Joe’s Jotter: How to ACE Any 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 also vital to have a plan in place for the content that can appear on your Maths paper. This involves going in there with your eyes wide open and being tactically aware in case things go a little bit wrong on the day. The following are my ACE tips to effectively deal with a Maths exam paper. These apply to both the Junior and Leaving Certs, as well as being relevant to the summer tests for 1st, 2nd TY, and 5th Years.

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 type 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 or eight marks out of ten.
  • If you make two attempts at a question, they will all be corrected and the highest marks from your efforts will be counted. Don’t be afraid to have a proper go.
  • Marks will be given for any work done on diagrams that have been printed on the paper.
  • Be careful when dealing with minus signs.
  • You must show your full 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, continually double check completed steps for accuracy; otherwise, you may need to re-write the whole solution. In that case, watch the clock very closely.
  • 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. You need to become a master of Algebra to achieve high grades.
  • Get used to attempting questions involving real life statistics.
  • Estimating the heights of larger objects outside in nature is now an important part of Geometry and Trigonometry.
  • In Co-ordinate Geometry, the slope of a line is very important in practical 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. Use your highlighter or green pen to mark the significant words.
  • Look through the wording of each question and pick out the Maths related information. In all subjects, but especially Maths, identify exactly what you are given and what you are looking for. Watch out for numbers written as words, for example “thirty” instead of “30”.
  • If no diagram is presented, draw one yourself to give a clearer picture of what is being asked. This is especially important in Geometry, Trigonometry, and Area and Volume.
  • 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 question parts for you.
  • 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 and 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 ACE Maths Solution Books that you can draw on to help you. Don’t give up. Be persistent.
  • The relationship between two data sets is important. At LC Level, this concept links ‘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 that you need to keep an eye out for.
  • Do out a ‘time budget’ plan before sitting any Maths paper and be sure to stick to it.

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 have a solid base for giving any exam your best shot. Joe.

To view last week’s feature article on ‘How to Prepare for an Exam Efficiently at Home’, click here.

More details about Joe’s Maths Tuition Classes for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate (2022) and his Award Winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below.

ACE Maths Classes: acesolutionbooks.com/ace-maths-tuition

ACE Maths Solution Books: acesolutionbooks.com/buy-my-books

*****

*****

Photo: @ZhangChaosheng

The ACE Guide to Exam Prep From Home (Feature 5 of 6)

 

The Importance of Your Friends

Dear Students,

Being successful in any new routine is determined by how positive your outlook is. In order to maintain that positivity, keep in touch with friends via WhatsApp and social media. Positivity also fosters better mental health. Maintaining contact with friends is vital, as you will understandably miss the lack of face-to-face interaction with them when at home revising. A conversation with mates will help you forget about burning issues and renew your energy. Always try and be positive in these conversations in order to boost and motivate each other. Keep in mind that you will spend most of your time studying alone, so social time on facetime or calls with your friends from school is important. Learn how to achieve a balance of phone use, leaving it outside your study area at all times. Sorry folks!

Maintain Some Form of Exercise

Maintain some form of exercise. I find that short walks allow ideas and thoughts on subjects to sink in. I’m not sure why?, but it works. On days not in school, try not to stay in bed past ten a.m. and eat plenty of fruit and vegetables in order to build the key vitamins in your system. While preparing at home, retain as many of your school routine habits as possible to facilitate seamless revision and learning.

Notice each day how you are feeling. In relation to emotions, its often the case that when you ‘name them’, you ‘tame them’. This awareness will help you be more in tune with your body and deal with any ‘down time’ should it arrive. Apparently, doing a quick five minute tidy of your space or bedroom increases positive feelings and emotions. Try it and see! If you do find yourself down in the dumps, be sure to talk to someone; anyone at all.

Trusting the Exam System

For exam students, you need to trust the fact that we have one of the most robust and fairest exam systems in the world. The exam papers are always marked fairly each year, no matter what the circumstances. It is currently a very transparent system, so please trust it. Focus on your own work and what you can control. The State Exams Commission (SEC) are hyper aware of the importance of student’s mental health right now and this has been reflected by the extra choice and options on this year’s exam papers.

Staying Positive

It is important to try and focus on one task at a time and not look too far ahead during times of stress. It is perfectly ok to be worried or anxious about uncertain situations and you should acknowledge the existence of these feelings. Try to find someone to talk to about stress or any worries you may have. It can be a friend, boyfriend/girlfriend, a sibling, a teacher, a relation, or a parent. Somehow when you talk through whats worrying you, it often becomes more manageable. Listening to negativity on social media or from friends can do more damage than good, especially around exam time. Premier league footballers don’t read negative press about themselves as they diligently prepare for their next game – they have been coached not to. Sticking to the exact facts will help you face up to the reality of each situation that you are faced with, whether that be in exams or life.

