Joe’s Jotter: Grade Inflation 2023 – Remarkable Subject Stats

With Leaving Certificate grades ‘apparently’ rising recently, I decided to do my own comparison analysis of Leaving Certificate results from the years 2018 and 2022 as per Table 1 below. There had already been a steady rise in performance and points over the last twenty years anyway, but a recent sizable increase was now apparent. So, are our students working harder or is there something going on in the system?

Upon inspection, the percentage of students scoring a H4 or above in 2022 (A H4 is between 60% and 70% at higher level) has produced very surprising results. What amazed me from looking at the statistics was how grades in many subjects have jumped. In the eleven subjects I sampled, the average increase (H4 grades or above) when comparing LC 2018 to 2022 was almost 10%. As a Maths teacher, it is particularly concerning for me to see a cosmic jump in my own subject. I feel that Leaving Cert higher level Maths is now consequentially devalued, as there is no way students are performing that much better in four short years.

 

Table 1: The percentage of students that scored a H4 or above in LC 2022 and 2018

Sample Subject Percentage of Students achieving a H4 or above (2022) Percentage of Students achieving a H4 or above (2018) % Increase for students between 2018 and 2022
Music 97%  89% +8%
Technology 83%  72% +11%
Engineering 81%  70% +11%
Irish 79%  70% +9%
Design & Comm Graphics (DCG) 79%  70% +9%
Home Economics (S&S) 79%  68% +11%
Accounting 69%  63% +6%
Biology 68%  61% +7%
Chemistry 67%  61% +6%
Maths 81%  60% +21%
Physics 68%  59% +9%

*Source: Data from www.examinations.ie

From this data, my feeling is that you cannot compare Leaving Cert students who completed exams before 2018 to the 2021 or 2022 cohort; and of course we are doing so. This throws up a lot of questions about where our education system is going. It seems a new benchmark has been set for future student results, and we aren’t going back.

Is it a ‘medal for everyone’ mentality now? How can we compare Leaving Certificate results before, during and after the pandemic? Even the recent 2022 results (with Covid 19 a much less significant nuisance) are very high. I view this Grade Inflation as ‘optics’, and how Ireland’s PISA scores ‘need’ to compare globally. I welcome the Leaving Certificate review now, with a view to more continuous assessment; but there must be proper teacher input.

With increasing marking scheme flexibility and grades rising, the original bell curve is being rewritten. Students are evidently being ‘marked up’ on their efforts and are possibly heading to college with unrealistic expectations. Can the class of 2023 actually revise and prepare their own high quality notes? With many struggling in first year in college, it seems no. Students are scoring higher than ever, but are they more knowledgeable than their predecessors? Radical percentage increases over short periods of time does not sit well with me. Will these changes serve our students well for third level study and future life? To be honest, I am doubtful. Not everything in life will be handed to you. Joe

More details about Joe’s Maths Tuition Classes 2023 for 5th & 6th Year (Leaving Certificate Students) and his Award Winning ACE Maths Solution Books for all students can be found via the below links:

ACE Maths Classes: acesolutionbooks.com/ace-maths-tuition
ACE Maths Solution Books: acesolutionbooks.com/ace-solution-books-package/

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Joe’s Jotter: Why Should Secondary School Students Eat Breakfast?

Students, you have heard your parents and other adults say many times that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” and that indeed is a hard fact. A decent breakfast will give you the energy to start each morning, help balance your weight and allow you to complete the tasks and challenges you face every day more efficiently. Breakfast is equally as important for children as it is for adults and a healthy one is a vital part of our health and wellbeing. The importance of breakfast as the first meal of the day has been scientifically proven; so in fact your parents are actually correct.

Imagine food is the fuel for your daily activity. During exams and indeed school time, your body will demand good quality clean fuel and regular refuelling in order to nourish itself and maximise your concentration, starting first thing in the morning. I’ve had my own experience in relation to eating breakfast. In my early teaching career, I didn’t eat anything in the morning until my first small break (eleven o’clock). During the early morning, I found myself regularly on edge and low in energy. I noticed that just before this break, my body was actually craving food and my focus had diminished. Basically, what was happening was my blood sugar levels had dropped too low and my concentration was poor during my first two hours teaching each day and I knew it.

Good Morning Habits

As an experienced teacher, I am familiar with students’ poor morning eating habits. Many students don’t feel like food, or their stomach is unsettled early in the morning. Students who eat late at night may be getting messages from their stomach that their body is still living off those energy stores. That’s OK. But students: ‘Please just eat something’, no matter how small, to kick-start your system again. If you think about it logically, your body has not fuelled up for eight to ten hours during the night, so denying it any longer makes no sense at all, especially from a blood sugar and energy point of view.

There are hundreds of good breakfast options that aren’t that time consuming to prepare. These include Smoothies containing fruit, plain yoghurt or chopped fruit with whole grain cereals and milk. A mixture like crushed nuts, a small dollop of organic honey and plain yoghurt can be quickly made and eaten. Homemade granola bars are great for when you’re on the go and better than the sugar-packed store-bought ones. Get your Parents to make you a batch or have a go yourself for the craic.

Personally, I would recommend the following foods for breakfast: Oats, Muesli, Grapefruit, Watermelon, Greek yoghurt, Smoothies, Wholemeal bread, Scrambled eggs, Bananas, Low sugar cereal, Actimel, Low sugar orange juice and Low sugar multivitamin juice. If there are healthy wholesome foods you find hard to consume for breakfast, put other foods on top so that their unpalatable taste is masked. An example of this is to put bananas, fruit, yoghurt, or honey on your porridge (cooked oats). I have found that my performance, energy, and concentration has improved greatly in school during the day now that I have introduced porridge into my diet. I recommend you try it for yourselves.

