Joe’s Jotter: Revising Your Less Favourite Subject

Junior and Leaving Certs,

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

Not Crazy about this Subject

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

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

Prioritise Subjects

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

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


Train as you Will Play

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

Use Small (A5/A6) Hardback Notebooks

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

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:

ACE Maths Solution Books:








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

The Routine of a Daily ‘Lifestyle (Study)’ Timetable at Home

Routine and structure, to me, should be based around what I call a ‘Lifestyle (Study) Timetable’. Through this, you plan exactly what you are going to do during each part of your day. The best starting point to create this is to make a list of sub-topics to be revised for each subject; do this on a A3/A2 sheet of paper so that you can see a full picture of all the content you need to cover (for each subject) between now and the exams. Each sub-topic on this sheet is ticked off as it gets completed week-by-week.

The next step is to rank your subjects (one to seven) in the order that you enjoy/excel at them. The first four subjects being the ones you are good at/enjoy, with subjects numbered five to seven being the ones you are not so fond of/not the best at. Numbers five to seven are the subjects you need to allocate more time to on your daily timetable each week. Each daily timetable should be written down to help you be more accountable to it i.e. More likely to complete it. It will also allow you to monitor progress at the end of each day and you can check back, as required, on exactly what you got finished.

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

Creating Up Your Weekly ‘Lifestyle (Study)’ Timetable

During the holidays, I recommend you write out a new timetable each evening for the following day. It doesn’t have to be full day’s work. On down days, you may just do an hours revision. This will allow you to keep the eye in. On this timetable, inbuild your breaks, exercise, time out chatting to friends, tv time, family time etc. Below is a partial sample of what a Lifestyle (Study) Timetable might look like (Increase the Zoom level to get a closer look on your device). As you can see, each revision ‘block’ is thirty minutes long and there is a five-minute break at the end of each block. Use short breaks to check your phone or get some air. Exercise of any form far out ways time spent on your phone or console; Fact. I would never have the phone in your study area. Putting it in a different room will allow you to focus on each thirty minute block. Take a thirty-minute break after every two-three hours work, rewarding your efforts.

*A Sample ACE Lifestyle (Study) Timetable [Click on Image to get the PDF Version]

*Based on the Standard School Week.

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

How Many Hours Revision Should I Do at Home?

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

Being Realistic Is Important

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

ACE Maths Solution Books:








Joe’s Jotter: Two Smart Revision Hacks for Success

As Christmas exam time draws closer, here are two under used hacks that might just give you the edge as you try to get the most out of upcoming revision time.

  1. Record yourself

With so many portable digital devices to play content on now, recording audio is a great option being availed of now by many students. This is an excellent revision hack if you have long commutes or spend a lot of time in the car. Playing back notes you have recorded is a very successful method of retaining information. I have recorded questions and answers for job interviews previously, where I called out a possible interview question and then proceeded to answer it as best I could. Recording information on various subjects has been helpful during my career, when different jobs and challenges emerged. The great thing about recorded audio is that it will always be at your fingertips and is easily accessed from multiple devices. You can also barter this material with your study buddy i.e. swap it for other audio content or even for a great set of their notes.

Bullet points, facts, and lists are ideal revision components that can be recorded to your phone and replayed again and again. Remember, you will need to repeat any learning process regularly to achieve success. Having a portable learning tool like your phone or a small hardback in your pocket is great to keep you tuned in when opportunities to catch up arise.

  1. Rotate your learning

I feel it is important to rotate the type of learning you do in order to keep the brain fresh and interested. When you sit down at the start of the week to plan your Lifestyle (Study) Timetable, rotate your learning in each study block. This rotation tricks the brain into going longer. You should even rotate your place of study. For example, by studying a specific topic in the garden, it will make it easier to recall what you revised there, since you have created an association with this part of your home. Rotation could also involve going down the road to your grandparents or your local library to write some essays or update your hardback. Initiatives like this maintain freshness in your preparation. These ensure each homework or revision session gets the attention it deserves. A change is as good as a rest!

