did you feel like your classmates were always a step ahead of you in class? Do you just read your notes aimlessly hoping you will remember some of it later? What areas of revision did you fall down on this year?

Each student learns differently. Each student needs to trial different methods until they find the ones that suit them best. Learning is most constructive when a student approaches a topic from different angles to get a better handle on it. The more ways you can approach learning, as opposed to just ‘learning off’ material, the more successful you will be.

Successful students are those who can think critically about the content presented to them. To do this, you as a student should carefully read the information presented by the author, understand it as best you can, and then begin to question and really think about it. Being critical of text doesn’t just mean being negative; it also means being knowledgeable and really assessing the quality of the information. My ACE tip here is to use your imagination, challenge the question being asked and never be afraid to offer your own personal opinion on topics. State Examiners love personal opinions, as it shows you can think independently.

In 2013, The Open University (UK) developed a ‘stairway’ model to help students understand the skills of critical thinking. Students can apply these steps to a specific topic in order to understand it better. I think this is an excellent way of actively revising, as you are reflecting on all aspects of the information presented. This method would be particularly useful in subjects like English, Economics, History, Geography and Business.  The steps are as follows:

  • Process: take in the information (i.e. in what you have read, heard, seen, or done).
  • Understand: comprehend the key points, assumptions and arguments presented.
  • Analyse: examine how these key components link together.
  • Compare: explore the similarities and differences in each idea you are reading about.
  • Synthesise: bring together different sources of information making logical connections between them.
  • Evaluate: assess the worth of an idea in terms of its relevance to your needs.
  • Apply: transfer the understanding gained and use in response to questions, assignments, and projects.
  • Justify: use critical thinking to develop arguments, draw conclusions, and identify implications.

In today’s more modern Junior and Leaving Certificate, you need to be able to apply knowledge to a topic. Learning off too much information is a common mistake made by students and is not recommended. This is the opposite of applying knowledge. There is more of an emphasis now on applying everyday life experiences to questions asked. Besides, if you were to feel nerves, you are less likely to remember a lengthy essay you have memorised.

Your revision time is better served by preparing summaries, bullet points, post-its, key points, and mind maps. The State exams are now more about identifying important information in a question and discussing its merits, as opposed to emptying the contents of your head onto the answer book. Mix the content you have revised in class with what is going on in your own life. This is something to reflect on as you plan your Autumn revision strategy in each subject.

 

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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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: Choosing your Course (My CAO Countdown I)

 

Change of Mind Oncoming

As the ink dries on the final few Leaving Cert Papers, the attention for 6th years immediately turns to reviewing and checking their CAO choices made earlier this year. With the CAO change of mind deadline approaching at months end, I felt it good timing to provide some guidance to help students re-evaluate and analyse their earlier decisions.

This is the first point in the year where the CAO process can lead to an amount of anxiety among students. As with every year, students are worried: ‘Will the points rise for my courses?’, ‘have I chosen the right courses in the correct order?’, ‘what if i don’t get my first choice?’ or maybe ‘what if i don’t even get an offer at all?’. This article should serve as a reminder of the importance of spending time properly researching your choices now. Knowing the CAO process well and having confidence in your choices will smooth the way for a less painless journey come results time in the Autumn.

I now strongly recommend that every student begins reviewing their initial choices (made way back in February) over the next few days and not leave it until the final hours, when making key decisions under the stress of a deadline isn’t good. I think it is well worth spending 4 to 5 days ensuring that you make the best possible choices for your future. Knowing you have done your research well will set your mind at ease for the rest of the summer. Your final CAO choices must be submitted online by 5pm on July 1st.

Complete The Final Check

In May, the CAO e-mailed you a ‘statement of application’ record. Open that e-mail now and check that every single detail on it is correct. It is important not to just check course names, codes, possible language exemptions etc, but also to check your personal details. If you spot any incorrect information or spellings, contact the CAO immediately. You can change most of these details online yourself. However, you will need to e-mail the CAO office to change your name, phone number or date of birth, if required.

It should be noted that any change you make to your CAO details/courses over the next few days will be confirmed to you by e-mail. You should always comb over these e-mails for accuracy. If this confirmation e-mail doesn’t arrive (keep an eye on your junk mail), again, contact the CAO office. If you make a mistake on your CAO form, you may not be able to correct it after July 1st. If you enter the incorrect course or accidentally place them in the wrong order, you could see the third level place you want given to another student. From this point of view, I would get a second person (a parent usually) to double check all your Information is accurate. All students must check their ‘Statement of application’ e-mail whether they are changing their mind on courses in this window or not.