Your Role as Parents

Parents, if your child skips breakfast before school, they are more likely to be tired throughout the day and will have reduced concentration levels. Preparing and encouraging them to consume a breakfast that is packed full of fibre, carbohydrates, grains, and protein will help boost concentration levels, improve memory, and will stop complaints of hunger as the morning progresses. 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. By preparing breakfast the night before, or getting them to prepare their own, you can cut wasted time in the morning. Avoiding the ‘Coco Pops’ style breakfast cereal is certainly one that’s recommended.

Six Compelling Reasons to Eat Breakfast

  1. The Gap: Breakfast is the first meal you eat after sleeping through the night. You may not feel it, but your body is actually craving food and needs refuelling.
  2. Fighting Sickness: Skipping breakfast weakens your immune system and may increase your chances of becoming ill quicker as a result.
  3. Concentration Levels: A correlation between concentration and our ability to perform tasks has been proven through research. Food is known to enhance concentration.
  4. Serotonin Boost: Eating breakfast boosts levels of serotonin (a mood enhancer chemical that helps you feel better and maintain stability throughout the day).
  5. Increased Variety: Breakfast foods like whole grain cereals, eggs and porridge contain plenty of vitamins, minerals, and fibre, and add great variety to your diet.
  6. Good Start: A scheduled healthy breakfast will help your body run like a well-oiled machine all day. It is the best start to any busy day and heaven knows we need that now in 2023. Joe.

‘Breaks are your reward for hard work.’

More details about Joe’s Maths Tuition Classes 2023 for 5th & 6th Year (Leaving Certificate Students) and his Award Winning ACE Maths Solution Books for all students can be found via the below links:

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

ACE Maths Solution Books: acesolutionbooks.com/ace-solution-books-package/

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Photo:@ZhangChaosheng

Joe’s Jotter: How to Prepare for Exams ‘Home Alone’ (Episode 2)

 

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 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*

*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 (on non-school days). 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

‘Do the preparation work for you. Not your Parents, Friends, or Teachers.’

More details about Joe’s Maths Tuition Classes for 5th & 6th Year (Leaving Certificate Students) and his Award Winning ACE Maths Solution Books for all students can be found via the below links:

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

ACE Maths Solution Books: acesolutionbooks.com/ace-solution-books-package/

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Joe’s Jotter: The Importance of 5th Year and Approaches to it

As the first year of Senior Cycle, often students tend to let 5th year slip by, without taking advantage of the fact that they have no state exams at the end of it. From an academic point of view, students should use 5th year to create and summarise the best possible set of notes, as well as getting into good homework and revision habits. Paying attention to these two key aspects will allow students to build a good foundation for their final Leaving Cert (LC) year.

With no standardised structure to Transition year (and many students opting for it now), It can be difficult to settle back into patterns of revision and preparation in 5th year. Parents have a big role to play, as students look to regain momentum once again. From working with a lot of 6th year students each week, I can reassure parents that the majority of students do find their motivation and focus again in LC year; so, try not to get too anxious about this. Below are some ideas and considerations on how students should approach 5th year and indeed how you as a parent, with increased awareness, can smooth their passage in 6th year.

Approaches and Considerations for 5th Year Students 2022

  1. It is an opportunity to produce high quality notes in preparation for the LC exam.
  2. It gives students a chance to research third level courses they may be interested in.
  3. Students get to explore different ways of learning, discovering which one’s work for them.
  4. They find out which subjects aren’t their favourite and of which they need to refocus on.
  5. Being a bit more mature, students learn to listen better and work closer with teachers.
  6. They can pick subjects they genuinely have an interest in. It is crucial to choose well.
  7. Students may need a rethink about their attitude to school and their futures.
  8. Students need to enhance their ‘Exam Smart’ skills and knowhow on ‘excelling in exams’.
  9. 5th Year is Important for making new friends to support their senior cycle journey.
  10. Students should investigate how they can share work and notes with fellow students.
  11. Keeping up in class is half the battle in Senior Cycle – this is my number one tip.
  12. As a 5th year, be sure to develop a system of note taking and strive to be ‘super organised’.
  13. Discover and consider your strengths and weaknesses in 5th lean towards your assets.
  14. Students should use the final term of 5th year to prepare a revision plan for their LC year.
  15. Getting involved in extracurricular in 5th year will make Senior cycle a lot more enjoyable.
  16. Setting small achievable goals each week will help students maintain daily motivation.
  17. 5th is a good year to reflect on the evening routine: Dinner, homework, sport, revision etc
  18. Students can research techniques on ‘feeling grounded’ if they are feeling overwhelmed.
  19. Use this year to build up constructive & positive working relationships with your teachers.
  20. Discover how to enjoy learning in 5th by retaining variety and fun in your revision & life.

More details about Joe’s Maths Tuition Classes for 5th & 6th Year (Leaving Certificate Students) and his Award Winning ACE Maths Solution Books for all students can be found via the links:

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

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

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Joe’s Jotter: How to Prepare for Exams ‘Home Alone’ (Episode 1)

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

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

Next Day’s Plan

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

Learning Successfully at Home

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

Your Study Area

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

‘Check the plan the night before for tomorrow. Adjust and make it achievable.’

More details about Joe’s Maths Tuition Classes for 5th & 6th Year (Leaving Certificate Students) and his Award Winning ACE Maths Solution Books for all students can be found via the links:

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

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

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Joe’s Jotter: My ACE Pointers to Help Students Settle Back into Revision

Students,

As we reach the end of our first month in school, you may be struggling to return to some kind of a revision routine. Here are six useful signposts for all students to get you back into the swing of completing homework and revising classwork.