Keeping a Diary

I found keeping a diary useful in managing worries and anxieties and would encourage you to write your own thoughts regularly into a Journal; even just a list of uncertainties that may be playing on your mind. Try to remember that being overly anxious can prevent you from doing your best in exams. Learn and practice some calming techniques. Seek help from a professional if you feel it is all too much. Be sure to reach out.

Things Change Quickly

Varying what we do each day keeps our brains active and will allow less time for anxiety to creep in. As human beings, our minds often bring us to worst-case scenarios. We learn from experience that these rarely come to pass, with fear often being a false emotion. Cast your mind back to good times you had recently, things weren’t really that amazing then were they? Now remember a point in your life when you struggled; things quickly changed some days later and it didn’t seem as horrible as you expected in the end, did it?

“Nothing lasts forever, even cold November rain.“

Guns N’ Roses

Always focus on what you can control and the good people in your life. Stay positive, maintain contact with friends and deal with the exact reality of situations. You are more resilient and stronger than you think. Doing your fair share of revision each day and ticking off that task list you create (each night) will greatly reduce anxiety levels. Try my ‘Recommended ACE stability measures’ below to sustain confidence and combat your fears.

 Recommended ACE Stability Measures

  1. Tick off each topic in subjects as you complete and understand them.
  2. Focus on what you have completed each day (Not what you haven’t).
  3. Think positively about yourself.
  4. Plan something nice or enjoyable each day.
  5. Take things day by day.
  6. Set yourself little targets and subject challenges each day.
  7. Always remember that ‘You are enough’.

To read last week’s article on ‘Supporting Your Child Right up to Exam Day’, click here. Thanks Joe.

More details about Joe’s Maths Tuition Classes for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate (2022) and his Award Winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below.

ACE Maths Classes: acesolutionbooks.com/ace-maths-tuition

ACE Maths Solution Books: acesolutionbooks.com/buy-my-books

*****

*****

Photo:@ZhangChaosheng

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

Dear Parents,

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

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

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

Providing that Subtle Support

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

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

 Encourage them to Express Themselves

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

Success and Failure

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

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

Five Practical Tips to Support Your Exam Student

 

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

Help them maintain a well-balanced daily routine.

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

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

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

You are what you eat.

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

Success is always a team effort.

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

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

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

 

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

ACE Maths Classes: acesolutionbooks.com/ace-maths-tuition

ACE Maths Solution Books: acesolutionbooks.com/buy-my-books

*****

*****
Photo:@ZhangChaosheng

Joe’s Jotter: How to Improve 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 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 the 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 about playing to your strengths and working smarter. It is better to write short key jottings 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 take these opportunities, if they arise, to catch up. For students in Senior cycle, you cannot really afford to take a full night off. Am I saying you should work from 5 – 11pm every night? No, and you certainly 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 – whatever works for you to get your mind off things.

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 long term. Time spent doing homework should be counted as part of ‘exam preparation’ time and you shouldn’t feel in anyway guilty when there are nights you do ‘all homework’ and ‘no revision’. Judge each night on its merits and how important each task is.

Super Organisation

Being super organised with homework and your journal are important aspects to kick-start your success. In my opinion, homework is the best form of study, and you need to be disciplined with it. Write homework diligently into your journal each day and complete each piece of homework like you are doing an exam question. Being ‘smart’ with how to tackle homework is a skill, which could take months to refine. 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 eventually gets dealt with. At times, tasks are postponed (put off into the future), but ultimately they always get completed unless I deem them unimportant. Apply this technique to your revision, ensuring that everything gets completed eventually in the most efficient manner. Task monitoring, homework discipline and dedication are all attributes of the ‘Super Organised’ H1 student.

Student Survey: The Importance of Homework

 I completed 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 they made in their surveys:

“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 your 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 or teachers 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 that day.“

“Do not let homework affect sleep time, but don’t leave it until the next morning.“

“Plan ahead on assignments if you are expecting a busy week.“

“Get the phone numbers of classmates for queries on homework.“

 

To view last weeks feature article on ‘How to become a Specialist at Maths Exams (Part 2)’, click here. Joe

 

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

ACE Maths Classes: acesolutionbooks.com/ace-maths-tuition

ACE Maths Solution Books: acesolutionbooks.com/buy-my-books

*****

*****

Photo:@ZhangChaosheng

Joe’s Jotter: How to become a Specialist at Maths Exams (Part 2)

 

Thousands of students have gone through the exam system having achieved their dreams, so be sure to aim high and keep believing in yourself. Put a plan in place today, so that you can revise effectively for all your upcoming Maths exams. Here are my top twelve tips to ACE any Maths Exam – both in preparation and tackling an exam paper on the day.

