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: Changing your ‘CAO’ Mind – The Final Decision (Part II)


Investigate each Course’s Content

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

The CAO is not the Only Show in Town

If you have not applied to the CAO or do not receive a CAO offer at all come September, there are other options. You should go on the SOLAS website (solas.ie) to investigate further education alternatives. These tend to be with your local Education and Training Board. For example, Louth & Meath Education and Training Board (LMETB). Many ETB’s offer Post Leaving Cert (PLC) courses which will give you a Level 5 or Level 6 qualification. These courses are one or two years in duration and often involve practical work experience in companies. The fees for these courses tend to be much less than your standard CAO courses and grants are available in many cases also.

PLC courses attaining you a FETAC level 5 or 6 qualification are a steppingstone into higher college courses. These also allow you to see if an area of study suits you. Some courses in Colleges/Universities set aside a quota of PLC (FETAC) students to fill places each year. If you achieve the required results in your chosen PLC course, a college may accept you onto one of their courses. You can verify this by ringing up the college and asking them about accessing a specific course via the PLC route. You can find the full list of PLC courses on www.fetchcourses.ie or contact the Further Education College directly. Examples of PLC courses that students regularly progress further from are Pre-Nursing and ICT. For each CAO course, you will also be able to view (on cao.ie) what PLC requirements will get you a place on a given CAO course. This is well worth researching over the next few weeks.

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

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

Personally, I would have a look at alternatives like these above over the next few weeks, just in case the CAO process doesn’t go in your favour. It is good to have a little plan in the background, should you not get what you expect. You may not even need to use it, but it will certainly give you the comfort of having it there on the back burner.

Have a Plan B, C and D…..

I have spoken to hundreds of students over the years who had their heart set on one course and when they didn’t make it, they had no fall back plan. Your 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th choice are really important, so you would need to be content enough to accept them should it come to that. I cannot emphasise enough about the importance of checking out the module content of each course you choose. For each course, you need to genuinely ask yourself, ‘Would I do this course’?. This will then set the platform for your Plan B, C and D. If there are limited amount of courses you really want above all others, contact the institution offering it and ask them ‘Is there any other way to get into the course by studying something else first as opposed to the direct points route?’. This could be very useful Information later should things not work out perfectly.

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

Six Final Key Points of Note

  1. Keep an eye on the ‘CAO alert lists’ for new courses emerging in various colleges on www.cao.ie. Courses are added here on a continuous basis in the ‘Student Resources’ section of the left hand side of the CAO Homepage. You can add these into your CAO listing before July 1st (5.15pm). These courses are not in your CAO handbook (hardcopy). They may also come in at lower points, as many students may not be aware they even exist and will not have them on their CAO listing. As this article goes to press, twenty three of the third level institutions have an ‘alert list’ with new courses on them now.
  2. If you have applied for the HEAR or DARE scheme, you will find out if you are successful or not on June 29th this year. You will be able to appeal any decision made from these schemes from July 5th. Information on HEAR and DARE is on www.accesscollege.ie.
  3. For those of you who have applied for Medicine in various Universities, the HPAT results are due out before the end of June.
  4. The Leaving Cert results are out on September 3rd with the first round of CAO offers issued four days later on September 7th at 2pm.
  5. Students will be able to view their exam scripts and appeal their ‘written exam’ results sometime after September 3rd. I will issue a further guidance document on this in early September. Separately, students will also be able to appeal their ‘accredited grade’ in September. This appeal will only encompass a clerical check, ensuring that marks were correctly transferred. Accredited grades given by your school will not be changed unless a clerical error (only) is detected. As you all know at this stage, you will receive the highest result between your ‘Accredited Grade’ and ‘Written Papers’ for ALL subjects.
  6. I would recommend you sign up to https://careersnews.ie/ to keep up to date with announcements, CAO developments and news from third level institutions. You can contact me (via the below details) for a short consultation should you need advice or more detailed information on this year’s CAO process or third level applications 2021. Wishing you good luck. Joe

To read part 1 of this article, click here.

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More details about Joe’s ACE Maths Tuition 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.

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

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Joe’s Jotter: Useful Vocabulary and Phrases for an Exam in Gaeilge

Hello students of Irish,

The key to excelling in languages is to learn a new word or phrase every single day and record it in a hardback (so my Irish teacher colleagues keep telling me). Here are some everyday phrases that can be used by students from Leaving Cert all the way down to First year. The great thing about knowing you vocab is that you can bring it into an essay, an appraisal of a poem or even an analysis of a piece of text; It works for everything. In my opinion, it is definitely an area worth investing your time into. Here is your list:

 

ag cabhrú le daoine bochta = helping poor people

I gcuinne mo thola = against my will

do thola – your will (singular)

a thola – his will

a tola – her will

ár dtola – our will

bhúr dtola- your will (pl.)

a dtola – their will

Is féidir leis rith ar nós na gaoithe.

de réir dealramh = apparently

de réir cosúileachta = apparently

níl ann ach ráiméis = it’s rubish

Tá sé ina chac! = It’s messed up!