Rotating your learning means using multiple ways to take in and understand material and notes. There are so many ways you can acquire Information these days. Rotate your learning between reading, writing notes, developing summaries, listening to podcasts, recording something you have learned into your phone, playing back lists through your headphones, searching the Internet, reading out loud, getting someone to examine you, watching educational YouTube videos, watching educational tv programmes, watching ted talks, creating flashcards, summary hardbacks, using postits, sticking key notes up on your wall, underlining and highlighting or discussing a sub-topic with your friends in a study group etc. These are just some of the learning options available to you, which you could and should be using. Select and practice a number of these in order to try and find out what works for you. After that, rinse and repeat the winning formula. 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:

ACE Maths Solution Books:









Joe’s Jotter: The ACE Guide to Exam Preparation at Home (Feature 1 of 6)

Being able to work alone is becoming an even more important skill, as third level institutions increasingly develop their online learning platforms. Getting used to notetaking and revising at home, however, is proving challenging for many students. In school, your subject teachers are present to keep you on task, class-by-class each day. This contrasts sharply with the amount of distractions and ‘extra-curricular’ activities vie-ing for our attention at home.

This feature article contains recommendations and practical advice to get that revision routine going at home. Preparing notes and revising at home is alien to most students unless they have been home-schooled. These guidance articles, which come in six parts spread over the year, will provide you with tools and ideas to help you get organised, advise you on motivation and explore the role your parents may have during ‘home revision’ periods.

Next Day’s Plan

From an exam student’s point of view, the first thing you need to look at each night is your plan for the next day. If your plan is to ‘do a bit of study’, a large part of the day could well pass you by. At this stage you need to develop your own workable home routine. To do this, I would recommend getting up at the same time, showering and having a structured plan for revision, meals and breaks to facilitate that pattern you need. Organising yourself the night before is key. Knowing what to expect the next day will increase your productivity.

Learning Successfully at Home

To learn successfully at home, you need to investigate new ways of finding and using material online, including being familiar with new software and websites. You will definitely need to be more self-disciplined and more efficient at managing your time than ever before. Planning next day’s ‘Revision timetable’ each night with thirty minute blocks for each sub-topic will certainly help. Use breaks and little rewards to motivate yourself. With your teachers not around, you will need to challenge and motivate yourself minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour. Hopefully you will look back later and view these changes you have made at home as a positive period in your life. Without knowing it, you will effectively be turning yourself into independent thinkers and learners, and these skills will stand to you at third level and in the world of work to come. Even during term time, there is only so much your teachers can do for you. You must do the bulk of your summaries, testing, revision, and keynotes at home alone.

Your Study Area

Ask yourself the following questions: Is my revision area free from distractions, comfortable, and spacious? Is there natural light in the room and is the desk and chair I am using the right height for me? Is my study desk full of ‘non educational material’ or is it clutter free? Is this a place to prepare notes and learn? Your answers to these questions will indicate if you need to make changes to this area or not.  Up to now, your study area was only used for three to four hours each evening, but now it may be required more, and you need to ensure you are happy with how it is setup. Ideally, I would locate my revision area outside the bedroom, in order to disassociate revision with sleep. Depending on your circumstances, all of the above may not even be possible – but just do what you can. Link in with your parents to try and get as many of these elements in place as possible.

I will publish the five subsequent parts of this feature at Christmas, February Mid-term, Easter and just prior to June’s State Exams. Stay tuned for more useful Insights on ‘Revising at home’ as time progresses. Joe

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









Joe’s Jotter: Six ACE Pointers to Help Settle you Back into Revision


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 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 markings with a red or green pen 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 successful students do a small plan 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 website. If you are doing exams in 2022 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 get familiar with each one. 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.

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









Joe’s Jotter: ACE Tips for Transitioning into 1st Year (Part 2)

Practical steps to smooth the Transition into Secondary School

There are loads of steps and initiative’s both you and your child can take as they start Secondary school. In Part 2 of this feature, I will discuss three key areas for you to consider in order to ease this transition: One, the importance of learning support; two, your awareness of how the first few weeks are actually going for them; and three, practical tips for both you and your child to consider at school and at home.