  1. Take regular breaks.

Yes, really! Taking short five-minute breaks every thirty minutes should keep you fresh and focused. However, make sure that five minutes doesn’t turn into an hour! Go for a short walk, call up a friend or have a snack and then come back to your work on time. Some studies have found that having a natter with friends can have a positive effect on memory and that laughing increases serotonin (the body’s chemical that makes you happy). It is important to leave your study area during your breaks to get a change of perspective and return with renewed energy for the next session. Enjoyable breaks will allow you to become more efficient with your study blocks. Setting mini targets like completing a long exam question followed by a prolonged break is a smart way to operate.

  1. Stay alert and interested.

When reading, it is a good idea to make notes or highlight key terms. I believe you should always revise with a pen at hand. I feel that just by reading a piece of text, you are not actively engaging with it. In my experience, you will remember more by summarising it or even just by making red or green sub notes on the page. This method keeps the brain tuned in to the task at hand. Other learning methods you might consider for variety include YouTube videos, online quizzes, or creating mind maps. If you find yourself struggling to stay alert, you are probably tired, and it may be time for a break or retirement for the evening.

  1. Be ruthless with your notes.

Many students go to educational institutions after Christmas to boost their store of materials and, of course, their confidence. However, I have seen many students over the years become overwhelmed with too much material and they just end up getting swamped, not knowing where to start. In subject areas you find difficult, reduce your material into manageable, thought-provoking snippets. If you take notes in class, make sure to date and keep them for revision later. Dig out last year’s material requiring revision at this point. It is important to keep a record of what topics you have done in class and how long your teacher has spent on them. This will ensure you are clear on what has been covered and what still needs to be investigated. Being persistently consistent in relation to your notes is a big factor in doing well in exams.

  1. Set goals and keep records.

Setting goals will help you monitor your study and will give you something to work towards. If you under perform in a class test, set a mini goal for your next test to improve by a certain percentage. In your school journal, write down all your goals and check them off as you complete them – name it a ‘Junior Cycle or Leaving Cert bucket list’. Ultimately, use long-term goals to motivate you to ACE the short-term ones. Long-term goals might include a points target in your Leaving Certificate, a possible trip to third level or scoring that rewarding job later. A short-term goal will help you get where you want to be long term. Reviewing the success of your short-term goals every two weeks will give you a sense of achievement. An example of a short-term goal could involve summarising and understanding a chapter from your book and completing a past exam question relating to it. All my successful students over the years have created plans and set goals for themselves.

  1. Earn your rewards.

Don’t forget to ‘have a life’ as you develop a routine that works for you. Reward yourself after a long study session with a trip to the cinema or visit to your friends. Ultimately, reward yourself with breaks, taking a reasonable one after every good hour’s work. There is nothing wrong with the odd bar of chocolate, ice-cream, or packet of gummy bears; everyone who has done something constructive deserves a little thank you. Earn rewards with each thorough revision session you complete. This will Increase motivation and improve your overall revision output.

  1. Start thinking about Past Exam papers.

Those of you in Exam years: Are you familiar with the layout of each exam paper and its marking scheme? If not, you need to get checking. You can source all the past exam papers in the ‘Examinations Material Archive’ section of the examinations.ie website. If you are doing exams in 2023 and haven’t a set of exam papers for each subject, don’t delay, get them today. A large part of your revision should be to assess and practice answering questions from past exam papers (under time pressure) on the topics you have covered in class. Remember also that each subject’s exam paper is different, so you need to familiarise yourself in each subject. You need to find out the exact layout and style of each individual paper. Is there a choice in sections? How many questions do you need to attempt in each section? Are there short/long questions or both? And most importantly, how long can you plan to spend on each individual question? Being super familiar with paper layout is key. Joe

‘Eat that Elephant, chunk by chunk, bit by bit, step by step.’

More details about Joe’s Maths Tuition Classes for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate (2023) and his Award Winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below.

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

Joe’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert

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Joe’s Jotter: Performing Well in Difficult Subjects (Case Study – Maths)

As you settle into the new year, teachers and parents totally understand that even though you are making great strides, you still have plenty of fears. From speaking with students over the years, 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 revising all subjects and getting your head space right.

Preparing for one of your less favoured subjects is a blatant case of having to ‘get on with it’. Of course, it is easier to revise and work on subjects you enjoy and are good at, but you must not ignore the others. Studying and preparing the ‘frog subjects’ is probably the biggest challenge you will face in school. You must prioritise these subjects on your weekly ‘Lifestyle Study Timetable’. I will detail how to setup this timetable in a later blog feature. Author and reconstructive surgeon, Jack Penn, once said:

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

Building Confidence in Maths

Maths is one of those subjects that many students find difficult. To me Maths is about grafting to understand the basics, building your confidence, and not being prepared to give up easy. Always start by attempting the easier topic questions (usually the part a’s and b’s) and subsequently graduating to the part c’s and d’s. You should check your work as you go against a good quality solutions book and thus be constantly ‘learning by doing’. Here are some of my top tips to improve your performance in Maths (and its exam) at any level.

