Joe’s Jotter: Assessing your Revision Achievements in 2020/21

The key to doing well in exams is continually trying to improve the quality of your preparation. An hour of good quality revision is equivalent to three hours wastefulness. Was your revision productive and fruitful in the school year just gone? Here are some reflections to help you assess this and also to contemplate what changes you can make to be more effective in the upcoming academic year:

  1. Assess your study area: The ideal study space is somewhere where external distractions are kept to a minimum and has an organisation about it. It should be a quiet area where you can concentrate, allow yourself to think and effectively listen to those notes on the page.
  2. Sort out a study routine: You should plan revision for the same time each day, especially during the school week. On these days, I would recommend that you commence study thirty minutes after completing your homework. This will eventually become routine as your mind/body adjusts. Our body likes routine as it learns to anticipate events better and becomes more familiar with them.
  3. Organise your materials/notes: Have all the materials you need to hand for studying. Having to search for materials will lead to frustration. Develop a system that works for you. There is no excuse for not having your notes organised and close at hand. A suggested system is to have a large ring binder for each subject. In each binder, divide each topic for the subject using card dividers. Subsequently, put the content for each sub-topic into plastic poly pockets between these card dividers. This is just one suggested method. It is never too late to get yourself organised. It is never too late to start studying.
  4. List out the topics: For each subject, list out the topics that need to be revised. Show the list to your teacher to make sure you haven’t excluded anything. You need to be realistic in not expecting to cover them all over a short period; it will take time. Make a second list of the sub-topics inside each main topic. The full listing for each subject should fit onto an A3 landscape page, giving you a quick reference summary of a subject at a glance. Each time you complete and understand a sub-topic, tick it off. I always find that ticking off lists and seeing them shrink gives a great sense of satisfaction.
  5. Mirror exam hall challenges: I would recommend during the days leading up to the first exam that you get up at eight-fifteen a.m., have your breakfast and complete a full past exam paper from nine-thirty to twelve similar to the time the real exam will actually be taking place. This prepares the mind, body and even the arm for the process of rising, eating, and focusing on the task ahead. This serves to mirror upcoming challenges you are about to face and is a little known and under used technique.
  6. Use clever ways to remember content: You need to use your imagination when revising – this includes constructing summaries and lists in different parts of your house to help you remember them. Over my educational career, I based a lot of my preparation around summarising notes. Set yourself a target to summarise a full chapter onto one A4 page and then summarise this page into bullet points using post-its or flash cards. You will then have a shortened summary (written in a language you understand) of a topic, instead of fifteen pages of text in a textbook. It’s so simple and it works. Effective study is based on working smarter not harder or longer.
  7. Set short term goals: Setting goals will help you monitor your revision and will give you something to work towards. For example, if you under perform in a 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 – call it an ‘Exam bucket list’. If we do not set some goals in our lives, we tend to just plod along aimlessly.
  8. Eat your frog: We all put off things we dislike, like going to the dentist for example. Start by studying the subject or topic which isn’t your favourite. Look at the subjects you are struggling with, and then consider the topics within these subjects that you need to tackle. Do not avoid a subject if you don’t enjoy it, as it will eventually catch up with you. Similarly, don’t invest all your time and energy into subjects and content that you enjoy. You need to find a balance that works here.
  9. Attend school and listen: Make sure to attend school every day and be fully present in class, paying attention and taking notes as best you can. Remember that your teachers have been through exams with hundreds (maybe thousands) of students before you, so they are well worth listening to, especially during the last six to eight weeks of term time.
  10. Live in the present: Writer T.S. Elliot once said: “Time past and time future are all contained in time present”. Try not to give yourself a hard time about the lack of revision done in ‘time past’. Conversely, it is also not a good idea to be looking too far ahead into the future as it can cause anxiety and tension about your workload or what may or may not happen. Plan your revision strategy week-by-week and review it as you go along. Joe

To view last weeks feature article on ‘Improving our current exam system’, click here.