Thar gach ní eile = above all else

Ní mór a admháil = it must be admitted

Is baolach = unfortunately

Dála an scéil = anyway..

Pé scéal é = anyway.

Ar an iomlán = on the whole

I gcomhthéacs an lae inniú = in the context of today’s world (handy for essays)

Ar amhraí an tsaoil = luckily

I ndeireadh na Dála = At the end of the day(NOT Ag deireadh an lae)

Idir an dá linn = in the meantime

Aithníonn ciaróg ciaróg eile = Takes one to know one

Tá sé de bhua ag an tír seo = this country has the advantage

Téann sé i bhfeidhm orthú = it affects them

Réitím leis an tuairim sin = I agree with that opinion

Níl de rogha air ach = there’s no alternative but

Go bunúsach = basically

Níl lá lochta agam orthu = I don’t blame them in the least

Ní gearánta dúinn = we shouldn’t complain

D’fhéadfaí a rá = one could say

Ní féidir a shéanadh = it cannot be denied

Tá róbhéim ar = There’s too great an emphasis on

Ní teorainn le = there’s no end to

Is léir don saol é = everybody knows

De réir na fianaise = according to the evidence

Is é fírinne an scéil = the truth is (in point of fact)

I gcian is i gcóngar = far & near

Níl aon dabht faoi = There’s no doubt about that

Aontáim go huile agus go homlán leis = I agree whole heartedly with it..

Ní gá ach sracfheachaint a thogail chun an fhírinne a fheiceail = It isn’t necessary but to take a glimpse to see the truth

Rinne mé an taighde agus tá an t-eolas agam chun an fhírinne a thaispeaint = I have done the research and I have the research to show the truth

Is léir go bhfuil/nach bhfuil = It’s clear that/that it isn’t..

Á mhalairt ar fad = far from it

Corp díchéile = the height of folly

Ina theannta sin = furthermore

Sa todhchaí = in the future

Bíodh sé lenár leas nó lenár n-aimhleas = let it be for good or for ill

Ní mór dúinn bheith san airdeall = we must be on out guard

Tuigim a thábhachtaí is atá sé = I understand its importance

Tá dul amú orthu sa mhéad seo = they are incorrect in this regard

Chuaigh sé i gcian ormsa = it influenced me

Go bhfios domsa = as far as I know

Is maith is eol dúinn = we know (only too) well

Ní lia duine ná tuairim = everybody has his own opinion

Tá clú agus cáil ar (Sheán) mar pheileadóir = (Seán) is very famous as a footballer

Mo áit dúchais = my native place

Tá sé ar dhuine de na cainteoirí is fearr = he is one of the best speakers

Cuireann sé le háilleacht na háite = it adds to the beauty of the place

Cuimhní taitneamhacha = pleasant memories

Dea-thréithe na ndaoine = the good charachteristics of the people

Bhí fonn taistil orm i gcónaí = I always wanted to travel

Is fada mé ag smaoineamh ar seo = I’ve long been thinking of this

Ó shin i leith = hence forth/from then on

Cleachtadh a dhéanann máistreacht = practice makes perfect

Ní lia tír ná nós = every country has it’s own customs

Nósanna na tíre = the cutoms of the country

Teastaíonn uaim é in a dhéanamh = I want to do that

Na háiteanna clúiteacha = the famous places

Is í mo thuairim mheáite = It’s my considered opinion

Rogha an dá dhíogha = The lesser of two evils

Tháinig an lá mór i ndeireadh na dála = the big day came at long last

Bhíomar go léir ar bior = we were all on edge

Bhí an áit plódaithe = the place was packed

An lucht féachána = the spectators

An lucht éisteachta = the audience

An lucht leanúna = the followers

Caighdeán ard = high standard

Chuir mé aithne air = I got to know him

Comórtas scoile = school competition

Daoine difriúla = different people

Féith an ghrinn = sense of humour

Bua na cainte = the gift of the gab

Ag pleidhcíocht = messing

Oibríonn sí go dian dícheallach = she works very hard

Bíonn aoibh mhaith air i gcónaí = he’s always in good form.

críochdheighilt = partition(as in political)

cinedheighilt = apartheid

comhrialtas = coalition government

reachtaíocht = legislation

poiblíocht = publicity

fuarchúis = apathy

Tá buntáistí agus míbhuntáistí ag baint leis – there are advantages and disadvantages connected with it

Thar a bheith tábhachtach = very important

Teagmháil leis an bpobal = contact with the people

Taithí = experience

Riachtanach = necessary

fite fuaite = interwoven

rinne mé staidéar orm féin = I steadied myself

chun an fhirinne a rá = to tell the truth

Tá mé as mo mheabhair = I’m crazy (lit. I’m out of my mind.)