Joe’s Top Tips for Success in Maths

  1. Put formulas, explanation of words and keynotes into a little pocket notebook.
  2. Practice as many past exam questions as you can and check your answers against a fully developed and explained solutions book.
  3. Challenge yourself to try and come up with a second method of doing questions.
  4. Try to approach each question from different angles. Always write down something. Do not be afraid of making a mistake.
  5. Draw a diagram (if possible) and label it to simplify a question.
  6. Be familiar with what is and what is not in your log tables.
  7. When studying, exhaust all attempts to answer an exam question before referring to your solutions book. Do not give up easily.
  8. Read each question in Maths carefully underlining the key words and phrases.
  9. At all levels, if you feel overwhelmed by the length and difficulty of the course – start with basic Algebra
  10. Find yourself a study buddy to share questions and resources with. Discuss problems with each other and encourage.
  11. Use various Internet sites as a companion to improve your Maths skills.
  12. Consult your teacher about problems with topics or specific Maths questions during and after class.
  13. Start by attempting basic questions for each Maths topic, building up to a full exam question. Answer the exact question being asked.
  14. The word FAIL in Maths for me means First Attempt In Learning
  15. Do not be afraid to explain a solution to a question with words if you cannot do so with numbers and symbols.
  16. Spend five to ten minutes daily going over what you have learned in class that day.
  17. Every time you write down a formula, draw a box around it to help you remember it. Check if this formula is in your log tables. If not, you need to memorise it.
  18. Anything that you type into your calculator (related to a question) must be written on your answer book/copy also.
  19. Have all resources present when doing Maths questions i.e. Full Maths set, pencil, calculator, and log tables.
  20. 3rd and 6th Years, practice as many previous exam questions as you possibly can.
  21. Rewrite sample questions given in your textbook to get an understanding of the basics.
  22. It is ok to look at a solution to a question if you have tried your best to solve it alone. Use the answer to figure out the exact method for the question. Re-do it without help.
  23. Work with groups of friends on harder Maths questions. Bounce ideas off each other in order to understand and learn from their thinking.
  24. Always write out every single step of your answer. This will be easy to look back, revise and follow later.
  25. Talk positive about subjects you find difficult. Don’t throw away your shot at success by talking your way into failure.

In next week’s Joe’s Jotter, I will advise 2nd and 3rd year students on how to restart their revision routine. Don’t miss it. To view last week’s feature article on ‘How to Efficiently Review your Exam Scripts’, click here. Get in touch if I can help you in any way. Joe.

‘Sail on the Seas of ambition and land on the shore of success.’

More details about Joe’s Maths Tuition Classes for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate (2023) and his Award Winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below.

ACE Maths Tuition 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 Best Ways to Navigate Secondary for a Student with SEN

 

Students who have Special Educational Needs (SEN) can struggle with various different tasks each day at Secondary School. As teachers and parents of first year students, we want to make their transition to Secondary School as smooth as possible.

The Additional Educational Needs (AEN) Coordinator manages resources for the one in four students (ESRI, 2017) who benefit from support that goes beyond standard classroom teaching. Resource Teachers provide such support and often facilitate learning in small groups or on a ‘one to one’ basis. Practical supports are provided by Special Needs Assistants (SNA’s) to allow some students access the curriculum as independently and inclusively as possible. Many schools have autistic classes where ‘best practice’ in inclusion means that autistic students are supported by the whole school community to develop their strengths, meet their potential and enjoy school life alongside siblings and peers.

This feature article should provide some sapient advice on how you can help your child navigate their day-to-day engagements more seamlessly. It also contains some useful advice and informative recommendations for Parents of Students with SEN that are already attending Secondary School (2nd Years upwards). As I see it, the support they require is twofold: ‘Home’ Support and ‘School’ Support.

 The ‘Home’ Support

  1. Photocopy their timetable, have copies in their locker, on the fridge, in their journal and for their pocket.
  2. Photocopy their bus ticket. Have a spare ticket in their school bag, at home and in their school locker in case it is misplaced.
  3. Get colour coordinated folders. Give each subject a colour. For example, all English related work and notes goes into a green folder. Put a green sticker on the English textbook and English copies and colour code ‘English’ green on their timetable. If you have a map of the school, then the room where English class takes place should also be shaded green. Everything ‘English’ related is green and so on for each subject.
  4. If using a locker key, make multiple copies and get a springy key chain so that they can attach it to a loop on their pants or skirt. Alternatively, use a combination lock and get them to memorise the code between now and the start of school. Mark with nail varnish or spray paint to make it brighter and easier for them to see their property from a distance.
  5. Have a stash of spare copies and additional stationery material in a cupboard at home. Let them know where it is, so that they can draw on it as things go missing or get filled up.
  6. Have a morning checklist on the fridge for: books, lunch, keys, jacket, PE gear etc.
  7. If possible, arrange for them to tour the school before day one. It is also a good idea to do a trial run of their trip to school to get an idea of the route and timing. This will avoid any travel trauma’s during week one. Leaving extra time, if possible, is wise of course.

The ‘School’ Support

  1. If possible, arrange that they meet as many of their subject teachers and year head prior to starting back or as soon as is possible. This gives them certainty about who will be working with and helping them this year.
  2. Look into having a safe and reliable person that they can approach for help and advice in school on a daily basis.
  3. If they have a Special Needs Assistant (SNA), make sure that person has a copy of their colour coordinated timetable, a spare locker key and a copy of the bus-ticket. Provide this person with anything else that might smooth the transition back to school for your child.
  4. Make it your business to get to know your child’s Assistant Principals and Class Tutor as soon as the year commences. Connecting with teachers is always a good start to any year.
  5. Have a notebook that they can write in during the day in case they find something challenging. Both of you can reflect on it together when a suitable time during the week arises, in order to see what challenges might need to be overcome.
  6. For the first hour each evening, allow them to breathe and relax when they get home. Do not expect them to talk immediately after school. It is advisable to allow them some quiet wind-down time first.
  7. Advise them to choose/request a Locker at eye level and at the end of a row. This is so important, as all their classmates and other classes may be scheduled to go to their lockers together, leading to mayhem at times. Having to reach down with people blocking their path can be especially challenging for someone with social or communication difficulties. This is definitely one practical suggestion that will ensure they are on time for each class and that they can get access to the correct materials for each class quickly also.
  8. Encourage them to link up with a buddy or designated person in each subject class, so they can text them to find out what homework they have, should the need arise.
  9. If they are using a laptop, most Secondary School books now come with a code written inside to allow the eBook version of it to be uploaded digitally. This means they can leave more books at school each day, lightening their load.
  10. Getting to know the school secretary, for both you and your child is very worthwhile, as this person will have an awareness of who your child is and what their challenges are etc. With high volumes of traffic, any extra support or eyes around the Secondary School environment can help greatly for those who struggle in various practical ways.
  11. Be aware that your child may get side-tracked at times, realising then that their class is already gone to the next period. This actually happened to me in first year and it’s not a good feeling. Talk to them about what to do in this scenario. Again, an idea for them might be to go to secretaries office. Talking through a few of these little potential situations can really ease their mind as they will retain a visual of what to do should they occur.