The Importance of Learning Support

  • Secondary Schools will have learning support for your child. If your child’s new school are missing any key Information around this, ensure they get it as soon as possible. Many schools will have a staff meeting (in September), where your child’s year head will outline important strengths and weaknesses of each student.
  • Learning support at Secondary is different to that at Primary school level. Contact the school if they had been receiving any type of support at Primary that their new school may not be aware of.
  • Flag any difficulties that your child had in primary school, so that it is entered onto their personal file. The class tutor and year heads will then have access to it from there. Ensure to always request the correct learning supports that your child is entitled to.
  • If your child has complex special educational needs, they may need a transition plan to assist them to transfer to their new secondary school. You and your child will be involved in developing this plan. Other people may be involved, as necessary, including relevant teachers from their primary and post-primary school, NEPS psychologist, health professionals etc.
  • As appropriate, a support plan may also include information on your child’s learning, social and communication, care, (for example: dressing, toileting, mobility, and medication), sensory (such as over sensitivity to noise, textures, lights) and physical needs that require environmental adaptations such as adaptations to the school building, adapted seating or other specialised equipment.
  • Most post-primary schools will have links with their feeder primary schools. This allows for an easier transfer of information between them. Usually, there is contact between the 6th class primary/resource teacher and the receiving post-primary school. This will help to overcome any disconnect between what was taught in primary and the starting point in certain subjects at second level.
  • For all parents, I would recommend writing a one page profile about your child noting the difficulties and barriers they faced at primary school. Include in it the strategies that worked and that didn’t work for them. This would be valuable Information for their tutor, year head and individual subject teachers should you like them to have it. I know that as a teacher, I am always pleased to get Insights like this, should parents be willing to present them. It gives us as teachers a deeper understanding into how each child interacts and learns, allowing us to support and get to know our students better. Outcomes are always better with Informative Insights like these.

You may also wish to ask the school some key questions at the start of the school year…

  1. Where can my child go if they are struggling, anxious or having a meltdown?
  2. What happens at break and lunch time? i.e. unstructured time
  3. How can my child get help with reading, spelling, Maths, or homework?
  4. How will support during class assessments work in each subject?

Awareness of how they are Settling In

  1. Watch out for any early signs of bullying by regularly checking in with your child. Tune in from day one to see whats going on and whats being said. A lot of bullying goes on via their phone; so ask them to pass on any issues or concerns they may have e.g. a hurtful comment, message, or mean social media post.
  2. With things being a little unsettled for the first few weeks, establishing a routine is really important. I would try to maintain the dinner, bed, study, training, and recreational routines at home as best you can. Kids that are going through change crave some kind of routine and they will look to you for that stability.
  3. After the Initial settling in period is over, keep an eye out for disturbed sleep, anxiety, and poor eating habits – it may be a sign of something not being quite right at school.
  4. Watch out for emerging red flags i.e. Not wanting to do activities they enjoy, spend time with friends or worse, an unwillingness to go to school. Teach your child to talk to you.
  5. Ask them what classes they like?, Who are they sitting beside? Who are you hanging around with? What clubs have they? Always try and get an honest conversation going.
  6. Try to listen to them if they have had a bad day.
  7. In general, if you get them into good habits in 1st year, 2nd year will be way more straightforward (A major ACE tip here) especially from a communication viewpoint.

 Practical Tips for things to do……….together at home

  1. Make a few copies of their subject timetable.
  2. Photocopy the bus ticket, keeping a spare one in their locker and at home.
  3. Help them get organised with colour coordinated folders (available in most stationary shops). Give each subject a colour, so for example, English goes in the blue folder. Put a blue sticker on the English textbook/copies and colour ‘English’ blue on the timetable. If you have a map of the school, the room where English class is on would be blue also.
  4. Have a morning reminder checklist on the fridge for: PE gear, lunch, keys, jacket etc.
  5. Know the system. If they can view their books on a laptop, this may sometimes allow them to leave books in school. Most secondary school textbooks now come now with a code where you can upload them onto their laptop. Handy to know this Information.
  6. Making a distinctive mark on their belongings will give them a better chance of them not being lost or stolen, especially during the upheaval of the first few weeks.

