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)
Music95% (89%)  +6%
Technology83% (72%) +11%
Engineering78% (70%) +8%
Irish84% (70%) +14%
Design and Communication Graphics (DCG)88% (70%) +18%
Home Economics (S&S)82% (68%) +14%
Accounting84% (63%) +21%
Biology73% (61%) +12%
Chemistry80% (61%) +19%
Maths73% (60%) +13%
Politics and Society74% (59%) +15%
Physics78% (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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