Top Twelve ACE Tips to Success in Maths

  1. Do out a weekly study timetable ensuring Maths is prominent on it. Make sure there are loads of topic variety with Algebra and Functions being the Initial cornerstones of learning.
  2. Buy a hardback and enter all keynotes, new information learned, and formulae’s that are not in your log tables into it. Divide it into topics to find Information easier.
  3. Note all new words you learn each day. If you don’t understand the meaning of them, ask your teacher or google them. Write down their meaning in your own words when you find out. One of the biggest issues in Maths is not understanding the words used on the paper.
  4. Practice past exams questions to get used to the wording, layout, and style of them.
  5. “Homework is study”, so approach all Maths homework as an exam hall question.
  6. Practice challenging questions at home. Time yourself on each question to get used to ‘Exam Hall’ pressure. Stick rigidly to the timing for each question.
  7. Get a “study buddy” that will complete past exam questions for you and with you. You can then meet up regularly and share Information and exam solutions with each other.
  8. On the day of the exam, read the wordy questions three or four times and then step through them word by word, line by line, underlining the key words as you go.
  9. Prepare for each exam the night before by checking you have all the materials you need for it. This is especially important in Maths.
  10. Don’t be afraid to express yourself in simple English if you are not sure what Maths to use to solve a problem. The State Exams Commission (SEC) encourages this type of creativity.
  11. Buy yourself an Exam Paper Solutions Book. You can use this book to check the work you are doing and to help you get started on the more challenging exam questions.
  12. Start today.

The Importance of the Words and the Formulas

Lastly, the language of Maths is extremely important especially since the birth of ‘Project Maths’ in 2008. The State Exams Commission (SEC) now place more of an emphasis on students knowing and understanding concepts and topics, as opposed to 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.

If you are not familiar with the words and phrases that appear on the paper, you may not be even able to get a question started. This would be an awful shame given the amount of time you have spent learning the mathematical skills. You need to be aware that different words have a different meaning depending on the subject. For example, the word “Evaluate” in Maths is quite different to what it means in English. I believe that knowing the key words and phrases is now a key component of “Ace-ing” a Maths exam. Apply the principles that I have outlined in this feature article to ACE any Maths exam you take on in 2022. Wishing you good luck students. Joe

To view last week’s feature article on ‘Maximising Your Junior and Leaving Cert Results’, click here.

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

ACE Maths Classes: acesolutionbooks.com/ace-maths-tuition

ACE Maths Solution Books: acesolutionbooks.com/buy-my-books

*****

*****
Photo:@ZhangChaosheng

Joe’s Jotter: How to become a Specialist at Maths Exams (Part 1)


Surprisingly, thousands of top Maths students over the years have struggled when it comes to performing to their ability in Maths exams. In my experience, there is now a disconnect between how teachers teach a Maths class and the skills students use during a Maths test.

For some students, a fear almost overcomes them with the thought of a Maths test upcoming.  Similarly, a fair percentage of students that breeze through other subject exams freeze during Maths ones. A significant aspect of Teaching Maths now is helping students overcome their anxieties, while teaching them the key techniques to retain their calmness and confidence.

Sitting a Maths exam is a skill, but it is something that if you practice and apply a defined strategy to, you can get quite good at it. Every day, I work closely with students to teach them these vital skills to excel in all kinds of Maths assessments.  Below are my insights into how to ACE any Maths exam – from the five minute class test to the full on final state examination.

Make Changes to How You Revise and Prepare for Maths Exams

Below are some clipits of advice to help you get set for a Maths exam. Applying these practical guidelines in your revision plan and during exams will 100% improve your grades.