Practical Tips for things they can do……….at school

  1. Having a safe person they can approach for help or advice, more than one if possible.
  2. Carefully minding their colour coordinated timetable, the spare key/code and bus-ticket.
  3. Trying to build a good relationship with their class tutor and year head.
  4. Having a notebook that they can write in during the day if they find something challenging. It is advisable not to expect them to talk immediately after school. Giving them some quiet processing time will allow you to get the chat going as the night progresses.
  5. Getting to know a friend in each class that they can text to find out what homework or revision they have for the next day. Classmates will vary depending on the subject.
  6. Getting to know the school secretary, should any issues or concerns arise.

To view part one of this feature article on ‘Transitioning into first year’. click here. Joe

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









Joe’s Jotter: Positive Ways to Cope with Exam Stress

  1. Play is as important as study

It is vital that you build in time to have fun and relax between study sessions. Use your Lifestyle (Study) Timetable to help you plan enjoyable activities of relaxation and ‘play’. Going to watch your favourite team is a great way of taking your mind off exams. Listening to music works also, especially if you combine it with a walk. Neuroscientists have done research into the link between music and anxiety. They say they have discovered a song that reduces anxiety by sixty-five percent. The song is called ‘Weightless’ and is written by ‘Marconi Union’. Download it.

“Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while,
you might just miss it”

Ferris Bueller

  1. Take breaks

Breaks are to be viewed as a positive around exam time. Academics with high concentration levels know the importance of breaks. Air traffic controllers are forced to take regular breaks to ensure they stay fresh. If you find that you are losing concentration, take a short break – go for a walk, talk to a friend, or just do something different. When you resume study, you will feel refreshed and be better able to concentrate on your revision again. Never beat yourself up for taking little breaks to keep fresh.

  1. Liquid discipline

I would discourage you from drinking too much coffee, tea, or fizzy drinks around exam time. Caffeine may key you up and cluster your thinking. Naturally, you will feel a sugar rush from fizzies but remember “what goes up must come down!”. Just for this short period, maybe try some herbal teas like chamomile or peppermint. I find peppermint tea is a great stomach settler. Try and get as much water into you as possible as the exams approach. If you become dehydrated from the lack of water, your concentration levels will drop. This is a scientifically proven fact.

  1. Exercise the body as well as the mind

Regular moderate exercise such as a brisk walk, a swim or session in the gym will boost energy, clear the mind, and help reduce feelings of anxiety. Exercise releases endorphins (the good mood feeling) and will help you see the positives of life. A walk outside will get air into your lungs with a short thirty minute stroll being enough to reap many benefits.

Seeing and breathing in the senses of nature has been proven to enhance relaxation. Team sports are also brilliant as they improve relationships with your friends allowing you to feel good about yourself. Sport will bring discipline to your studies as well as enhancing your personal confidence. From coaching Gaelic Football and Soccer teams over the years, I am of the opinion that students who involve themselves in sport perform better in exams.

In general, exercise has actually been proven to have benefits as exams draw closer. The results of a University College Cork study (published in the US Journal of School Health in January 2013) headed by Dr John Bradley, back up this claim. In the survey of over four hundred boys who graduated from Secondary school between 2008 and 2011, those who participated in some kind of sport during the last two years of school “conferred an extra 25.4 CAO points benefit to their final Leaving Certificate score”. This increase is similar to what a student would receive from the current Maths bonus point’s structure. Need I say more? In other studies, it was also found that exercise helps one sleep better as the body is more physically tired (in a good way) and needs rest. In essence, when you exercise, endorphins induce a requirement for rest and feelings of sleep.

  1. Do your best to retain control

It is natural to feel some nerves prior to the commencement of exams, however getting excessively nervous is counterproductive, as it will hinder your ability to think clearly. Make sure to have a plan in place on the off chance that your mind goes blank. Remember, the best thing you can do is to try and stay calm and retain control of your emotions, as this will make it easier to recall information. Before the exams, write down all fears and worries in your journal. This will give you more of an awareness of what you are worried about and why these fears are actually occurring. Writing things down also serves to ease the burden of carrying everything around in your head. Joe.