To view last week’s feature article on ‘Transitioning to 1st Year from Primary’, click here.

‘Sometimes, if you don’t take a risk, succeeding may become difficult.’

More details about Joe’s Maths Tuition Classes for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate (2023) and his Award Winning ACE Maths Solution Books are available below.

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

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

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Photo:@ZhangChaosheng

Joe’s Jotter: Tips to ACE the Transition into 1st Year (Part 2)

 

Practical steps to smooth the Transition into Secondary School

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

  1. The Importance of Learning Support

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

You may also wish to ask the school management team some key questions at the start of your child’s first year…

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

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

      Practical Tips for things to do…together at home

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


     Practical Tips for things they can do…at school

     

    • Having a safe person they can approach for help or advice, more than one if possible.
    • Carefully minding their colour coordinated timetable, the spare key/code and bus-ticket.
    • Trying to build up good relationships with their home room class, class tutor and year head.
    • Ask them to note their daily challenges in a little notebook. It is advisable not to expect them to talk immediately after school. Giving them some quiet processing time will allow you to get a gradual but subtle chat going as the night progresses.
    • Getting to know a friend in each class that they can text to find out what homework or revision they have for the next day. Classmates will vary depending on the subject.
    • Getting to know the school secretary, should any issues or concerns arise.

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

    ‘Do your best. That’s all that is ever asked of you.’

    More details about Joe’s Maths Tuition Classes for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate (2023) and his Award Winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below.

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

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

    *****

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Joe’s Jotter: Useful Insights for Parents on…Secondary School Maths

 

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 should help you as a parent to reach out and help your child with Maths in a more positive way. Read on…

The Second Year Maths 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 (external to the calculator) are the key elements to overcoming barriers. These topics are the three main pillars of Junior Cycle Maths and underpin and are linked to every other topic 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 a variety of 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 the Project Maths syllabus was introduced in 2008, 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 100% perfection on a Maths paper as they tend to be ‘question packed’, and unlike other subjects, there isn’t time for admiring your work. Students should apply this principle across the board to all their Maths tests in 2022/23.

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.

Always Follow Your Passion

Lastly, in a survey conducted a few years ago, 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 passions. Pursuing a spinoff of the subjects that a student enjoys each day in school wont set them too far wrong. Joe

**You can achieve more than you actually expect.**

 

To view last weeks feature article on ‘Transitioning into 1st Year or back to school’, click here.

More details about Joe’s Maths Tuition Classes for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate (2023) and his Award Winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below.

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

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

 

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Joe’s Jotter: Wholesome Summer Foddering for Students

 

Summer is a time for rest and reflection. As a student, do you ever think about your diet and the foods you eat? Do you go overboard on the junk food at times? Here are some pointers to read and have a think about as we approach mid-summer 2022. This article is not to lecture you, but rather to make you think about little adjustments you could make to ensure you are giving your body and mind the best possible chance as a new academic year approaches.

Target One or Two Improvements

Rather than aiming to overhaul your diet and what you eat, start by targeting one specific area for improvement before the new academic year kicks off. This should be something that is most relevant to you and is changeable, for example, breakfast. If you are someone who doesn’t eat a healthy breakfast, you could start by prioritising that. As you become more consistent with that meal, you can work on other mini targets, like eating more fruit and vegetables or reducing sugary drinks. It is important to be realistic about what you wish to achieve and give yourself a reasonable time period to achieve it.

Progress on any changes made should be judged over several weeks (rather than days), as new habits take time to form. Get a shopping list together and ask your parents to stock the fridge and freezer with specific whole foods. The more whole and natural a food is, the better. For example, a beetroot unpackaged and untouched is far better than a jar of sliced beetroot. You get the idea. If you can do a bit of cooking for yourself, you will never go hungry. Minor improvements to the quality of food you consume will help improve your concentration and focus going forward. Indeed, we all could do with that. More importantly for you, this will allow you to make a fast start for Term 1 in September.

You won’t go to far wrong by increasing your intake of fruit and vegetables for the remainder of the holidays. This will help you build up resistance to any bugs flying around come autumn time. Eating as many different coloured vegetables as you can is the secret to providing plenty of nutrients for your body. If you do opt for a takeaway (as is ok at times of course), cook some homemade vegetables to eat on the side. This balances the books a little and ensures you are still getting important vitamins and minerals.

Hydrate as Best You Can

Firstly, it’s important to know that your weight affects your fluid needs. You should drink 35ml of fluid daily for every kilogramme you weigh. For example, a 70kg (11 stone approx.) person should drink 2.45 litres per day. The recommended daily amount of water for a teenager is two litres, which works out at around at eight to ten glasses. The recommendation is to drink more than this if the day is particularly hot or if you are exercising. Research on athletes has shown that a two percent drop in hydration can lead to thirty percent drop in performance. This applies to any activity requiring a certain level of focus. It is also worth noting that a person’s body is made up of 50-60% water.

Water is the best form of hydration, and the benefits of water are well documented. Water increases energy, flushes out toxins, improves skin complexion, boosts the immune system, prevents cramps, balances the body’s fluids, promotes digestion, and eliminates waste products. Having all these benefits working in your favour is only going to help you maintain better health. Some low sugar fruit juices, like cranberry, blueberry and apple are also good for hydration and contain enzymes and vitamins. Fizzy drinks will also increase hydration, but again are to be avoided due to their high sugar content. Other foods to improve hydration include Cucumbers, Watermelon, Pineapple, Tomatoes, Blueberries, Pear, Lettuce, and Melon. Ultimately, sipping on water throughout the day is the best way to keep your body properly hydrated.