  1. Apply the skills you have learned from practicing past exam questions under time pressure at home. A time budget plan is a key part to success in any Maths exam.
  2. Keep a hardback of Maths notes. Being familiar with words that appear on Maths papers are vital to aid understanding of the questions you are being quizzed on.
  3. Find multiple-choice questions online or ask your teacher if they have some. These are like ‘speed-studying’ and require less time to work through and test yourself on.
  4. Attempt past exam questions. After completing each past exam question, be sure to view its exact and fully developed solution to see how your work stacks up against it.
  5. Stay alert for key words and phrases to guide you through a question. For example, the volume of an object should allow you to find measurements on it by working backwards.
  6. Use familiar mathematics to guide you. Think back to relate the test question to a concept, topic, or technique your teacher did with you in class.
  7. Formulas are key in Maths. Reflect on what formula you know that may help you solve the problem. This formula may in fact be printed on the test paper or in your log tables.
  8. Can the diagram in the question help? Writing relevant information on a given diagram may prompt relevant thoughts and connections to help you start a Maths question.
  9. Show all workings. Always show how to get from one step to the next. Provide all your workings out to support your answer. At the end of each question, always ask yourself ‘Is this a realistic answer or solution to the question being asked?’ Example: Ten metres would never be an acceptable answer for the height of a pencil. You get the Idea.
  10. Read the entire question… twice. Check what the question is asking and in what form you need to present the answer. For example, you might need to round the final answer (decimal places, significant figures, scientific notation) or convert to an annual amount.
  11. Note the key Information given in the question onto your answer book. Subsequently, note the Information that isn’t present. Link these two to help complete the full jigsaw.
  12. Don’t be afraid to utilise diagrams or tables in your solution. This will clarify your understanding of the information in the question and support your workings out.
  13. Show all relevant substitution (subbing in). This shows the examiner that correct Maths processes are being used (e.g. showing the substitution of an x-value into a function). Joe

To view last weeks article on ‘The ACE Guide to Exam Prep from Home”, click here.

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

ACE Maths Classes: acesolutionbooks.com/ace-maths-tuition

ACE Maths Solution Books: acesolutionbooks.com/buy-my-books

*****

*****

Photo:@ZhangChaosheng

Joe’s Jotter: The Many Benefits of doing Transition Year

“I had heard transition year is a doss, but you do more practical work, like projects. You are a lot more tired than in Junior Cycle because you are doing so much. You don’t realise it until you look back.”

Former Transition Year Student

Transition year (TY) is a unique one year programme that links Junior and Senior Cycle together. It is now completed by the majority of students who finish secondary school in Ireland, with seventy five percent of schools offering it. Each school is given the flexibility to design their own TY programme within a broad set of parameters. Some schools view it as an additional academic year of senior cycle; but most schools design it to allow students express themselves and develop and explore new talents.

Will Transition Year benefit me?

The question that all 3rd year students and parents struggle with at this time of year is: ‘Will TY be beneficial to me?’  I feel there are a number of factors determining the success of Transition year for a given student. These include how well the school structures it, the enthusiasm the student has for the programme and how much they buy into it, and the level of variety in the programme, to name but a few.

There is no doubt that if a student does immerse themselves in TY, they can benefit greatly both from a social and developmental point of view. As is evident from the quote above from this former TY, students are engaged in a range of different activities compared to the more academic Junior Cycle. As a teacher, it is easy to spot the 6th year students who have completed TY, as opposed to those who went straight into 5th year. Aside from the obvious fact that students look a year older, they are much more confident in themselves and are a few more steps down the road to maturity than their counterparts. In my experience, this is especially pertinent to boys.

My Top Forty Benefits of doing Transition Year

Listed below are my top forty benefits (in no particular order) that a student may gain by opting for TY. Hopefully it will allow you to make an informed decision if you are a parent or a 3rd year in the process of deciding to opt for it or not. 1st and 2nd Years can also have a read of these to get them thinking about their options post Junior Cycle.