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.

W: acesolutionbooks.com/ace-maths-tuition
FB: facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/

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Joe’s Jotter: Exam Time is Feeding Time

Food provides all the essential nutrients that we require for healthy living and to fuel our daily activity. A car can work well, but if it doesn’t have any fuel it can’t go anywhere. Unfortunately for us, no single food provides all the nutrients required, so a mixture and range of different foods must be consumed in our diet. Research has shown that the healthier we eat, the better we feel and the more we can focus on tasks at hand.

When studying for exams, some students tend to stay up late and forget to eat and drink properly or maybe worse, they eat too much of the bad stuff. The following are five short exam nutrition recommendations (in depth discussions about added sugar have been omitted here, with it being the obvious heralded evil):

  1. Eat a breakfast

Parents: if your child skips breakfast before school, they are more likely to be tired throughout the day and will have reduced concentration levels. If breakfast is a busy time of day in your house, then feeding your children what they need quickly might be a daunting experience, but it doesn’t have to be. By stocking up on all the ingredients you need beforehand, you can deliver quick healthy breakfasts that they will enjoy.

Alternatively, if your kids aren’t hungry or everyone is in a rush out the door, make sure there are plenty of easy-to-grab pieces of fruit, yoghurt, smoothies, and muesli bars (sugar free) that can be eaten quickly on the go. In an ideal world, everyone should sit down at the same time and share food together, although I do realise that this isn’t always possible. I feel strongly that sugary cereals are a ‘no no’. Some of these cereals can contain up to one-third added sugar. I would advise all parents to check the ingredients on cereal boxes before bringing them to the checkout and ultimately the breakfast table.  

  1. Increase ‘brain food’ intake

Proteins from lean meat, fish, eggs, fruit, nuts, and whole grains are foods that help keep the brain mentally alert. Snacking on nuts and dried fruit will help prevent concentration levels dipping. Keep in mind that fruit like bananas, blueberries, and oranges all have natural sugars that will give a lift when feeling tired. Brain food is the fuel that helps us think clearly, make good decisions, and maintain concentration when fatigue develops during critical periods, for example, during the last half an hour of an exam.

  1. Snack healthy

When your head is in the books and time is ticking by, you might be tempted to skip a meal to keep up momentum. Your brain needs food and water to keep working and mental fatigue can cloud your brain, especially if an exam is close by. I would recommend the following healthy snacks to get you through study bumps: Whole wheat toast with peanut butter, fruit smoothies, berries, honey, dried fruit and nuts, hard boiled eggs, low fat chocolate milk, vegetables with dip or a low sugar granola bar. Graze away on the Guilt Free Good Stuff (GFGS) as you revise and move towards exam time.

  1. Minimise caffeine

Caffeine is a stimulant that is present in coffee and many energy drinks. Energy drinks are a total disaster in my opinion, as they provide a false high followed by a sugar crash. Sleep can also be affected by caffeine and I know a good few adults who abstain from caffeine after four p.m. as it disturbs their sleep. I would recommend water, peppermint tea or even a small glass of milk to aid sleep and as a healthy replacement for caffeine.

  1. Consume good fats

Fats are an important component of the diet and have received an enormous amount of bad publicity over the last twenty-five years. As a rough guide, saturated (bad) fats are generally solid at room temperature and tend to be animal fats (such as the fats found in butter or margarine). Unsaturated (good) fats are liquid at room temperature and are usually vegetable fats (such as olive oil, rapeseed oil, oily fish (sardines, tuna, mackerel, or salmon)). Unsaturated fats or good fats are an important nutrient for you to intake as a student. The following are other sources of Unsaturated fats: cheese, dark chocolate, eggs, nuts, coconut and coconut oil, peanut butter, pistachios, and walnuts.

Eating well and drinking plenty of water in the lead up to any exam is as important as the quality of the notes you prepare prior to sitting it. Joe

To view last weeks feature article on ‘Guiding Your Child Through the Exams’, click here.

