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: 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: Tips to ACE the Transition into First Year (Part 1)

 

There are so many genuine concerns for students as they make the leap into the big pond that is secondary school. Over the next few weeks, I will provide Information and direction to help you as a parent to reduce the stress of this unique transition. This feature article comes in two parts. Firstly, i will analyse the differences between Primary and Secondary School followed by my Top twenty tips for Transitioning from one to the other. A further instalment of this feature will follow online in two weeks’ time. There will also be a feature article to aid Parents (of Secondary School students) who have children with a Special Educational Need (SEN) published soon.

The Main Differences Between Primary and Secondary School

Subjects and Settling into Secondary School

  • All first year students will take Irish, English, Maths, Science, History and Wellbeing (excluding exemptions).
  • Students may get a chance to sample subjects in first year before committing to them.
  • Extra-curricular activities such as debating, drama, science club etc may be available.
  • It is a great idea for students to join clubs and make new friends. Remind them about some of the skills of making friends; good eye-contact, smiling, showing interest in other children and reciprocal conversational skills. Making friends is a key element to settling into any secondary school.
  • Encourage your child to enjoy many school activities. I did a study of a panel of footballers I coached previously, and they performed better on average academically compared to their peers. This suggests a link between activity, socialisation, and performance.
  • If your child enjoys a specific sport or activity, it is a good idea to get to know the teacher who co-ordinates it.
  • It will be exciting for your child to start new subjects if the school offers them. For example: wood technology, home economics, engineering, business studies etc.
  • Students should give each subject an equal amount of homework time for the first few weeks to give each one a chance.
  • It is wise for students to complete the homework of their less favoured subjects first each evening. This will ensure their concentration is at its maximum for these subjects.
  • The better your child’s teachers know them, the better working relationship in class they will have with them. This also feeds back into what extra-curricular activities they sign up to. Personally, I find that the better I know my students, the more I am able to help them in the classroom. Encourage your child to build positive relationships with their teachers, even if they aren’t crazy about their personality or teaching style.
  • Advise your child to enjoy their secondary school experiences. This takes any early pressure off them.

The Secondary School Structure

  • The Subject Teacher – most teachers teach two subjects and may spend up to six classes per week with your child.
  • The Tutor/Form/Home Room Teacher – involved in attendance, day to day and possibly some pastoral care or disciplinary work.
  • The Year Head – Home room teachers report to this person. They usually deal with serious discipline and pastoral care issues etc.
  • Deputy Principal and Principal – Admin, School Organisation, Events, Final decisions etc.
  • First Year Students – Students are usually divided into 4 or 5 class groups of around 25 to 30 people (depending on the size of the school). They will remain with this base class for core subjects: Irish, English, Maths, Wellbeing etc. The majority of schools have mixed ability classes in first year. This tends to help with socialisation.

‘Mixed-ability groupings in first Year leads to improved progress in literacy and numeracy and can give students more confidence as learners’

(Moving Up -ESRI/NCCA 2004).

  • Students are usually mixed in their base classes based on Information from their Education Passport (provided by their primary school) and performance in their entrance tests.
  • Streaming may occur in some subjects in second year. This is where students are grouped by their ability – Higher and Ordinary. e.g. Maths
  • The student council body suggests ideas and raises student related issues with school management. Usually one student is nominated from each class or year. This is the students’ vehicle for discussion and influencing change. The schools’ head girl/boy and deputy head girl/boy are usually elected by the school’s student council.

The Day to Day School Routines

  1. It’s important for students to have a substantial breakfast each morning e.g. Porridge, fruit, yoghurt, or a wholesome cereal. Students will need something ample to sustain them until little break when they can have a snack. Advise them on the sensibility of not eating their packed lunch at the first small break and being hungry for the afternoon then as a result.
  2. Roll call, locker access and lunch are at certain times. If your child tends to be dis-organised, make sure to advise and help them to plan ahead for these situations. Ask them to speak to their class tutor or mentor/buddy if any early issues emerge here.
  3. Get them to copy out their timetable into their journal in order to get familiar with it. Colour coding subjects on this timetable can help them track their progress for the week.
  4. In some schools, the students travel to the teacher’s base rooms. In other schools, the teachers move around, and each class group has their own base. Having the correct materials for each class every day is Important. Checklists can help here. Being efficient at having these materials will greatly help the transition into secondary school and keep your child’s stress levels down. Colour coding or identifying belongings with a unique mark also works well.
  5. Moving around a new building can be disconcerting for a child. They can get lost which can be upsetting for them. Advise them to tag on to one person from the class for the first few days or weeks until they get their bearings.
  6. Many schools have gone to hour long classes to facilitate recent Junior Cycle changes. During the first few weeks settling in, they will be tired each evening. It may be an idea to plan ahead so that extra-curricular activities outside school are minimised during this period. After this ‘fitting in’ period is over, plough on with these important pastimes as normal.