Tá mé trí chéile = I’m in a (bad) state.

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More details about Joe’s ACE Maths Tuition 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.

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/

#:   #JoesJotter

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Joe’s Jotter: Homework and Your Child – A Parent’s Guide


Homework is an extremely important part of your child’s learning at Secondary School. It is key that all students spend some time each night revising what they have learned in class each day. This also applies in situations where they are not given anything written or oral to do that evening. Tending to homework diligently each night will certainly reap benefits as a student enters their final years at second level.

How Much Time should my Child be Spending on Homework?

Time spent on homework varies according to what year a student is in. In sixth year, I recommend that students target at least two hours homework and one-hour revision each evening during the school week (Monday to Friday). Fifth years should target a minimum of at least two to two and half hours work in total each night. First up to third years should complete between one and two and a quarter hours work a night. Further time spent on homework and revision during a weeknight will probably involve a loss in Information retention. To this end, it is important to use common sense as night draws in i.e. tomorrow is another day. Students that have their work done for the following day’s classes and find themselves falling asleep, should go to bed. Your body may be telling you to rest, so it is advisable to listen to it.

Time spent on homework is always time well spent. Students should always divide work due into two elements, namely ‘Urgent’ and ‘Important’. Homework will normally be urgent, as your teacher will be requiring it completed within one or two days. Revision itself is ‘Important’, unless it is within a month of state exams and then I believe it is ‘Urgent’. Each week brings different ‘Urgents’ and students should use this knowledge to work out how many revision and homework blocks they can fit into each week. Nights where a student has little or no homework should allow a revision of topics learned in class over the previous few days to take place. More details on this concept are detailed in my study guide publication ‘How to ACE the Leaving Certificate’ for all subjects.

ACE Tips for on How Parents Can Help Their Child Enhance Homework Time

Below are fifteen helpful tips that will hopefully facilitate your involvement in making homework a positive learning experience for your child.

  1. Provide your child with a suitable place and time to do their homework. Minimise interruptions/distractions from TV and other siblings.
  2. If a child has difficulty with homework, you should try where possible to help them overcome it with explanations and examples, without actually doing it for them.
  3. In the case of recurring homework problems, it is advisable to ring or send a quick note to the teacher to explain what the issue is. If you are a parent of a third or sixth year student or the issue is more urgent, a phone call is probably the recommended form of communication.
  4. Parents should communicate with teachers about homework in the following cases: when your child cannot do homework due to family circumstances, when your child cannot do homework due to a lack of understanding (after studying their class notes), or when your child is spending an unreasonable amount of time doing homework in a specific subject.
  5. As well as showing a keen interest in their homework, I would suggest being more aware of the type and content of homework they are doing. You can then attempt to link it to their everyday life by chatting to them about sports, prices, trends, media headlines, countries, travel etc. This will reinforce their learning.
  6. Reward an improvement (no matter how small) in their homework with a treat. Similarly, if the teacher has made a positive note about it in their journal, a reward will be deserved and appreciated. An example might be a takeaway meal, their favourite snack or a trip away with their friends. Make sure to check their journals regularly for comments on homework. This will help you to keep on top of things and identify any challenges your child might be experiencing.
  7. Ask the career guidance teacher about study skills courses which may help your child overcome barriers in relation to homework. Ensure you chat extensively with each subject teacher about their homework at the Parent-Teacher meeting.
  8. Talk to them about the homework they are doing in each subject. Most of all, if they are finding homework difficult, encourage them to talk to their teacher about what they find challenging.
  9. If they are finding a particular type of homework difficult, encourage them to persevere, try again and maybe write down what they are finding difficult so that the teacher can see evidence of their efforts. This can also help the teacher work out which learning styles may suit them and how best they can help.
  10. Teacher’s comments written on homework, class tests and mocks will help you understand what they may be doing wrong. Try and focus on any positive comment made by their teachers. Make some suggestions as to how they can improve from the less positive ones. They may not admit it, but they do value your opinion and advice. Always book end a negative comment with two positive constructive ones. This will leave them satisfied, knowing they also need to and can improve.
  11. Much of the information they learn in school applies to everyday life, so even though you may not be an expert on a subject matter, you will still be able to draw on your life experiences to tie in with what they are learning. Do not be afraid to try things or introduce perceived links with schoolwork to your children.
  12. If family circumstances change, make sure to inform the school as this can have an impact on your child’s homework and performance, of which the school and your child’s teachers may not be aware of.
  13. Knowing how your child is progressing in the classroom can help you make informed decisions about aiding or giving them space at home. Ask the teacher to send you a homework progress comment or the odd test result home in their journal, so you can remain up to date with each subject.
  14. Attending Parent-teacher meetings is important each year, so plan ahead for them when the annual school calendar is released. You can use these meetings as an opportunity to check progress and find out how your child is performing in relation to the class average etc. It also shows your child that you are interested in how they are progressing in various subjects. In my experience, it is good to enhance communication links with your child’s teachers, as your child is now aware that a line has been established between two significant people in their life.
  15. Parents should monitor homework from a distance to ensure it is being attempted to the best of their child’s ability. Many Parents are aware that their children are spending full evenings in their room; but are they actually completing homework and revision well during this period? Quietly check in with them weekly on how revision and progress is going in each subject. Car journeys can be a good time to do this. Commencing these habits in first or second year is advised, as It won’t seem like you are suddenly checking up on them later then. Your support and encouragement should motivate and foster an effective homework schedule each evening. This will ensure that the outside of school independent learning gets the respect it needs and deserves. Standing back and hoping all will be well could be a very risky strategy. Joe