To view last week’s feature article on ‘Exam time being Feeding Time’, click here.


More details about Joe’s ACE Tuition (Maths and English) Classes for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate Students (2022), ACE Maths Assessments, and his Award winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below. Be sure to pick up your copy today!



#:   #JoesJotter


Joe’s Jotter: How to ACE Your Maths Exam

No matter how intelligent you are or how well you prepare, if you are not exam smart, you will underachieve in any Maths exam. It is vital to have a plan in place for the content that can appear on your Maths paper. You need to go in there with your eyes wide open and be tactically aware in case things go a little bit wrong on the day. The following are my ACE tips to deal with a Maths exam paper more efficiently. These apply to both state exams and the upcoming final summer tests for all other students.

Sensible Tips When Dealing with a Maths Exam Paper

  • Units matter. If they are present in your question, they are required in your answer.
  • Do not put anything into the calculator that you have not already written down in your answer book.
  • You can get almost full marks (high partial credit) with just one slip/mistake in your solution. High partial credit could gain you as much as seven marks out of ten.
  • If you make two or three attempts at a question, they will all be corrected and the highest marks from your efforts will be counted.
  • Marks will be allocated for work done on diagrams that have been printed on the paper.
  • Be careful when dealing with minus signs.
  • You must show your workings out for all questions.
  • Write down every single step until you arrive at the solution.
  • If your answer is ‘off the wall’, it is probably incorrect.
  • If there are many steps required in a solution, you need to keep going back to check completed steps for accuracy; otherwise, you may need to re-write the whole solution.
  • Never rub/tippex out any work done even if you think it isn’t neat. Draw a single line through any part of the solution you are unsure about. The examiner must correct it.
  • When asked for your opinion, give it, and refer to any numbers or statistics given in the question if available.
  • Algebra is the bedrock of all Maths courses and is the main area that students struggle with. Practice it repeatedly.
  • Get used to attempting questions involving real life statistics.
  • Estimating the heights of larger objects outside is now an important part of Geometry and Trigonometry.
  • In Co-ordinate Geometry, the slope of a line has become more important in practical style questions.
  • More recent Maths exam questions tend to contain an increased number of words. The reason for this is the examiners need more English to describe real life Maths scenarios. You need to be able to separate the important keywords in the text from the padding that surrounds them.
  • Look through the wording of each question and pick out the Maths related information. In all subjects, but especially Maths, identify the relevant pieces of the question with a highlighter. Watch out for numbers written as words, for example “thirty” instead of “30”.
  • If no diagram is drawn for you, try to draw one yourself to give a clearer picture of what is being asked.
  • If given a diagram on the paper, mark in the numerical information given in the text of the question onto it. Re-drawing sections of more complicated diagrams into your answer book can help to simplify questions for you. This is very useful is Geometry, Trigonometry, and Area and Volume.
  • Do not leave any blanks, ensuring that every question is fully attempted. If you leave a blank, the examiner can give you at most zero marks for that question part. If you attempt the question; you may get some marks and perhaps more than you think. In summary: No attempt = No marks.
  • If you are dealing with a Trigonometric problem at Leaving Cert level, know how to apply the three basic Trigonometric ratios (SOH, CAH, TOA) , Pythagoras’ theorem, the Sin rule, and the Cosine rule. In these, you have all you need to solve most right-angled or a non-right-angled triangle problems.
  • Relate the information you have in the exam question to the theory and equations you have worked on in class. In Geometry, have you got two right-angled triangles that need to be solved separately? Again, if you are unable to start a question, there is nearly always something you have learned from your teacher or hopefully from my solution books that you can draw on to help you.
  • The relationship between two sets of data is important. This concept links up the ‘slope of a line’ in Co-ordinate Geometry to that of ‘correlation’ in Statistics. Other examples of where topics overlap in Maths at Leaving Cert level include: Co-ordinate Geometry of the line and the Circle and of course Geometry and Trigonometry. Across all levels of Maths, there are many links between topics on the course now. Be sure to ask your teacher to help you understand and be familiar with how different topics can interlink prior to any exam.