Twenty ACE Tips for Transitioning into First Year

  1. Talk with your child, listen to their views and concerns and answer any questions they may have about the planned move. Talk to them about individual subjects. Help them plan their evenings and the fact that each one will now be different.
  2. Many students get anxious about tests. You can explain that they are to help the school to learn more about the supports that they may need. Advise them to speak with the individual subject teacher if they are concerned in any way about a subject or an upcoming test.
  3. Try and bring them inside the school building before term starts. This is to familiarise them with the school at a time when there are fewer people in the building. They can learn about the layout of the school and maybe get to know some of their new teachers. They can become familiar with the operation of the school including the frequency of bells, the location of lockers, where their base room is, and the location of other key practical rooms.
  4. Involve your child in buying schoolbooks, uniform, P.E. gear, materials etc. Involve them in more decision making from now on. Empowerment fosters ‘buy in’ from them and works.
  5. Talk to your child about the length of the school day, how a timetable works and travelling to school. Trial runs are good. Leaving early for school each morning will minimise any anxiety caused by rushing. Anticipate where they may get anxious during the day.
  6. Talk regularly over the next few weeks about the new school rules, P.E. arrangements, the canteen, lunch breaks, uniform, and the timetable. Make yourself familiar with the policies of the school. Regularly check the school’s website for any news or policy updates.
  7. Ensure that as many of their subject teachers know about your child’s exact strengths and difficulties. i.e. Some of this information is on their ‘Education Passport’.
  8. During term one, if possible, visit the school every so often to meet their subject teachers, the tutor, and their year head. Check their journals regularly for any notes sent home.
  9. Get your hands on or draw up a map of the school to promote familiarisation.
  10. Consider that it may take your child time to adapt to a new classroom, new teachers, new activities, and new subjects. Ensure they build in down time each evening to maintain freshness and enthusiasm for the next set of daily challenges ahead. Unlike Primary School, every week differs, and things can be more unpredictable for them.
  11. Organising Issues: Be sure to plan ahead by purchasing additional materials for each subject. School booklists and stationary lists are your first port of call here.
  12. If possible, show them a few little skills around note-taking. Most of their subject teachers may not get the opportunity to work on this vital skill due to the focus mainly being on content.
  13. Talk about and help clarify the Locker process. Many kids get bogged down with this.
  14. Advise them to use their mentor or buddy, and class tutor as best they can.
  15. Getting clever at knowing what equipment is required for each class is important: i.e. protractors, setsquares, colours, stencil sets, rulers, pens, calculators etc. A good tip is to remind them to write down each teachers’ instructions during week one about what is required in each subject. There is no need to carry all of their books all of the time. Put their Class Timetable and School Calendar on the fridge at home as a reminder to all.
  16. Encourage them to sign up to a few clubs and society’s on ‘club’s day’ in September.
  17. Re-enforce the key habit of recording Information, especially in relation to homework. Check their Journal weekly to ensure homework is being recorded and completed properly.
  18. Get the 3-way communication lines going i.e. Teachers-Parent-Student. In primary school, it was more about the Teacher-Parent link. Start including your child in more appropriate conversations from now on. This allows them to feel more important and take more ownership of their school day, and ultimately their learning.
  19. Do as much preparation for each school day the night before as you can. Get your child into the habit of having the uniform out, bag correctly packed by the door, lunch ready etc. This again will reduce stress levels for all involved in the morning madness. Again, consider using a checklist with your child if they struggle to organise themselves in the mornings.
  20. At secondary school, the days tend to be longer. Encourage them to start their day with nutritious food. They should grab something and eat it in the car on hectic mornings. Of course, this isn’t ideal but is certainly better than going without as another busy day starts for them.

To view last week’s feature article on ‘Anticipating Better Revision for 2022/23’, click here.

Part 2 of transitioning Insights into First Year will be published online in two weeks’ time. Don’t miss it. Do contact me if I can advise you in any way. Joe

**Leaders are made. Heroes earn their status**

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 – 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: Was your Revision Good Quality this Year?

 

Students,

Did you struggle to find the best ways to revise this year? Did you feel like your classmates were always a step ahead of you in class? Do you just read your notes aimlessly hoping you will remember some of it later? What areas of revision did you fall down on this year?

Each student learns differently. Each student needs to trial different methods until they find the ones that suit them best. Learning is most constructive when a student approaches a topic from different angles to get a better handle on it. The more ways you can approach learning, as opposed to just ‘learning off’ material, the more successful you will be.