To view last weeks feature article on ‘Improving your Homework at Secondary School’, 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.

*****

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

*****

Joe’s Jotter: Students should Work Together to Improve their Chance of Success

 


Revising Together to Shrink the Workload

Some students really struggle to motivate themselves on their own. Are you one of these people? Others work better in a small group or with one other person. Working on questions and tasks with your friends is a very effective study method, as long as you stick to the topic. Zoom sessions can be easily organised in pairs (with a study buddy) or three’s. Use this time to discuss topics or plan who is going to note take or write a certain essay to share with the group later. Working together is almost vital now given the amount of time you have spent at home working alone recently. I revised in groups for a small number of modules in university and found it very useful in fact-based subjects.  We rattled off stats and opinions to each other that many of us recalled at exam time.

Collaboration with one or two friends for some subjects can work. Avoid large groups, as you end up with too much information that you haven’t time to process and condense it then. Too many voices can lead to chaos and too many opinions can lead to a lack of conclusions. Collaboration is particularly good in fact-based subjects like History, Home Economics (S&S), Physics, Ag Science and Biology etc, as you can get a good flow of information going between you. It may not be as useful in Irish, Music and Maths as many topics in these subjects need to be worked on alone. Sometimes it is difficult to measure the success of a study technique or approach prior to testing it out, so make the decision and see will it work for you. I would recommend it.

‘The road of life is paved with flat squirrels who couldn’t make a decision’

Unknown

I’m sure you will agree that studying on your own for the last few months has at times got boring and tedious, so collaboration could be a way to spice up the ‘run in’ and reignite your spark. With a trustworthy ‘study buddy’, you can divide work up, teach each other and share notes. Rotate your study between working alone and with your friend(s) – this will keep you fresh. Work to your strengths is the advice here.

Thinking Outside the Box

If the usual revision methods of reading and note taking are not working for you, you need to think outside the box. Try and come up with new ways to learn and understand content. Use acronyms, create raps or songs to help aid memory. Associate your notes with lyrics from your favourite tunes. Use postits, summary sheets, colourful mind maps etc.

A good technique is to read your notes aloud recording them into your smartphone. Listening back to them will help you absorb the information and keep your memory sharp. I have used this method myself where I converted essays I was lecturing on into audio files. I then played them via my phone (using the AUX connection) in the car on the way to work. The advantage of this method is that you can educate yourself ‘on the go’ and make the best use of your time.

Audio files have become an option, now that all smartphones have the facility to record. Trial it by maybe recording an English poem into your phone, constantly playing it back to yourself, in order to get an insight into its theme. Various content from subjects can be recorded and replayed on your phone. You are only limited by your imagination. Your phone can be your mobile educator over the next few months. Some students actually enjoy listening to lectures, podcasts, or audio notes. Try it and see what you think!

Dealing with Distractions aka ‘Your Phone’

In my opinion, you are either studying or on social media: Which? There is no problem with ventures onto the Internet any time during the year, but I believe if you are inside a thirty-minute study block now you need to stay off Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat et. al. Nothing harms productivity as much as constant notifications from social media. As I have previously said, set your phone to silent or turn it off completely and only check social media during your set breaks. Being a ‘screenager’ around exam time will distract you from your key short-term goals. For those of you who really struggle to stay offline, try a blocking app that will temporarily keep you away from social media sites – there are plenty in your app store. I would request my Parents help on this one also.