Most importantly, remember that you are not alone and there are tens of thousands of other students in the same position as you on exam day, many of whom have had their various struggles with Maths. Above all, practice your Algebra and be familiar with what formulas are available to you in the log tables on the day. If you are familiar with the main equations and some theory on your course, you should have everything you need to attempt your Maths paper well and really give it your best shot. Joe

To view last weeks feature article on ‘Homework and Your Child – A Parent’s Guide’, click here.


More details about Joe’s ACE Tuition (Maths and English) Classes for Junior Cycle (2022) and Leaving Certificate (2021) Students, ACE Maths Assessments, and his Award winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below. Be sure to pick up your copy today!



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Joe’s Jotter: How to Maximise Your SEC ‘Accredited Grade’

With ‘Accredited Grades’ being a pathway for all 6th year students in 2021, what is the best way they can maximise their chances of achievement in this process over the next few months? How do they go about getting the highest possible result and take some pressure off sitting the exams? As a student, you obviously cannot change any of the work you have done over the last eighteen months, but you still have two months to influence what grade you receive from your school. The purpose of this feature article is to give you some practical tips on how to ensure this grade is as high as it can be across all subjects.

How Your SEC ‘Accredited Grades’ will be Calculated

In May, Teachers will be asked to estimate their pupils grades based on evidence that their work is to the standard of that grade. This estimation will include any previous exams and work completed including Class, Christmas, and Summer tests. Teachers will also consider their experience of teaching the student and how the student engaged during their classes.

Teachers are fully aware that pupils have missed many months of in-school learning, might not have had proper access to wi-fi or technology, and are unlikely to have completed all aspects of the curriculum. I am sure they will keep this in mind in their deliberations. Final grades will also depend on a limited number of class tests that teachers will set for students over the next few weeks. At this stage, students still have ample time to convince teachers to allocate the grade they think you deserve.  

 Four Ways to Maximise Your ‘Accredited Grade’


  1. Maintain Your High Standards.

The best thing for students to do now is to listen to their teachers and complete all homework and classwork to a high standard. Each piece of work a student completes will help their teacher build a picture of the grade they should be awarded. This includes daily homework, class tasks and overall contribution to class. Students should actively listen in class and show a genuine interest in topics they are studying.  Similarly and as I always say in ‘normal times’, complete each piece of homework as if it were an exam paper question.

If you are struggling with new topics, but work hard to try and get a better understanding of them, the teacher will a) be impressed that you have worked through the challenge and b) have shown evidence of Improvement and extended effort. Remember, work done, and efforts made to Improve your SEC Accredited Grade will essentially be ‘money in the bank’ when it comes to sitting the exams in June. All notes and revision done contribute to preparation for June’s sit down exam as your knowledge of the course deepens.

  1. Stay Engaged in Class

As always, teachers look for genuine engagement from all students during class. Students should endeavour to participate and learn as much as they can in each class. They shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions as they normally would,  as this shows initiative and a desire to learn. If I were in your position now, I would bring a little hardback into each class and note down any points the teacher emphasises as important. This ensures you stay engaged during each period. Treat all topics from now on seriously and consider that they could appear on your Leaving Cert Paper.

  1. Keep ‘Showing Up’

During the various restrictions and lockdowns, we have all had to find ways to stay focused and motivated. Key elements that help motivation include having a daily structure, having a sense of achievement, and having something productive to show at the end of each day. Be sure to attend school every day and go into each class with a positive can do attitude.

Students, remember that the accredited grade could be the result that you end up receiving in a given subject. Enter your target grade for each subject in your Journal asking yourself ‘am I on target for this?’ With only a limit number of weeks left, stay motivated as best you can. In October, you may be attending third level and have to learn alone in a whole different way. Any knowledge or skills you can pick up now will be useful for then. Creating study notes, analysing texts, and doing summaries are all useful skills to enhance, prior to commencing any third level course. Listening will also a key skill at that level.

  1. Keep Your Head

Teachers know what your abilities are. They also know that you may have had dips in your results over the last two years. If you have had a result in 5th year (a Christmas test for example), that was a lot lower than you could have got, your teacher will know it may have just been a blip or a bad day for you. Teachers will provide a rounded and fair judgment during the Accredited grades process, so try not to worry. Worrying about what grade you will get or previous class results will not get you one extra percent. In fact, it may affect and possibly lower your performance in class in the run up to the exams.