If you get dehydrated, your concentration for revision at home or performance on the sports field will be affected. Here are four tell-tale signs that your body is dehydrated and that you need to drink more fluids:

  • Dry mouth and skin: If you are dehydrated, you may not be producing enough saliva, which will lead to a build-up of bacteria in the mouth. Acne may also occur.
  • Food cravings: The body confuses thirst for hunger sometimes. Drinking water will reduce these cravings, as it is water your body often requires not food.
  • Headaches, tiredness, and confusion: A lack of water can lead to headaches during the day. This makes it very difficult to operate to your maximum capacity. Ask yourself the question, “Am I constantly tired?” If the answer is yes, you might just be lacking water in your diet. The process of learning and retaining information has been proven to be more difficult if your body lacks fluid.
  • Urine colour: The colour of urine should be light if you are well hydrated. The average hydrated person goes to the toilet to excrete urine six to eight times daily.

To combat dehydration, bring a bottle of water with you wherever you go. Keeping bottles of cold water in the fridge at home will make it easy to ‘grab and go’ and you can sip away on it as the day progresses. It is important to note that if you feel some of the above listed symptoms, your body may already be dehydrated. Prevention is better than cure in this case. Building good hydration into your everyday routine is a great habit to implement before Septembers’ resumption in school. Summertime presents an ideal opportunity to form this important habit. Joe

**Spend Time, Energy and Effort well over the next four weeks.**

More details about Joe’s Maths Tuition Classes for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate (2023) and his Award Winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below.

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

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

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Joe’s Jotter: Improving our Exam System 2022

 

The debate is ongoing in relation to continuous assessment at Secondary school, with a keen focus currently on the percentage and type of allocation taking place for the new Junior Cycle. Many subjects at Junior Cycle level now have Classroom Based Assessments (CBA’s) incorporated into them. With a review of the Leaving Certificate (likely to be rebranded the ‘Leaving Cycle’) taking place, I am wondering what is on the horizon? As with any change to an assessment model, we need to ensure there are transparent procedures in place and a clear sense of fairness is preserved.

Preserving Fairness

With the above in mind, firstly I feel that any continuous assessment introduced needs to be completed during school time. If students take work home, it may become an unfair competition depending on the socio-economic background of their parents and other extrinsic factors. i.e. I feel we can’t take the chance of having any external interference in projects or tasks that students are required to complete alone. We need to make sure a level playing field is retained for all students and that we don’t allow potential changes to tarnish or unbalance our currently solid exam system.

Should Teachers assess their own Students?

I strongly feel that projects and practical’s should not be corrected by the student’s own teacher. The department needs to hire suitably qualified personnel for these posts. They also need to properly resource schools for these assessments and allocate proper time on the timetable for students and teachers to prepare for them.

Teachers are clear that they don’t want to assess their own pupils. A teacher correcting their pupils’ work for any kind of state certification would leave our existing robust system open to all kinds of accusations. When I read articles from around the world and hear of exam papers being leaked and scandals over corruption in education, it’s clear to me that our exam system here in Ireland actually works pretty well. People need to be careful what they wish for. ‘The law of unintended consequences’ and ‘baby and bath water’ come to mind here. The SEC and our Department of Education and Skills have a great record of always acting professionally and with the utmost integrity when it comes to the exam process. These principles need to be maintained at all costs.

According to a January 2019 report from the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD) entitled ‘Senior Cycle Reform – What do we want?’, the responses are varied in relation to the question of exam assessment. For example, only 22% of principals, deputy principals and teachers support the practice of correcting their own students’ work, with many having concerns that a teacher would be biased against or for a student. That number increases to 30% of parents who would support such a change, with a slight majority of 51% of students wanting it. Not major numbers in favour there are they?

How can we Improve our Current Exam System?

In order to further improve the exam system, I would propose that we have a week of continuous assessment before Easter to take the pressure off the June bottleneck. Each student could still then enjoy their Easter holidays and return refreshed for the last push towards June’s finals. I think by spreading the load more, it would mean that all the focus for the student isn’t placed on one part of the academic year. This would greatly reduce the intensity levels for those two weeks in June.

Would studying a reduced amount of subjects (five for example) be an option?  I think the benefit of having less subjects would mean that students could spend more time exploring and even enjoying their selected ones. It might also take away the focus on how many CAO points a subject can yield and allow them to investigate topics (in these subjects) they genuinely have an interest in. Third level courses are usually made up of quite specific content compared to our current broad based Leaving Cert. Is our second level system too broad?  Are our students ‘Jack’s and Jill’s of all trades and masters of none’?

Another potential option might be a compulsory Transition year (TY) and implementing a form of continuous assessment at the end of that year. This would ensure the majority of students would be eighteen years old upon sitting their final exams and therefore be in a better position to decide on their third level/further education options also. The students could still enjoy their trips, experiences, and work placement in tandem with assessment in certain subjects. In addition to this, I would also like to see a system where all TY’s have the opportunity to sample leaving cert subjects. This would give them a deeper understanding of subject content, prior to making subject choices at the end of 4th year.

I am for some form of continuous assessment, but still feel the final exam is the best way to differentiate the students academically. I would be in favour of students having around 30% (approximately one-third) continuous assessment finalised in each subject, before sitting down to do their final exam papers at the end of 6th year. This would reduce current exam anxiety, especially if the student was made aware of what their score was out of 30 prior to the final exam. This is the way many third level modules operate now.

There are improvements we can make to our exam system, but I feel a lot is still right with it. We need initiatives that would take some pressure off our students, while maintaining the core integrity of the process. Indeed, there are many changes the department could make, and it seems some are afoot. Ultimately, I still firmly believe that sitting down to final exam papers should be retained as the main and fairest judgement. Joe

**Today is a new day. I can try yesterday’s unfinished task again.**

More details about Joe’s Maths Tuition Classes for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate (2023) and his Award Winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below.