We are all been guilty of spending too much time on our devices, but there is a time and a place for everything. I feel that the best way to prevent this distraction is to leave the phone in a separate part of your house. If you are in an exam year, work out the amount of time you spend surfing on your phone/laptop every week. Can you afford to spend this amount of time on it from now on…? Think about it. Now is the time to sacrifice and do without, so that you can enjoy and celebrate your success later. Joe.

To view last weeks feature article on ‘How to Maximise Your SEC Accredited Grade’, 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: Students should Work Together to Improve their Chance of Success

Joe’s Jotter: Students should Work Together to Improve their Chance of Success
Joe’s Jotter: Students should Work Together to Improve their Chance of Success

Joe’s Jotter: How Summaries and Self-Testing will Prove Worthwhile

As students adjust to the reality that they must now try to find the best ways to study at home that suit them, the two main pieces of advice I have for you this week are timely. These are the benefits of re-writing your own key notes and testing yourself at home.

Just reading through your textbook is not an effective form of revision; we need to be clear on this. I strongly believe you need to actively engage with a piece of text, and this involves making some notes at the side, underlining in red or green, highlighting or maybe even just making markings on the page to signify whats Important. Successful students constantly summarise notes into something manageable and run little tests at home to monitor their progress. I will now detail the reasons why I believe having your own summaries and self-testing will improve grades. I also will discuss the importance of adding variety in your revision. This is definitely more in focus now due to the current ‘home constraints’.

Re-write your own key notes

Re-writing your notes is a study method that has been tried and tested over many years and I feel it is one of the best. To recall information later, it is vital that you make good notes and highlight core Information, both in class and during home revision. Re-writing these initial notes later copper fastens what you think are they key elements of what you have flagged. Doing this is a really good way of getting facts to ‘stick’ and will help you learn faster. Rewriting notes in your own words is a short cut to understanding material on your course; as writing something down forces one to think more about the subject matter, thereby increasing retention of that information.

The key to doing well in exams is adaptability and being able to think critically about topics in the exam hall. If you can adjust to change, cope with the unseen poem or unusual Maths diagram, the examiner will view you as standing apart from the rest. Your key notes should reflect you viewing a topic from all angles; finding holes in it, praising it, picking out the main points from it, seeing where it links with other topics and most importantly, evaluating its usefulness. An insightful set of key notes have delivered excellent grades for my students over many years.

How to Self-Test

We are never sure we understand something until we are properly tested on it. Am I correct? You don’t need to wait for class tests or mock exams to see how you are progressing in each subject; you can examine yourself at home. You can start off by testing yourself on one full exam question, ensuring you follow the time allowed. Eventually you can build up to sitting a full past exam paper under the time pressure of a real exam.

There is no substitute for doing past exam questions within an allocated time. The students who do one exam question a day (no matter how small it is) are very tuned in to whats required once exam day arrives. At this point, ask your class teacher to give you some extra class tests or unusual past exam questions so that you can try them under these conditions.

During exam revision times, it can be difficult to find a friend or family member to quiz you, which is why you may need to do it yourself. Learn how to test yourself and do it in as many ways that you can. These include setting questions, answering revision questions at the end of each chapter in your textbook or practising do-able past exam questions.

Quizzes are a brilliant way of making sure that all the information you need for your exams has been completely covered. Ask your friend to write you a quiz; they may think of an angle on a topic that you won’t. Re-do last years’ class tests that your teacher set for you. Your parents can help too by examining you on material you need to remember i.e. facts or bullet points. My own mother was extremely good at this; helping me improve in subjects I wasn’t amazing at, namely History and Irish.

Use Variety in your Revision

Ongoing creation of revision cards in your subject will greatly enhance your learning. This type of revision is now very popular with students. Make revision posters, laminate them, and stick them in the shower, the bathroom, the kitchen; everywhere. When writing revision cards, split the card in two and write short phrases on one side and its explanation in your own words on the other. Colour code your quotes, dates, names, and theories. Keep the colours consistent so that you will recognise them easily. Developing your own colour coding system for topics will help you recall information quicker. Find out what works for you and repeat the trick. Every year, I see former leaving certs passing on notes to their friends. This has some obvious advantages, but there is no substitute for writing your own set of notes. Writing a summary of existing information switches your brain into content analysis mode and you will remember much more of the notes you write, compared to reading and trying to understand someone else’s.

Surround yourself with positive people in exam year. Without sounding harsh, sometimes you are better off without ‘friends’ that let you down. To quote the author Hans F. Hanson:

“People inspire you, or they drain you – pick them wisely”.