In general, hold it together, revise consistently each day and reach out and chat to your friends if you have any worries. Take time out, get enough sleep, do video calls/zoom sessions with your nearest, exercise, take loads of breaks, eat well, and try to enjoy life. During moments of stress, we all need to breathe deeply and calmly. Keeping in touch with friends and having a regular exercise routine will help you maintain a positive mindset when it really matters in your life now. Keeping your head will help you remain productive.

Ultimately, you need to keep June’s exam in focus. Try not to let these upcoming class tests overshadow your overall goal of the final exam. Keep doing your revision sessions and preparing notes each day. Keep in mind that your ‘Accredited Grade’ will be calculated on work you have done since the beginning of 5th year. Since so much of this is in the past, try and let the past go and focus on the present. Stay hungry, stay consistent and just keep doing your best. You have done so well to make it this far in a difficult year. Do get in touch with me if I can advise you in any way and I wish you luck in your endeavours. Joe

To view last weeks feature article on ‘The Importance of Practising Past Exam Questions in Maths’, click here.


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



#:   #JoesJotter



© Joe McCormack 2021

Joe’s Jotter: How to Maximise Your SEC ‘Accredited Grade’

Joe’s Jotter: How to Maximise Your SEC ‘Accredited Grade’
Joe’s Jotter: How to Maximise Your SEC ‘Accredited Grade’

Joe’s Jotter: The Importance of Practising Past Exam Questions in Maths

Practising past exam questions is essential if you’re looking to score highly in Maths. 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 equally 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 changed and 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 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 the exam papers (usually purchased in September) and start by initially attempting part (a)’s and (b)’s of past exam question. You should initially focus on topics you have covered yourself in class in order to build up your competence.

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

I would recommend attempting exam questions, to the best of your ability, with guidance from your textbook and class notes. 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 Solution Books) at both Junior and Leaving Certificate levels are an ideal companion to complete this process efficiently. This puts you in a much more commanding position when your teacher does commence past exam questions in class. You should start by practising and familiarising yourself with the language used on past papers. Waiting until they appear on the board in class isn’t good practice in my opinion. This also applies to 5th year students.

Your exam paper focus should always be on practising 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.

How to use Past Exam Questions to your Advantage

Leaving Certificate Maths examines your analytical and critical skills. Most of the questions asked tend to be calculation-based. Hence, it becomes essential to solve as many questions as possible in your revision preparation. Some key preparation tips to keep in mind while tackling past papers are:

  • Solve as many past exam questions as possible from every topic that you study. This will help you understand the type of questions asked. It will also indicate how near or far you stand from your target score in the subject. Also, estimate how an examiner would have graded you on your efforts by comparing your solution against a detailed solution book.
  • Maintain an error-log on mistakes you keep making. This will help you get to know your weak points and what traps you regularly are falling into.
  • Everyone has deficiencies in Maths. To overcome these, attempt extra questions from topics you struggle with. Start with questions you can do. This will build confidence and reduce anxiety on topics you are concerned about.
  • When solving questions, make a habit of always timing yourself. Buy a stopwatch. This will help you improve your speed and manage timing better during the actual exam.

Doing an exam question trial at home every week will improve your speed and accuracy for the final exam, and 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/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
  • 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 now could be asked to explain your answer
  • Be able to justify your answer using Maths calculations
  • You need to practice question types that ask if you agree with an opinion and why
  • Practice different strategies for starting unseen/unexpected questions
  • Be familiar with the exact meaning of each word that appears on past papers. Joe.

To read last weeks feature article on ‘How to Construct your Revision more Efficiently’, click here.


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



#:   #JoesJotter


© Joe McCormack 2021

Joe’s Jotter: The Importance of Practising Past Exam Questions in Maths

Joe’s Jotter: The Importance of Practising Past Exam Questions in Maths
Joe’s Jotter: The Importance of Practising Past Exam Questions in Maths