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

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

*****

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Photo:@ZhangChaosheng

Joe’s Jotter – 25 Summer Reflections for Students

 

Students,

Here are some light reflections to help you enjoy your summer holidays and stay in a positive frame of mind.

  1. Enjoy these long summer days.
  2. Write down a vision for your future.
  3. Organise and store what books/materials that you need/don’t need for September.
  4. Take a step above it all and have a closer look at what you are doing.
  5. Once in a while, do something nice for someone. People appreciate generosity.
  6. Set mini goals. Even if you don’t get there, you are still moving in the right direction.
  7. Let people make their own mistakes, sometimes all you can do is advise them.
  8. Find yourself a role model for time management.
  9. Don’t spend any full day on the internet and mobile phone.
  10. If you have a particular problem, talk to someone who has been there.
  11. Be careful who you share your dreams with.
  12. Try and expand your circle of friends.
  13. Record on a sheet all the good things in your life and ignore the negative parts.
  14. Don’t fear change. Tackle it head on. Go for it.
  15. Write a wish list for the summer. Make it fun.
  16. Every so often, take time away from your devices and sit in silence.
  17. Reconnect with friends you have lost touch with over the last year or so.
  18. Go for walks outside in the fresh air – early morning and late night air is the best.
  19. Enjoy each sunny day and don’t take it for granted.
  20. Make a kind gesture to someone without asking for thanks or payment.
  21. Be kind to your Parents. They have made a big effort to help you this year.
  22. Get back into the sports and activities you missed out on this year.
  23. Keep your bedroom tidy and clean up after yourself at home.
  24. Record on a sheet all the things you are doing right in life – Focus on the positives.
  25. Bring back the lol’s.

More details about Joe’s Maths Tuition Classes for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate (2023) and his Award Winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below.

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

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

*****

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Joe’s Jotter: Choosing your Course (My CAO Countdown II)

Investigate each Course’s Content

Student’s, 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 associated with it. This tells you the exact layout of the course, how many credits each module has, how the exams are assessed, 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 the winter 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, there are other options. You should go on the SOLAS website (solas.ie) now to investigate further education alternatives. One could be: Further learning with your local Education and Training Board (ETB); 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, just below what you would come out with via the CAO system. These courses are one or two years in duration and often involve practical work experience with companies. The fees for these courses tend to be lower than your standard CAO courses and grants are available in many cases also. You can progress thereafter to a level 6, 7 or 8 course.

PLC courses allow you to see if an area of study or work may suit you. Some courses in third level set aside a quota of PLC (QQI) students to fill course places each year. If you achieve the required results in your chosen PLC course, a third level institution may accept you onto one of their courses. You should verify this will be the case beforehand 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 cover your bases.

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 recently expanded to include employers and jobs in many fields. Many of these companies involved would be delighted to take you on and help you grow and learn on the job. Apprenticeships were traditionally only for crafts persons like carpenters, electrician, plumbers etc. While these still exist, there are now new ones in ICT, Accountancy, Engineering, Insurance, Catering and Financial technology (Fintech) etc.

A traineeship is also another option which can be considered. A traineeship is based around making you 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’ based and therefore you can attain your qualifications and get a few quid to live and pay for accommodation also.

If you feel right now that the ‘direct route’ third level journey isn’t for you, have a good look at the above alternatives over the next few weeks. It is imperative to have a little plan in the background, should you not get what you want (See below). You may not even need to use it, but it will certainly give you comfort having it there on the back burner.

You must 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 and even 6th choice on your CAO form are really important. You would need to be content enough to accept these should it come to that. I cannot emphasise enough about the importance of checking out the module content of each course you choose. Genuinely ask yourself: ‘Would I do this course’?. This then sets the platform for your Plan B, C and D. Have a look at Part 1 of ‘My CAO Countdown’ advisory for specific questions you should ask yourself when deciding on your courses. If there are a limited amount of courses you really want above all others, contact that institution, 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 go to plan.

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 be open to travelling or living 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. This is an alternative Plan B to consider. Just like in Ireland, places in certain courses may become available when not filled in earlier rounds.

Six Final Key Points of Note

  1. Keep an eye on the CAO ‘alert list’ for new courses emerging in various colleges on www.cao.ie. Courses are added here on a continuous basis in the ‘Applicant Resources’ section of the ‘Course’ Tab on CAO.ie. You can add these into your CAO listing before July 1st (5pm). 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 listing. As this article goes to press, twenty four third level institutions have courses on the ‘alert list’. Subsequently, if there is a lower than expected application or take up of certain courses, these may be added to the ‘alert list’ after CAO round one.
  2. If you have applied for the HEAR or DARE scheme, you will find out if you are successful or not at the end of June. You will also be able to appeal any decision made from these schemes from early July. 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 around the end of June.
  4. The Leaving Cert results are due out the end of August, with the first round of CAO offers due to be issued a few days later. Don’t plan a ‘Leaving Cert holiday’ then!
  5. Students will be able to view their exam scripts (which I would recommend) soon after the results have been released. I will publish further guidance on this at the end of August, so keep an eye out for that. Subsequently, students will be able to appeal their grade in each subject (as required) by filling in a form provided by their school.
  6. I would recommend you sign up to the excellent https://careersnews.ie/ to keep up to date with announcements, CAO developments and news from third level institutions. They send a daily update to your inbox, which is very useful during those few weeks.

I will circulate another advisory article just before CAO Round 1 results are published in late August/early September.

To read Part 1 of this CAO advisory article, click here.

In the meantime, wishing you good luck with your upcoming choices. Joe

 

More details about Joe’s Maths Tuition Classes for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate (2023) and his Award Winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below.