How do I Get onto a Third Level Course?

To get your place on any third level course, you need to fulfil three elements. You need to reach the ‘minimum entry requirements’ e.g. For Trinity College Dublin (TCD), the standard matriculation requirements are pass grades in English, Mathematics, a language other than English, and a full set of valid subjects for your examination system. The second element you must meet is the ‘subject requirements’ for a course. e.g. You must get at least an O1/H6 in Maths to get into Engineering at Cork Institute of Technology (CIT). Thirdly, you obviously need to achieve the CAO points required for that course. The exact entry requirements will be listed on the CAO website for each individual course. The message here is that when you are viewing a course’s content and modules, carefully checkout the relevant requirements you need to attain also.

Genuine Order of Preference

The most important thing to be sure of is to put your course choices in the exact order you’d prefer them. You should not order them on how many points you think you will score or change them around based on how your exams went. At the end of a Leaving Cert exam in a specific subject, you may feel you have underperformed or haven’t reached the required grade for a course. Often, this may not be the case. Your first choice should be the course you want to do above all others (your dream course), no matter what last year’s points were. Your second choice is your well researched ‘Plan B’.

You have two separate lists to fill in. The level 6/7 list and the level 8 list. Level 6 is for higher certificate courses, Level 7 for ordinary degree and Level 8 for honours degree courses. You may be offered a course from both lists, but you can only accept one of these. No matter what college course you commence, you will always have the opportunity to progress to a higher one once you have completed your chosen one in full. The course you select is just the beginning of your career journey. It is not the final step.

On each list, be aware that if you are offered your second choice for example, you cannot be offered your third choice or below thereafter. In this scenario, you can still be offered your first choice in future CAO rounds. You can go upwards on each of your two lists but cannot go downwards. This makes your order of preference decision even more crucial.

Changing your Mind

You can change or add in new courses to your Level 6/7 and your Level 8 list before July 1st @ 5pm. The only courses that you cannot add in at this stage are called ‘Restricted courses’. Restricted courses will be marked in your CAO handbook. An example of a restricted course may be a Music degree where a practical element was required to be completed earlier. Another example is Medicine where the ‘HPAT’ exam is also completed and assessed prior to CAO day.

Ideally, fill out all ten choices on both lists. I would advise entering at least seven courses on both lists to cover your bases well; choosing courses you have a genuine interest in.

How to Choose a CAO Course

When selecting your courses, ask yourself questions like:

  1. What areas did I enjoy learning about in school?
  2. What subjects in school have i a natural curiosity for?
  3. What subjects in school didn’t really feel like work?
  4. What modules would get me up for early lectures on cold winter mornings?
  5. Is there a topic or career I believe I have a passion for?
  6. Am I narrowing my focus on a specific area too much?
  7. What subject would I like to find out more about?
  8. Could I see myself working in this career or a similar one in five years’ time?
  9. What draw’s me to this course?
  10. Have I a good solid Plan B?

You don’t need to know the exact answers to all of these above questions, but it will certainly get you thinking about the reality of whats ahead and your current decisions. A bit of soul searching is necessary before reaching your final order of preference. Keep in mind also that you will probably be graduating in three or four years’ time, so think ahead a little about what jobs and careers might be in demand them.

In general though, select your courses based on your talents and passions, not how much money you can earn from a career or what other people think. Oh! and did I mention the deadline is July 1st at 5pm? I did of course. The sooner you start your deliberations, the more thinking time you will have. You can contact me (via the below details) for a short consultation should you need advice or more detailed information on this year’s CAO process or third level applications 2022. Part two of ‘My CAO Countdown’ will be published and circulated next week. 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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Photo:@ZhangChaosheng

Joe’s Jotter: Supporting your Child Through to Exam Day

Dear Parents,

You may now be in the situation where your child is preparing for a final state exam and at times it will seem like you are the one actually sitting the papers. Firstly, ‘you’ getting stressed out and worked up will only make them more anxious. Students need to be encouraged and rewarded and this will be your main role as we approach exam time. Getting annoyed or even angry with your child for not studying or putting in the hours is tempting but will actually achieve very little. Ultimately, the only person you are upsetting is yourself. The old adage is apt here:

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink

As a parent, all you can do is put the conditions in place to help them flourish. Purchasing some revision and solution books, making healthy food, providing a quiet house for study and plenty of love and support are all constructive actions around this time.