Friends who are always in good form can really give you a lift. If your friends or boyfriend/girlfriend aren’t supportive of your work and aren’t giving you room to prepare properly for your exams, it may be a warning sign of where the relationship is going down the line. The opposite can also be true. In this regard, every day is a school day. Joe

To view last weeks feature on ‘The ACE Guide to Exam Prep from Home (Part 3)’,  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: How Summaries and Self-Testing will Prove Worthwhile

Joe’s Jotter: How Summaries and Self-Testing will Prove Worthwhile
Joe’s Jotter: How Summaries and Self-Testing will Prove Worthwhile

Joe’s Jotter: The ACE Guide to Exam Preparation from Home (Feature 3 of 6)

Dealing with Motivation Issues – ‘I Don’t Know Where to Start’

Students, if you are struggling for motivation at home right now, put a half day’s timetable in place tonight and try it tomorrow. Time will fly, with each revision block being only thirty minutes. As you begin to see progress, your motivation will grow. An alternative approach to developing a timetable would be to create a task list. Each night you could write down a list of ten to twelve challenges you would like to achieve in various subjects the next day. Tick them off then as you get them completed. If you currently feel you are swamped with work and worry, this is your ‘get out of jail’ card. It is so important to set targets, otherwise timetables and lists are just ‘drive by’ and ‘hopeful’ preparations that you will never be answerable to. We all need targets to help us achieve things and it is also a fact that we are more likely to reach them if they are written down.

Once you set a measurable target (example: eight pages from a textbook to be summarised into your own words), assess how much progress you have made. On completion, tick it off the sub-topic list on your A3/A2 subject summary sheet. A short term target could be as simple as ‘understanding emotions’ from two English poems or practicing writing letters to an imaginary pen pal in whatever modern foreign language you study. Remember if you don’t know where to start, commence with the basics of a topic. i.e. view the first few chapters of your textbook or the first set of notes your teacher gave you on it. Start small and then when you get up and running and notice progress, you will be encouraged by your own efforts. Just get a routine going somehow, and then rinse and repeat.

Write out a List of Motivations in Your Journal

Another tip to improve motivation is to write out a list of targets in your Journal and then write ten reasons underneath explaining your motivation to ACE them. On lazy days, open that page and read your ‘motivational list’,  thinking about how you felt when you wrote them. This will inspire you to get started or keep going. Revising and preparing may seem like it is solely for your upcoming exam, but you will discover that learning is a lifelong process. Try to enjoy the challenge of getting that timetable completed or ticking off those tasks; you have nothing to lose and all to gain. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just give it your all.

For those of you who continue to struggle to get started on revision, start by writing down the activities you lean towards to dodge study. Put this list on your wall and be fully aware of the times you drift towards them. Being aware of this list will remind of what you really should be putting your mind to at that given moment. Any effort or movement towards starting a short revision block should motivate you to commence a second one i.e. The hardest part of being successful with any task is often just getting it started. Imagine yourself, on your side, rolling down a steep hill. You will gain momentum as you go.

The Many and Best Ways to Learn

The key to any successful Lifestyle (Study) Timetable is keeping your brain fresh by completing different tasks every thirty minutes. Rotate your learning between different subjects but also within subjects. What I mean by this is: Revise in all the different ways possible. You only need five or six ways that work for you but won’t know which ones suit until you actually road test them yourself. The below is a sample list of the many ways we learn. I am sure you could add even more creative and interesting methods to this list below that match your personality. Pick out three or four of these approaches and give them a try:

  1. Write a bulleted list to explain and summarise a short book extract.
  2. Summarise a chapter of your textbook into your own words.
  3. Create flash cards with a list of facts. Limit each card to seven key points.
  4. Record a summary using the voice memo function on your phone. Replay back.
  5. Put keywords and their definition for each subject (per topic) into a hardback.
  6. View a YouTube video of an expert or listen to audio/podcasts on topics.
  7. Teach or discuss what you have learned with a member of your family.
  8. Get your parents/siblings to ask you questions on a topic you have just revised.
  9. Read a summary out loud to yourself.
  10. Rotate your place of study to retain freshness. e.g. the garden or kitchen table.
  11. Create Bubble diagrams with Microsoft PowerPoint to illustrate topic linkages.
  12. Create a visual Mind Map for a sub-topic you are struggling with.
  13. Stick nine postits onto an A4 sheet. Write a summary with keywords onto them.
  14. Use different coloured pens (red and green) to draw attention to key points.
  15. Use different coloured highlighters to mark relevant details of note.
  16. Chat to friends to find out how they are approaching certain subjects/topics.
  17. Stick stickies/sheets on your wall for memory. Rotate content every five days.
  18. Research topics on the Internet to give yourself that extra piece of information.
  19. Continually test yourself with sample tests, online quizzes & past exam papers.
  20. Use Graphic Organisers to create a more visual set of notes (samples below).