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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!

W: acesolutionbooks.com

FB: facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/

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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.

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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!

W: acesolutionbooks.com

FB: facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/

#:   #JoesJotter

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Joe’s Jotter: Improving Your Homework at Secondary School



Is Homework useful?

Students. Time spent at homework each night serves two purposes. Firstly, it is a reminder of what you did that day in school. In my opinion, the first five minutes of homework you do in each subject should be to go back over what the teacher did in class that day. Secondly,  it also allows you to test yourself to see if you now understand information about a topic, and maybe how you may need to explore it further. Students should take care over each piece of homework that you do and complete it as best they can. Personally, I really see the value of homework as a key tool in re-enforcing learning that has taken place during each day.

The Best Way to Tackle Homework

How you approach homework after a long day is a secret to being more efficient with it. Firstly, I would make sure to rest a little when you get home and get a good solid meal into you, especially if you have plenty to do. Clever students ‘eat their frog’ and do the difficult homework or subjects they struggle with first. This allows them to feel better as the evening goes on. As I see it, this make total sense, as your concentration levels, later in the evening, do not need to be as high for subjects you are good at or enjoy, as tiredness creeps in.

On a similar note, attempt the type of learning you do not particularly enjoy first. In other words, if you aren’t fond of reading or learning off, do that first as opposed to writing or note taking. Homework and revision are all about tactics and working smarter. It is better to write some short jottings and key points as opposed to spending hours mindlessly reading. Fact.

No Homework Tonight!

If your daily homework has been completed during ‘free periods’ during the day, it is still important to use those few hours in the evening to revise material from last week or the week before. You need to use these opportunities, if they arise, to catch up. For students in Senior cycle, you cannot really afford to take a full night off. I am in no way saying you have to work from 5 – 10pm every night. You should take a short break every thirty minutes. Even on weeknights, take some exercise or go do that little activity you enjoy that keeps you sane.

Homework is the Best Form of Study

Homework done to a high standard is a brilliant form of study. Reviewing work done in class via mini test questions or checking what’s coming up tomorrow can be included as part of your homework if time allows. Homework teaches you to analyse the information your teacher has given to you. Always take pride in the homework you produce, as it will stand to you in the end. Time spent doing homework should be counted as part of ‘exam preparation’ time and you shouldn’t feel in anyway guilty about doing ‘all homework’ and ‘no revision’ (or study as you like to call it) on certain nights.

Super Organisation

The importance of homework and being super organised are important aspects to kick-start success. In my opinion, homework is the best form of study and you need to be disciplined with it. Write it diligently into your journal each day and complete each piece of homework like you are doing an exam question. Being efficient with homework takes time. It may take months to figure out the best way to approach it. Ensure each subject gets a fair amount of ‘homework time’, depending on what you schedule is like for the next day.

Every day, I make a list of tasks on my phone that I need to complete. At the end of the day, I review this list to see how many of them I have actually fully completed. Tasks unfinished are then moved to another day so that each task is eventually dealt with. At times, tasks are postponed (put off into the future), but ultimately they always get completed unless I eventually deem them unimportant. Apply this to your revision, ensuring that everything gets completed as soon as is possible in the most efficient manner. Task monitoring, homework discipline and dedication are all attributes of the ‘Super Organised’ student.

The Importance of Homework Survey

I did a survey of students previously and asked them to think about the importance of homework to them and how its benefits helped them achieve their goals. Here are some of the more interesting observations and advice they gave about it:

  • Record your homework carefully in your journal every day.
  • Use class time well if teachers allot it to homework.
  • Set the same time aside every evening for homework.
  • Do your homework after dinner and soon after arriving home.
  • Try to complete the majority of homework before nine p.m.
  • Try to be honest with your teachers in relation to homework.
  • Tick off your homework for each subject as it gets done.
  • When doing your homework, do not lounge on a bed or sofa.
  • Ask your parents/teacher if you cannot understand your homework.
  • Have a quiet study area with a desk, fresh air, and good lighting.
  • As well as written work, browse over what was covered in class.
  • Do not let homework affect sleep time.
  • Plan ahead on assignments if you are expecting a busy week.
  • Get the phone numbers of classmates for queries on homework.
  • Leaving homework until the next morning is a bad idea.