Providing that Subtle Support

Being in the background and offering that hassle free support is what most exam students want right now. Firstly, let’s focus on the support they need for revision and homework. Homework is an extremely important part of your child’s learning in exam year. Below are some short tips that will facilitate your involvement in ensuring homework is a positive learning experience for your child.

  • Provide your child with a suitable place and time to do their homework. Minimise interruptions and distractions from television, phones, and other siblings.
  • If a child has difficulty with homework, you should try where possible to help them overcome it with explanations and examples, without actually doing it for them.
  • In the case of recurring homework problems, it is advisable to ring or send a quick note to the subject teacher to explain what the problem or issue is. If you are a parent of an exam year student and want to get in touch with a teacher, a phone call is probably the recommended form of communication at this stage of the year.

 Encourage them to Express Themselves

If you find your child is getting increasingly anxious about upcoming exams and needs more than talking, ask them to write their thoughts and concerns on a sheet of paper. Having kept a diary for ten years as a child, I found that writing down anxieties and feelings helped to get them out of my head, allowing me to process them better. Another idea is to ask them to write down some positive actions, such as “I will relax and perform well” or “when I get the first question on the first paper started, it will settle me”.

Success and Failure

It’s important to guard against what they perceive as failure; support instead of policing is the way to go. To me failure in school is not about grades; the students that fail are those who don’t try, and the same philosophy could be applied to life. From this point of view, encouraging all their efforts and promoting calmness is the ideal standpoint for any parent now. This also applies if your child is sitting ‘house’ exams.

Get in touch with their school if you are overly concerned about your child’s anxiety, as sometimes it can happen that teachers are not aware of personal issues faced by students. Informed teachers can often take steps to help them or at least cut them some slack in class. Ultimately, if you feel exam anxiety (or any other serious anxiety for that matter) is reaching an uncontrollable level, you need to seek advice, support, and guidance, probably from a medical practitioner. You know your own child best.

Five Practical Tips to Support Your Exam Student

 

Parents, here are five practical actions you can take to help your son or daughter be the best they can be around exam time. This advice may be particularly useful to those who’s oldest child is doing exams this year.

Help them maintain a well-balanced daily routine.

You should guide your child to aim for a proper balance between revision and rest. After each exam or class test, they need time to rest and recharge before they can do any beneficial study for the next challenge. With a lot of tests in school at the minute, it is important to maintain that freshness where possible. Late-night study sessions are not advised.

Studies have shown that a good night’s sleep improves exam performance.

All revision should end at least an hour before bedtime to allow your child time to unwind before sleep. Encourage them to conclude revision at a reasonable time and start unwinding in order to slow down their body and mind. This will result in a more refreshing night’s sleep. It is not advisable to fall straight into bed from their study desk. The issue here is that their mind will be buzzing for hours as they attempt to get to sleep. You will need to use a collaborative partnership approach for success on this action.

You are what you eat.

What you eat and drink affects your performance in any activity, especially one involving mental sharpness. As a parent, you should try to ensure your child has nutritious food as exams approach. Start with breakfast each morning, the lunch they bring with them if they are facing long days, their evening meal, as well as snacks during the day. Grazing on junk food is very tempting at times of increased stress but should be avoided as much as possible.

Success is always a team effort.

Drawing on the support of everything that is potentially positive in a student’s life helps to maximise exam performance. Such supports include a heightened awareness on the part of all family members in their interactions with the person doing exams. Meeting with friends and participation in sporting or social activities should be encouraged. All these factors help to maintain a student’s ‘high spirits’ during an extended exam period.

It is advisable not to over hype the importance of any subject examination.

It is very easy in the middle of a stress-induced experience, such as a major exam, to get the whole event totally out of perspective. The secret here is to try and maintain their normal school routine. It is better to focus on their performance rather than their points. Parents should ensure their child is clear that your unconditional love and regard for them is in no way dependent on how they perform in the annual academic Olympics. Your affirmation is the greatest gift you can give them, prior to and during their tests. Good luck. 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: 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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