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

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

*****

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Joe’s Jotter: Choosing your Course (My CAO Countdown I)

 

Change of Mind Oncoming

As the ink dries on the final few Leaving Cert Papers, the attention for 6th years immediately turns to reviewing and checking their CAO choices made earlier this year. With the CAO change of mind deadline approaching at months end, I felt it good timing to provide some guidance to help students re-evaluate and analyse their earlier decisions.

This is the first point in the year where the CAO process can lead to an amount of anxiety among students. As with every year, students are worried: ‘Will the points rise for my courses?’, ‘have I chosen the right courses in the correct order?’, ‘what if i don’t get my first choice?’ or maybe ‘what if i don’t even get an offer at all?’. This article should serve as a reminder of the importance of spending time properly researching your choices now. Knowing the CAO process well and having confidence in your choices will smooth the way for a less painless journey come results time in the Autumn.

I now strongly recommend that every student begins reviewing their initial choices (made way back in February) over the next few days and not leave it until the final hours, when making key decisions under the stress of a deadline isn’t good. I think it is well worth spending 4 to 5 days ensuring that you make the best possible choices for your future. Knowing you have done your research well will set your mind at ease for the rest of the summer. Your final CAO choices must be submitted online by 5pm on July 1st.

Complete The Final Check

In May, the CAO e-mailed you a ‘statement of application’ record. Open that e-mail now and check that every single detail on it is correct. It is important not to just check course names, codes, possible language exemptions etc, but also to check your personal details. If you spot any incorrect information or spellings, contact the CAO immediately. You can change most of these details online yourself. However, you will need to e-mail the CAO office to change your name, phone number or date of birth, if required.

It should be noted that any change you make to your CAO details/courses over the next few days will be confirmed to you by e-mail. You should always comb over these e-mails for accuracy. If this confirmation e-mail doesn’t arrive (keep an eye on your junk mail), again, contact the CAO office. If you make a mistake on your CAO form, you may not be able to correct it after July 1st. If you enter the incorrect course or accidentally place them in the wrong order, you could see the third level place you want given to another student. From this point of view, I would get a second person (a parent usually) to double check all your Information is accurate. All students must check their ‘Statement of application’ e-mail whether they are changing their mind on courses in this window or not.

How do I Get onto a Third Level Course?

To get your place on any third level course, you need to fulfil three elements. You need to reach the ‘minimum entry requirements’ e.g. For Trinity College Dublin (TCD), the standard matriculation requirements are pass grades in English, Mathematics, a language other than English, and a full set of valid subjects for your examination system. The second element you must meet is the ‘subject requirements’ for a course. e.g. You must get at least an O1/H6 in Maths to get into Engineering at Cork Institute of Technology (CIT). Thirdly, you obviously need to achieve the CAO points required for that course. The exact entry requirements will be listed on the CAO website for each individual course. The message here is that when you are viewing a course’s content and modules, carefully checkout the relevant requirements you need to attain also.

Genuine Order of Preference

The most important thing to be sure of is to put your course choices in the exact order you’d prefer them. You should not order them on how many points you think you will score or change them around based on how your exams went. At the end of a Leaving Cert exam in a specific subject, you may feel you have underperformed or haven’t reached the required grade for a course. Often, this may not be the case. Your first choice should be the course you want to do above all others (your dream course), no matter what last year’s points were. Your second choice is your well researched ‘Plan B’.

You have two separate lists to fill in. The level 6/7 list and the level 8 list. Level 6 is for higher certificate courses, Level 7 for ordinary degree and Level 8 for honours degree courses. You may be offered a course from both lists, but you can only accept one of these. No matter what college course you commence, you will always have the opportunity to progress to a higher one once you have completed your chosen one in full. The course you select is just the beginning of your career journey. It is not the final step.

On each list, be aware that if you are offered your second choice for example, you cannot be offered your third choice or below thereafter. In this scenario, you can still be offered your first choice in future CAO rounds. You can go upwards on each of your two lists but cannot go downwards. This makes your order of preference decision even more crucial.

Changing your Mind

You can change or add in new courses to your Level 6/7 and your Level 8 list before July 1st @ 5pm. The only courses that you cannot add in at this stage are called ‘Restricted courses’. Restricted courses will be marked in your CAO handbook. An example of a restricted course may be a Music degree where a practical element was required to be completed earlier. Another example is Medicine where the ‘HPAT’ exam is also completed and assessed prior to CAO day.

Ideally, fill out all ten choices on both lists. I would advise entering at least seven courses on both lists to cover your bases well; choosing courses you have a genuine interest in.

How to Choose a CAO Course

When selecting your courses, ask yourself questions like:

  1. What areas did I enjoy learning about in school?
  2. What subjects in school have i a natural curiosity for?
  3. What subjects in school didn’t really feel like work?
  4. What modules would get me up for early lectures on cold winter mornings?
  5. Is there a topic or career I believe I have a passion for?
  6. Am I narrowing my focus on a specific area too much?
  7. What subject would I like to find out more about?
  8. Could I see myself working in this career or a similar one in five years’ time?
  9. What draw’s me to this course?
  10. Have I a good solid Plan B?

You don’t need to know the exact answers to all of these above questions, but it will certainly get you thinking about the reality of whats ahead and your current decisions. A bit of soul searching is necessary before reaching your final order of preference. Keep in mind also that you will probably be graduating in three or four years’ time, so think ahead a little about what jobs and careers might be in demand them.

In general though, select your courses based on your talents and passions, not how much money you can earn from a career or what other people think. Oh! and did I mention the deadline is July 1st at 5pm? I did of course. The sooner you start your deliberations, the more thinking time you will have. 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 2022. Part two of ‘My CAO Countdown’ will be published and circulated next week. Joe

More details about Joe’s Maths Tuition Classes for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate (2023) and his Award Winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below.

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

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

*****

*****
Photo:@ZhangChaosheng