  1.  It is an opportunity to mature especially if you are younger than your classmates
  2. You get a taste of working in everyday jobs in Industry and services
  3. You are given more licence to show and develop your individual personality
  4. Your confidence around meeting and dealing with people will improve greatly
  5. You may get to experience a trip to another country
  6. You may get to sample activities you wouldn’t normally e.g. sports, music, or drama
  7. You will be involved in outdoor experiences beneficial to fitness and mental health
  8. The friends you make in TY often turn into lasting relationships
  9. You will be allowed time to reflect and think about possible future careers
  10. You will get an opportunity to research courses and third level options
  11. You will get more of an opportunity to work in a team during activities
  12. You will feel part of a group, which may have not been the case at Junior Cycle
  13. Having an Identity (being a TY) will increase and enhance your personal self-worth
  14. You will learn to think more independently and listen to instructions better
  15. You may discover new talents and skills through engagement in new activities
  16. It should inspire you to take on more responsibility in Senior Cycle
  17. It will give you time to select the subjects that suit you for Senior Cycle
  18. You will get an opportunity to express yourself more with an expanded curriculum
  19. You may get an option to sample new subjects. e.g. Home Ec or Woodwork etc
  20. You may get a chance to visit places of cultural significance e.g. Museums or Gallery’s
  21. You may get opportunities to accomplish certs. e.g. Gaisce, Driving, ICT or First Aid
  22. You will learn research skills and how to approach employers for work experience
  23. You will get a chance to create, enhance and develop the quality of your CV
  24. You may get to experience debating, which will help your public speaking confidence
  25. You may be lucky enough that your school is involved in a TY exchange programme
  26. There won’t be as much academic pressure on you during this year
  27. You will have more time to join school groups e.g. student council, sports council etc
  28. You will be more mature and a year older heading into senior cycle
  29. More experiential learning during the year will mean more hands on and more fun
  30. You may attend workshops or talks e.g. Drugs, Alcohol or Community groups
  31. You may do a career matching or aptitude test to discover potential career paths
  32. Students may be involved in setting up mini companies (great for teamwork)
  33. Teachers will be more open to exploring what you are personally Interested in
  34. Students may get opportunities to enter local enterprise competitions
  35. You will still work on academic subjects and can continue to develop your knowledge
  36. You can investigate what type of learner you are (useful going into Senior Cycle)
  37. You will leave TY with a whole new set of skills and experiences to kick start your CV
  38. At the end of TY, you will be more mature and ready to make better future decisions
  39. TY’s often tell me that it was their most enjoyable and rewarding year in Secondary
  40. The fun, the bonding, the laughs, and the treasured relationships.

If this is the route you are heading in September 2022, good luck with Transition Year. Joe

To view last week’s feature article on ‘Choosing Subjects for 5th Year’, Click here.

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

ACE Maths Classes: acesolutionbooks.com/ace-maths-tuition

ACE Maths Solution Books: acesolutionbooks.com/buy-my-books

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Photo: @ZhangChaosheng

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

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

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

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

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

Creating Up Your Weekly ‘Lifestyle (Study)’ Timetable

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

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


*Based on the Standard School Week.

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

How Many Hours Revision Should I Do at Home?

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

Being Realistic Is Important

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

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

ACE Maths Classes: acesolutionbooks.com/ace-maths-tuition

ACE Maths Solution Books: acesolutionbooks.com/buy-my-books

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Joe’s Jotter – Should I Continue Studying Higher Level Maths?

More students over the last few years have taken on the task that is Leaving Cert Higher Maths. In 2021, out of the 57,303 who sat a Leaving Certificate Mathematics Paper, 22,918 of them opted for higher level (40%). Even though the bonus points are very enticing, students need to be careful and be fully aware of what exactly they are embarking on. In my experience, there is a lingering doubt among many 5th and 6th years about being able to tackle higher Maths. Scoring low grades in class tests doesn’t really do much for confidence, but it doesn’t automatically mean you should drop down. The question is: Should you remain battling higher level Maths or is it worth the time and effort at all?

This article should reassure those suitable for higher (those who fight the good fight day after day) that they can in fact achieve what they are aiming for. Each year, deciding Maths levels is a tricky issue for students and involves many considerations. It is made even more complex in this subject with the bonus points at play. For those of you who are unsure about higher Maths, it may be worth applying some logic to any inclination to switch. As well you know, us ‘Maths creatures’ are very logical beings lol.  I find that logic is more factual and definite in making decisions like this. It may be more sensible to apply a touch of it here, rather than just using pure emotion. Don’t get me wrong: your gut feeling is important too; but read on to understand what I mean…

I Can Take on this Challenge

Firstly, there is a mis-conception out there that if you fail Maths, 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 for Maths on your CV. Or, 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 higher level. Enthusiasm for this subject will go a long way to achieving your desired goal in it.  Students, 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? Do you like working with numbers or are you mis-understanding the majority of your teachers methods? These are some initial questions to ponder.

Personally, I feel that 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 forth and fifth year, it may be a sign that the standard is too difficult for you. However, remember also that there are so many varied topics in Maths, and you may have a flair for some and no real interest in others. Very few of us are good at everything, even the best of the best.

Head Above Water

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 about what to do. 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. Keep in mind that the upcoming mock examinations in springtime tests topics across the complete course at a time when you haven’t fully completed it yet.

Is there a Template for Staying or Going?