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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!

W: acesolutionbooks.com
FB: facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/
#:   #JoesJotter

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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.

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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!

W: acesolutionbooks.com

FB: facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/

#:   #JoesJotter

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© 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!

W: acesolutionbooks.com

FB: facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/

#:   #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

Joe’s Jotter: Core Methodologies for Revising Maths at Home

In light of the current health threat and for the first time in a long while, students (and indeed their Parents) need to examine more closely the daily routine to ensure effective learning is happening as much as possible. Maths is a subject that tends to take up more time than others and hence 3rd and 6th years should use these circumstances to consolidate what they know and spend time on past exam questions and the use of language in it.

From this point of view, I would recommend that all exam students start a ‘Maths hardback’. Fill this hardback with new words, formulae’s not present in the log tables and keynotes. Divide the hardback into fifteen-page sub-topic sections. Secondly, being at home full time is a good opportunity to test yourself against the clock on full or partial past exam questions. Set these as your two main targets prior to returning to school.

Algebra is the Language of Maths

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

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

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

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

Test yourself at home in Maths

The more ‘exam smart’ you are, the better you will perform on exam day. I have seen the best students do their homework to perfection and really know their stuff but ultimately not reach their potential In Maths come June. Every year loads of super students misjudge the timing on the paper. It is imperative that you stick exactly to the allocated time for each question. In Leaving Cert Maths, you have twenty-five minutes to do a fifty marker (always divide the amount of marks by two to get the time).

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

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

I am currently conducting Online Maths classes (via the comfort of your own home) for 3rd and 6th year students. For 3rd or 6th years who are not sitting a Mock examination in Maths this year or for those of you who want a Professional opinion on where you are at in the subject right now, check out the ‘ACE Maths Assessments’ section of my website below to see how it could suit your current needs. Get in touch with me If I can help you in any way. Stay healthy during these uncertain times. Joe

To view last weeks feature on ‘My Top Forty Benefits of doing Transition Year’, click here.

*****

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

W: acesolutionbooks.com
FB: facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/
#:   #JoesJotter

*****

© Joe McCormack 2021

Joe’s Jotter: Core Methodologies for Revising Maths at Home

Joe’s Jotter: Core Methodologies for Revising Maths at Home
Joe’s Jotter: Core Methodologies for Revising Maths at Home

Joe’s Jotter: Tips for Students Preparing for Maths Exams

Hello Students.

At this stage of the year, many of you are starting to think about your mock examinations in Maths. No matter what happens in the mocks, try not to be too hard on yourself as you still have plenty of time to improve in the subject. Please keep in mind that you have had little exposure to exam style questions, have not completed the full course and will not have attempted that length of any exam paper up to now. Go into the mocks and just genuinely try your best in all subjects. Use it as a way of getting used to the time available for each question. i.e. In Maths, always divide by two; you have twenty five minutes at most to complete a fifty mark question. Every subject has its own ‘time scheme’.

For those of you who may have Dyslexia or a learning difficulty, I would like you to view your exams as a challenge, not a threat. Thousands of students gone before you have achieved their wildest dreams so aim high and keep believing in yourself. Whether you are sitting the Junior Cycle or Leaving Cert, I would advise you to put a plan in place now so that you can revise efficiently and prepare properly. Start by listing out all the sub-topics you need to do for subject like Maths and tick them off as you get them covered. ‘Covering’ them means re-writing examples your Teacher may have given you in class and also trying an exam question on the given topic from a recent past paper. Testing yourself on short and long exam questions is the only way you will know if you truly understand it.