Sample Graphic Organisers*

*Source: Using Graphic Organisers in Teaching and Learning (SLSS)

To view last weeks feature article on ‘Core Methodologies for Revising Maths at Home’, 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: The ACE Guide to Exam Preparation from Home (Feature 3 of 6)

Joe’s Jotter: The ACE Guide to Exam Preparation from Home (Feature 3 of 6)
Joe’s Jotter: The ACE Guide to Exam Preparation from Home (Feature 3 of 6)

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: How to Prepare for 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”  Unknown

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’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: How to Prepare for your less Favourite Subject

Joe’s Jotter: How to Prepare for your less Favourite Subject
Joe’s Jotter: How to Prepare for your less Favourite Subject

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

The Routine of a Daily Lifestyle (Study) Timetable

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 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. 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.

Write out (then photocopy) or type 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. If you are feeling super energetic, you also have the option of following your subject timetable from school.

I recommend you write out a new timetable each evening for the following day. 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 if viewing on a 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 what you should be doing. Take a good thirty-minute break after every two to three hours work. Reward your efforts.

A Sample ACE Lifestyle (Study) Timetable*

*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 required. Eat a good breakfast. This should be made much easier by the fact you won’t have to eat at seven or seven-thirty a.m., like 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).

In my opinion, Leaving Cert students would need to be doing between five and eight 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.

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).

To view last weeks blog on ‘Five keys to Holiday Motivation’, click here. The link posted last week for this feature has changed, so apologies for that. Joe

*****

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 2020

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

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

Joe’s Jotter: Five Keys to Holiday Motivation

As we enter our Christmas holidays, we will all enjoy a well deserved break. However, don’t leave it until the day before school to open the school bag again. Depending on what year you are in, you will know yourself how many hours revision you need to put in over this period. Read the below list of pointers and Implement them today to improve your productivity over the festive season.

  1. Reward yourself:

Don’t forget to ‘have a life’ as you prepare for any upcoming exam. Reward yourself after a long study session with a trip to the cinema or visit to your friends. Try hard to develop your own balance between work and play. Ultimately, reward yourself with breaks, taking a reasonable one after every good hour’s work. There is nothing wrong with rewards like chocolate, ice-cream or a packet of gummy bears; as everyone who has done something constructive deserves a little thank you. The best reward you can give yourself on study days are breaks.

  1. Stay connected:

It is important to keep up communication with your friends and family at revision time. Let them know how you are feeling especially if you are anxious about a particular subject. You will feel so much better about a problem if you ‘chat’ about it to someone. It can be easy to get cut off from the outside world when you are highly focused, so try not to let this happen. Balance is the optimal situation here.

  1. Use your family:

Using your family to help is a useful means of learning that few utilise properly. Some of your siblings will have completed exams and may be able to pass on some good quality information or advice to you; so remind them to save their notes for you. Even if the content of their notes isn’t suitable for your learning style, their methods and notes structure could give you some ideas on preparation of your own.

Get your parents involved and tap into knowledge and practical advice they may have on subjects they enjoyed in school. Get them to examine you on topics, they don’t need to be experts on course sections as they can refer to Information from your book in front of them. All you need is their willingness to ask you loads of questions.

  1. Stick to your plan:

Whatever plan you have for the next three weeks, try and stick to it as best you can. Working in retail every hour over Christmas won’t get you any extra points. As I always say, ‘you can work for the rest of your life’ (including college). Try and balance time wisely if you do happen to have a job.

On a given day, if you plan for nine a.m. as the start time for revision, get up before then, have breakfast, get ready and commence at that exact time. The students that do well are those who apply this self-disciplined approach and it guarantees that you are getting maximum efficiency out of your time. A high level of satisfaction will come when you get your exam results; knowing you gave it your all.

  1. Try and maintain some routine:

Getting to bed at a reasonable time and getting plenty of sleep will allow you to stick to your goals and plans. This also applies to holiday periods. We all loose our routine over the holidays and that’s ok too. However, try and get back into better habits when the new year turns as January 6th approaches. This will allow your body to be somewhat adjusted when you return to early school mornings. Over your holidays, enjoy yourself but keep doing the basics: eat plenty of fruit and veg, drink plenty of water and get loads of sleep. Rest and replenish and get ready for the battles ahead.