My intention in this article isn’t 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. Over the years, I have taught a substantial number of students who I considered borderline higher level students. Many of them remained at higher and actually ended up outperforming those I perceived as rock solid higher level candidates. Maybe these students felt like they needed to work harder and hence prepared better consequently. There is a lesson in this. American Basketball player Kevin Durant once said,  ‘Hard work always beats Talent when Talent doesn’t work hard enough’. The statistics also stack in your favour.  In 2021, 97.4% of students who attempted higher level Maths got a H6 grade or above and therefore picked up the 25 bonus points. That is high!

In general, your teacher won’t put you too far wrong when decision time arrives. 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 get familiar with the Ordinary level standard and 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

In summary, 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 the 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.
  • Your ‘working relationship’ with your teacher.
  • 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 this subject balanced against others.
  • Minimum entry requirements for third level (e.g. a H6 in Maths maybe?).

Before making your final decision, take out a piece of paper and write down all the pros and cons of remaining at higher level or dropping down.  On the back of the sheet, write a few paragraphs on how you are actually feeling about it right now. Keeping the above list of factors in mind, the answer you are searching for should appear somewhere within these pages as your thoughts and feelings stream out. Use these thoughts to answer your own doubts and plough on from there. Contact me if I can advise you in any way. Joe

To view last weeks blog on the ‘Importance of Handwriting Your Own Notes’, click here.

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

ACE Maths Classes: acesolutionbooks.com/ace-maths-tuition

ACE Maths Solution Books: acesolutionbooks.com/buy-my-books

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Joe’s Jotter: Secondary Maths – Some Useful Insights for Parents

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

The Second Year Dip

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

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

Girls – Go for it!

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

“Perfection is the enemy of Progress”.

Winston Churchill (Former Prime Minister of the UK)

One does not really have time for absolute perfection on a Maths paper as they tend to be quite long, and unlike other subjects, there isn’t as much time for admiring your work. Students should apply this principle across the board to all their Maths tests in 2021/22.

The New Practical Style Questions

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

Follow Your Passion

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

To view last weeks feature article on ‘ACE Tips for Transitioning into 1st Year (Part 1)’, 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: The ACE Guide to Exam Preparation from Home (Feature 6 of 6)

Parental Support for Students at Home

Parents, your new role is one of increasing influence, given that your child is now at home revising for their exams all the time. Strangely enough, they actually like the structure of school and seeing their friends there every day. Being at home is not something they are used to and may require some time to bed down into a pattern of revision and rest. You are not a teacher, so it’s important to remember that if you are doing your best, you are doing enough. Here are my twenty recommendations to help you be the best you can for your child currently revising in the home environment:

  1. Help them establish a revision routine in a quiet, clean, and comfortable area.
  2. Plan your day a little around them, so you can be there to support their efforts.
  3. Provide the quiet support: school materials , healthy dinners & encouragement.
  4. Be realistic about the amount of revision they may do each day.
  5. Encourage family time including walks & drives to keep communication open.
  6. Show interest by requesting that they discuss or come and teach topics to you.
  7. Be calm, tolerant, and patient with their moods as best you can.
  8. Try praise their efforts (no matter how small) even if you feel they don’t deserve.
  9. Remind them to communicate with their teachers/friends if they have queries.
  10. If they are disorganised or scatty, sit down & brainstorm to help them organise.
  11. Empower them to help around the house, i.e. Cooking/Cleaning/Gardening.
  12. Trust them to take responsibility for their own learning.
  13. Encourage them to talk to you if they feel anxious about anything.
  14. Endeavour to maintain balance. Nothing is ever as bad or as good as it seems.
  15. Don’t be afraid to get stuck in academically. Impart your knowledge to them.
  16. Examine them on subjects, questions, and texts they may need help with.
  17. Try not to pass any anxiety you have on to them; Just let them breathe.
  18. Try to cook substantial nutritious meals so that they aren’t constantly ‘grazing’.
  19. Intervene in all cases if you feel they are overwhelmed or struggling mentally.
  20. Parent

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ACE’ing Your Prep at Home – Final Thoughts

Students,

Your best bet now is to make the most of this challenge set down for you. You now have more freedom than ever to create your own study blocks and breaks; effectively you can control the pace of your learning. If your revision blocks are short (i.e. thirty minutes), you are less likely to daydream and waste time in them. You can now allocate time to various subjects and tasks unlike before; embrace it. It is an opportunity to take responsibility for your own learning and with this you are preparing yourself for third level education or whatever route you choose after school.