Twelve Top Tips to ACE any Maths Exam

Here are my top twelve tips to ACE any Maths exam – both in preparation along the way and facing the paper on the day.

  1. Do out a lifestyle (study) timetable to start next week. Make sure each weekly timetable contains variety, different ways of learning and plenty of breaks/rewards on it. Adjust it each week. Allocate thirty minutes to each topic revision slot. Give Maths extra time slots if it’s a subject you find difficult.
  2. Buy a small hardback and enter all the keynotes, new information learned and formulae’s that are not in your log tables into it. Divide it into the main topics on your Maths course so that you can easily find what you want when you need it.
  3. Make a note of all new words you learn in class each day. If you don’t fully understand the meaning of them, ask your teacher or google them. Write down (in your own words) their meaning into your hardback.
  4. Practice as many past exam questions as you can to get used to the wording, layout, style and marking scheme of them. Start with the easier ones you know.
  5. “Homework is the best form of study”. Approach all Maths homework as you would tackle an exam paper question. Complete it with pride, showing all steps.
  6. Practice questions at home. Time yourself on each question to familiarise yourself with ‘exam hall pressure’. Stick to the timing for each question. For Junior Cycle Maths, the time for each full question is written on the paper. It is extremely important to stick to the time for each question, as there may be a question you know well at the end of your exam and you won’t even get to it.
  7. Get a “Study Buddy” that will complete past exam questions for you and with you. You can meet up/e-mail and share your Information. This tactic can be used in all subjects.
  8. On the day of the exam, read the wordy questions three or four times and then re-read them again line by line. Underline key words with a red or green pen.
  9. Prepare for all exams the night before by checking you have all the materials you need. Always, double check any exam timetable for the next day.
  10. Don’t be afraid to express yourself in simple English if you don’t have the Maths for it. Remember that the State Exams Commission (SEC) encourages creativity and different ways of answering Maths questions.
  11. Buy yourself a detailed Exam Paper Solutions Book. Use it to double check against the attempts you are making. It will also help you to get started on more challenging ‘wordy’ exam questions. This is one of the biggest issues faced by Maths students right now. Practice and perseverance really help here.
  12. Start preparation today.

Lastly, the language of Maths is extremely important especially since the advent of Project Maths in 2008. The SEC now place more of an emphasis on students knowing and understanding what things mean instead of just been able to do numerical calculations. There are more words than ever on our Junior and Leaving Cert Maths exam papers, and it is crucial that you start familiarising yourself with them. Start now by recording the key words that have appeared on exam papers over the last six years.

Not being familiar with key words could mean not even being able to start a question. This would be an awful shame given the amount of time you have spent building up your core Maths skills. You need to be aware that different words have a different meaning on the paper depending on the subject. For example, the word “Evaluate” in Maths is quite different to what it means in an English exam. I believe that knowing the key words and phrases is now a key component of “ACE-ing” any Maths exam paper. Use this as your starting point now, no matter what year you are in. Joe.

To view last weeks feature article on ‘How to Prepare for Your Less Favourite Subject’, click here.

*****

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

W:  acesolutionbooks.com
FB: facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/
#:    #JoesJotter

*****

© Joe McCormack 2021

Joe’s Jotter: Tips for Students Preparing for Maths Exams

Joe’s Jotter: Tips for Students Preparing for Maths Exams
Joe’s Jotter: Tips for Students Preparing for Maths Exams

Joe’s Jotter – Is it wise to remain at higher level Maths?

Much more students over the last few years have taken on Leaving Cert higher Maths. Even though the bonus points are very enticing, you need to be careful you are fully aware of what you are taking on. Having done Junior Cycle Higher Maths and achieved a good score in it, you should by all means give Leaving Higher your best shot. You need to believe you are as capable as anyone despite what may or may not have happened inside the Junior Cycle class. You may have totally clicked or not with your Junior Cycle Teacher, but you are where you are now. There is little benefit in lamenting the past. This extended feature will help those who are unsure whether to take the risk and possibly be unsuccessful the subject. It is also to reassure those who are in there fighting the good fight day after day, taking the odd blow to their confidence. Each year, deciding levels is a tricky issue for students and involves many considerations. It is made even more complex in Maths with the bonus points in play.