To view last weeks entry on ‘Brilliant Advice from Former Students’, click here. Tune in to next week’s blog where I will give you full details on Part two of ‘How to revise more effectively from home’. Joe

*****

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 2020

Joe’s Jotter: Five Keys to Holiday Motivation

Joe’s Jotter: Five Keys to Holiday Motivation
Joe’s Jotter: Five Keys to Holiday Motivation

Joe’s Jotter: How to ACE your Christmas Exams

First, Second and Fifth years; you will be commencing your Christmas exams soon. In the case of Second and Fifth years, it is another step towards your State exams and of course you want to put on a good show for work done over the last few months. Consequently, your preparation needs to start now for these exams. If you have very little revision done up to now, it’s not too late to salvage a decent percentage to set you up for the second term. It is never too late to start revising. Here are ‘Six of the best’ tips to ready yourself for the upcoming challenges:

  1. Set up a ‘Lifestyle Study Timetable’.

You need to put some kind of a plan in place for the next few weeks and I believe the ‘Lifestyle Study Timetable’ fits that bill. There is a full chapter dedicated to this in my ACE Study Guide book. In summary, draw out a weekly timetable containing thirty minute study blocks each tagged with a five minute break after each one. Each block will contain a topic from one of your subjects. Prior to entering topics required to be revised; enter your school times and all the leisure activities or events you will be involved in that week. Keep some catch-up blocks free each weekend in case plans change. It is better to have a plan that may need tweaking than no plan at all.

  1. Consolidate.

I would advise you, at this point, to consolidate the main topics you have studied since September. Prepare no new material while also being realistic what you can get covered in a couple of weeks. Your teacher should be able to give you a broad outline of the main topics for consideration for this exam. After Christmas, you can take on more of the course with a new timetable in preparation for the summer exams.

  1. Summarise.

Start writing out summaries in your own words, whether this is using notes from your teacher or Information from your textbook. I am a firm believer in having your own set of notes that you can read and understand easily. As with any exam, you do not want to be trawling through pages of notes as deadline day looms. Bullet points, postits, pocket notebooks and flash cards are great companions for these summaries. Put these good habits in place now.

  1. Tend to all Subjects.

It is important not to neglect the subjects that aren’t your favourite or that you may not excel in. The first piece of homework you tackle every evening should be from these subjects and they should also get more time (blocks) on your ‘Lifestyle Study Timetable’. You are better off to have the majority of your scores for subjects around the middle as opposed to having very high and very low percentages across a mix of subjects. Focus on your weaknesses, as it is likely your talents in the other subjects will balance overall grades out. This also applies within subjects. Getting very low scores in certain subjects can really drain the confidence and leave you wondering “Where do I go from here”?

  1. Listing and Ticking.

List out the set of topics (subject by subject) you plan to cover for these exams onto an A3/A4 sheet. Put an ‘S’ beside a given topic when summarised and then tick it off when you feel confident you could answer a potential exam question on it. Having these lists on your wall will provide an added incentive to get more done. Ticking off each list and watching the workload shrink will help you feel so much better about how your revision is progressing.

  1. Build Yourself Up.

Eating well is important as your body is more inclined to break down with colds, flu’s and bugs at this time of year. It will be really difficult to do any constructive preparation if you develop that niggling cold or sore throat. In my opinion the best foods to enhance your system at this time of year are porridge, lemon/orange juice, hot soups, curries, stews, hot roast dinners, mugs of hot drinks and of course loads of water, to name but a few. Sugary cereals or Energy/Fizzy drinks will never improve your health or help illness resistance. Get your parents on board here making sure they have stocked up the nutritional and warm homely winter foods to get you through to the last Christmas exam.

In summary, put a good solid effort into your revision over the next few weeks and you can relax then and enjoy Christmas with your family and friends. Your endeavours will be worth it when you see your grades being posted out in January. Take pride in your work at school, just as your parents take so much pride in everything you do. Joe

To read last weeks feature on the factors to take into account in relation to remaining at higher level in subjects, 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 ACE your Christmas Exams

Joe’s Jotter: How to ACE your Christmas Exams
Joe’s Jotter: How to ACE your Christmas Exams

Joe’s Jotter: Two Clever Revision Hacks for Success

As Christmas exams draw closer, here are two under used hacks that might just give you the edge as you try to get the most out of your 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 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 handwritten notes.

Bullet points, facts, list and key points have the perfect attributes for being recorded to your phone and played 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, be sure to 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 sub-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. Rotating your learning could also involve going down the road to your grandparents or your local library to write some essays or update your hardback. I would recommend initiatives like this to maintain freshness in your preparation, ensuring each 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; examples of these include: reading, taking notes, writing 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, highlighting or discussing a sub-topic with your friends or in a study group etc. These are just some of the 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. Joe

To read last weeks ACE feature on ‘The Importance of handwriting your own notes’, 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: Two Clever Revision Hacks for Success

Joe’s Jotter: Two Clever Revision Hacks for Success
Joe’s Jotter: Two Clever Revision Hacks for Success