Create a good solid routine, especially to start the day. Having a good morning can often be the key to a productive day. Keep your social media stint to a limited time in the morning, otherwise it may become an endless scroll, with well laid out plans being scuppered. Every morning, commence your Lifestyle (Study) Timetable or the list of ten to twelve tasks you have written down from the night before. Be sure to make everyone in the house aware of your revision times, so that they can try to be as quiet as possible during these periods.

Keeping your timetable/task list simple and realistic will allow you to get through the day’s work and make it easier to get started also. Maybe setup four tasks in the morning, three after lunch and three in the evening if you find creating a timetable for the full day too daunting. Sample tasks may include revising a short chapter in your Maths book and completing ten test questions based on it, or note taking on a certain period in History, or summarising one aspect of your Biology or Home Economics course. How do you eat an elephant? Answer: Break it up into small pieces and eat it bit by bit. Treat your daily task list or timetable the same.

Be honest with yourself (as best you can) about how you are going to use the Internet, social media, and phone during revision times. The best way to control this is to set out the exact times you will use devices and where they will be located during revision blocks. If you struggle to separate yourself from your phone, request the help of your parents to find a solution. If you find your eyes are getting sore from ‘screen time’, whether that be on a PC or phone, this is your body telling you to give it a break and it is wise to listen to the voice within in these cases. Along with reasonable tech time, ensure you enjoy and inbuild fun, phone calls to friends, exercise, music, and relaxation into each day’s revision timetable. These types of breaks are essential for productivity; but ensure to keep an eye on time away, as short breaks can easily turn into longer wasteful ones.

As above, vary the different ways you study and indeed your revision location also. Keep your study area clean and organised in order to be more productive. Find out which ways of learning work for you and repeat them. If you are finding a specific revision method worthless, come at it from a different angle. Manage your revision effectively by using the best methods suitable to you and appropriate to that subject.

Winston Churchill once said that ‘Perfection is the enemy of progress’. In subjects we find difficult, we often learn more by making mistakes as opposed to getting everything perfectly right at the beginning. If you always think your notes and revision blocks aren’t of a high enough standard, you will soon loose heart by your perceived lack of excellence. Failure and Imperfection should be viewed as a positive, as it encourages us to try harder and continually better ourselves. This was one of my keys to success. I always wanted to improve and ultimately be the best at whatever I did. You will never actually reach perfection, so be content with progress and don’t be too hard on yourself.

Finally, write down both short and long term goals and re-read and update them every so often to remind yourself why you are putting in such an effort right now. Goals should be used to motivate and drive you to achieve great things. Focus always on the work you have completed, not what you haven’t done. The quicker you settle down into a routine and discover study techniques that work for you, the better you will feel. Adjusting to a new school year structure and timetable can take time. Right now, you are effectively trying to discover a home routine to allow yourself to continue learning and give yourself the best possible chance come exam time. I wish you luck and good health going forward and feel free to contact me through the channels below if I can help you in any way. Joe

To view last weeks feature article on ‘Positive Ways to Cope with Exam Stress’, click here.

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

W: acesolutionbooks.com

FB: facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/

#:   #JoesJotter

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Joe’s Jotter: Guiding your Child Through their Exams

Your Role as a Parent as Exams Approach

One of your main roles around exam time is to create a good atmosphere at home and it will be important to remain calm and try not to transfer additional pressure on to your child in the lead up to them. This applies whether they are sitting a state exam or an end of year summer test. I would be wary of placing any extra emphasis on them achieving certain grades or points. Allowing them to talk without judgment, actively listening to them and keeping career options and results in perspective are other ways that you can be there for them at this time. Be sure to check that they have a plan ‘B’ in place for further education/training, as this will help greatly to regulate stress levels in the house.

Try not to let uncertainties or worries you had in school, especially any negative vibes you had around exams or certain subjects, influence how your child deals with their exam year. I don’t think conversations beginning with “When I was doing the Leaving Cert…” are really that helpful or relevant to their situation now. Similarly, never compare your child’s performance or study ethic to that of their peers or siblings, as this will just add to the stress. Complaining about the unfairness of the exam process is also airing unhelpful negativity. Keep it all on a positive plane and let them breathe. If you have any concerns at all about your child, you should contact their school, as teachers and management are usually more than happy to help. If you meet a roadblock, I would be delighted to help and advise you in some small way; so don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

More than any other time in their life, it is important to help your child manage their feelings, as they may struggle with overwhelming emotions and pressures placed on them by exams. There are lots of great techniques you can show them, like slowing their breathing down or helping them become aware of their feelings. Maybe, look up one or two of these online, so that you can pass on something practical to use during intense situations. Exercise and involvement in activities right up to exam start are brilliant stress reducing techniques and should be strongly encouraged.