I Can Take on this Challenge?

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

I think having a good Interest in Maths is a great starting point in taking on the higher level. Do you secretly enjoy the challenge of those long practical questions in double classes? or do you dread the thoughts of Maths homework each night. Enthusiasm for the subject will go a long way to achieving your desired goal in it.  I really feel students know in their heart what level Maths they should be doing. If you feel in your gut that you are lost in class or if it is taking too much time away from other subjects; then reflect and talk it through now. If your anxiety about the subject is getting too high and your grades are dropping, it may be time to move. Definitely, if you have struggled to grasp much of the basic Algebra in fifth year, it may be a sign it is too difficult for you.

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

I’m not Intending to outline a template for who should remain or drop down as there are a lot of factors that need to be considered. I am simply encouraging you to reflect and balance the argument for yourselves. I have taught a substantial number of students who I considered borderline higher/ordinary level Maths. Many of them remained at higher and actually ended up outperforming those I perceived as rock solid higher level candidates. Maybe these borderline students felt like they needed to work harder and hence prepared better. There is a lesson in this analysis. American Basketball player Kevin Durant once said,  ‘Hard work always beats Talent when Talent doesn’t work hard enough’. Your teacher won’t put you too far wrong, as by the middle of sixth year, they know your strengths, weaknesses and the limits of your capabilities, assuming they have taught you since the start of fifth year.

Timing is also an issue. If you do need to drop down to Ordinary level, I wouldn’t leave it any later than Easter. This gives you some time over the Easter holidays and when you return for the final term to increase your familiarity with the ordinary level standard and the format of the exam Paper. Dropping down on the day of the exam is totally unadvised and should not be considered.

Factors That Will Guide Level Choice

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

  • Your teacher’s opinion.
  • Your ‘potential’ points change.
  • Your Junior Cycle performance.
  • Your attendance in class thus far.
  • How much you enjoy studying the subject.
  • Results in previous Christmas and summer tests.
  • How much of the course you have done thus far.
  • Your own gut feeling and attitude towards the subject.
  • Results in all your class tests since the beginning of fifth year.
  • The amount of effort you are putting into the subject balanced against other subjects.
  • Minimum requirements for college (e.g. do you need a H7 in Maths for a course?).

Before making your final decision, take out a piece of paper and write down the pros and cons of remaining at higher level and dropping down.  On the back of the sheet, write a few paragraphs on how you are actually feeling about it right now. What is your gut saying to you? Keeping the above list in mind, the answer you are searching for should appear somewhere within these pages. Use it to answer your own doubts and plough on from there. Joe.

To view last weeks blog feature on ‘Two Clever Revision Hacks for Success’, click here.

*****

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

W: acesolutionbooks.com
FB:
facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/
#:   #JoesJotter

*****

© Joe McCormack 2020

Joe’s Jotter – Is it wise to remain at higher level Maths?

Joe’s Jotter – Is it wise to remain at higher level Maths?
Joe’s Jotter – Is it wise to remain at higher level Maths?

Joe’s Jotter: How to become more successful in 2021 Maths

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

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

Maths: Learning by Doing

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

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

To view last weeks Joe’s Jotter feature on ‘Parents & Primary School Children: Working in Harmony’ click here.

*****

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

W: acesolutionbooks.com
FB:
facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/
#:   #JoesJotter

*****

© Joe McCormack 2020

Joe’s Jotter: How to become more successful in 2021 Maths

Joe’s Jotter: How to become more successful in 2021 Maths
Joe’s Jotter: How to become more successful in 2021 Maths