Practical Insights to Really Support Your Exam Student

The following are some real and practical insights into how your support can really help your son/daughter be their best around exam time. This advice applies to all types of examinations, not just the state ones in June:

  • It’s an obvious one to start but ensure that your child is present in the exam hall for each exam. For parents who are working and leaving home early, avoid the ultimate disaster of your child missing an exam. This advice applies on days they have important class tests also. Ensure they are up and dressed before you leave home for work each morning. A small number of students regularly fail to turn up for morning papers.
  • Making them a healthy and substantial breakfast will greatly help their focus and concentration all the way to the end of an exam, especially if they have an afternoon paper to sit also.
  • Help them to draw up a check list of daily requirements based on each day’s exams. Make a final check with them each morning, so that your child is fully prepared for the day’s exams. The amount of guidance required will obviously depend on how organised your child is. Writing instruments along with the other requirements such as rulers, erasers, calculators, water, and any non-intrusive nourishment such as sweets, or fruit should be checked off for inclusion.
  • When your child arrives home after their exam, listen to their experience carefully and then move on. After each day’s exams allow them to recount to you their daily story. Do not be tempted to review in detail with them any errors or omissions on the paper. Such a process achieves absolutely nothing, other than to again increase their stress levels. Simply allow them the time and space to tell their tale and move on to the next challenge (i.e. the subsequent paper) is best policy
  • Know the exam schedule. Pin the exam timetable prominently up at home; highlight each exam to be taken. This applies to house exams also. Diary the date and time of each paper your child must take. In the stress of the whole exam period, you need to be continuously aware of whats going on and when. Investigate which days or subjects your child isn’t looking forward to so that you can be there for them in a real and practical way.
  • It can help them greatly if you have a little knowledge of each exam paper or at least show some interest in it. Simple questions such as, “What is up next?”, “Are there any compulsory sections?” or “Are there any predictable questions?” can be asked. The best open question to ask is “How are you feeling about …? “. This will allow them to express themselves more freely if they wish. This also ensures they won’t feel alone and that you really care about how they get on. If they will allow you, work with them on devising a short but efficient revision schedule, as this is something I have noticed that students struggle to do alone. Time management is key from now on.

To view last weeks feature article on ‘How to ACE your Maths Exam’, 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

*****

Joe’s Jotter: Parental Insights to support your child through to Exam Day

Dear Parents,

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

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

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

Providing that Subtle Support

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

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

 Encourage them to Express Themselves

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

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

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

 Five Practical Tips to Support Your Exam Student

Parents, here are more real and practical insights into how your support can really help your son/daughter be their best around exam time:

  • Help them maintain a well-balanced daily routine. You should guide your child to aim for a proper balance between revision and rest. After each exam or class test, they need time to rest and recharge before they can do any beneficial study for the next challenge. With a lot of tests in school at the minute, it is important to maintain that freshness where possible. Late-night study sessions are not advised.
  • Studies have shown that a good night’s sleep improves exam performance. All revision should end at least an hour before bedtime to allow your child time to unwind before sleep. Encourage them to conclude revision and start to relax, in order to slow down the body and mind. This will result in a refreshing night’s sleep. It is not advisable to fall straight into bed from the study desk as their mind will be buzzing for hours as they attempt to get to sleep.
  • “You are what you eat”. What you eat and drink affects your performance in any activity, especially one involving mental sharpness. As a parent, you should try to ensure your child has nutritious food as exams approach, starting with breakfast each morning, the lunch they bring with them if they are facing long days, their evening meal, as well as snacks during the day. Grazing on junk food is very tempting at times of increased stress but should be avoided as much as possible.
  • Success is always a team effort. Drawing on the support of everything that is potentially positive in a student’s life helps to maximise exam performance. Such supports include a heightened awareness on the part of all family members in their interactions with the person doing exams. Meeting with friends and participation in sporting or social activities should be encouraged. All these factors help to maintain a student’s ‘spirits’ during an extended exam period.
  • It is advisable not to over hype the importance of any examination. It is very easy in the middle of a stress-induced experience, such as a major exam, to get the whole event totally out of perspective. The secret here is to try and maintain their normal school routine. Parents should ensure their child is clear that your unconditional love and regard for them is in no way dependent on how they perform in these annual academic Olympics. Your affirmation is the greatest gift you can give them, prior to and during their tests.

To view last weeks feature article on ‘Revising from Home for an Exam (Feature 5 of 6)’, click here.

*****

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

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

*****

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