Successful students are those who can think critically about the content presented to them. To do this, you as a student should carefully read the information presented by the author, understand it as best you can, and then begin to question and really think about it. Being critical of text doesn’t just mean being negative; it also means being knowledgeable and really assessing the quality of the information. My ACE tip here is to use your imagination, challenge the question being asked and never be afraid to offer your own personal opinion on topics. State Examiners love personal opinions, as it shows you can think independently.

In 2013, The Open University (UK) developed a ‘stairway’ model to help students understand the skills of critical thinking. Students can apply these steps to a specific topic in order to understand it better. I think this is an excellent way of actively revising, as you are reflecting on all aspects of the information presented. This method would be particularly useful in subjects like English, Economics, History, Geography and Business.  The steps are as follows:

  • Process: take in the information (i.e. in what you have read, heard, seen, or done).
  • Understand: comprehend the key points, assumptions and arguments presented.
  • Analyse: examine how these key components link together.
  • Compare: explore the similarities and differences in each idea you are reading about.
  • Synthesise: bring together different sources of information making logical connections between them.
  • Evaluate: assess the worth of an idea in terms of its relevance to your needs.
  • Apply: transfer the understanding gained and use in response to questions, assignments, and projects.
  • Justify: use critical thinking to develop arguments, draw conclusions, and identify implications.

In today’s more modern Junior and Leaving Certificate, you need to be able to apply knowledge to a topic. Learning off too much information is a common mistake made by students and is not recommended. This is the opposite of applying knowledge. There is more of an emphasis now on applying everyday life experiences to questions asked. Besides, if you were to feel nerves, you are less likely to remember a lengthy essay you have memorised.

Your revision time is better served by preparing summaries, bullet points, post-its, key points, and mind maps. The State exams are now more about identifying important information in a question and discussing its merits, as opposed to emptying the contents of your head onto the answer book. Mix the content you have revised in class with what is going on in your own life. This is something to reflect on as you plan your Autumn revision strategy in each subject.

 

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: 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

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Photo:@ZhangChaosheng

Joe’s Jotter: Guiding your Child Through Exams 2022

Your Role as a Parent as Exams Approach

One of your main roles, as parents, around exam time is to create a good atmosphere at home. It will be important to remain calm and try not to transfer additional pressure on to your child in the lead up. 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 their stress levels.

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 or daughter be their best around exam time. This advice applies to all types of examinations, not just the Junior and Leaving Certificate.

  • 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 exam 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 their daily story to you. 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 anxiety 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 the 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. How all students manage their time from now on is key. Wishing you luck, especially if you are a ‘first time exam parent’.

To view last week’s feature article on ‘Why Practicing Past Exam Questions in Maths is Crucial’, 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

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Joe’s Jotter: Why Practicing Past Exam Questions in Maths is Crucial

 

Practicing past exam questions is essential if you’re looking to score highly in either Higher or Ordinary level Maths this June. Similar question types come up regularly; but you still need to revise all the topics on your course, as the Maths exam isn’t predictable anymore. Both sections (A and B) at Leaving Cert higher and ordinary levels are important and the correct amount of time must be left for the longer questions in Section B, as they tend to require more thought.

The new Maths syllabus at both Junior and Leaving Certificate level is quite crowded with a lot of material to get through, not to mention trying to link up topics in true Project Maths style. Incidentally ‘Project Maths’ was the name given to the subject ‘Mathematics’ when it was rebranded in 2008. It has now reverted to ‘Maths’ after this bedding in period.

Why Past Exam Questions are Key!

With so much to cover during class time, it is difficult for teachers to expose their students to any substantial level of past exam questions during term time. The reality is that many teachers will only fully complete the course after Easter, through no fault of their own. It is up to each individual student to dust off their book of past exam papers and start by initially attempting the part (a)’s and (b)’s of as many exam questions as they can. Initially focus on topics you have covered yourself in class in order to build up your competence. My advice is to work on the last six or seven years past papers to get a grasp on what comes up in certain topics. If your exam paper book is filling up, re-print the papers in it. These are free to download on the examinations website. Set your stopwatch and test to see can you really do a question against the clock without your notes.

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

Doctor Maths, the Poet.

To commence, attempt all past exam questions to the best of your ability with guidance from your textbook and class notes. This allows you an access route into questions you are unable to start. Subsequently, refer to a good solutions book to see how accurately you are progressing. With an unprecedented level of detail, my exam paper solutions (ACE Maths Solution Books) at both Junior and Leaving Certificate levels are an ideal companion to revise Maths effectively for this year’s exams. You should start by practicing and familiarising yourself with the language used on past papers. 5th Years also need to start planning ahead. Most Maths teachers will put past exam questions on a 5th Yr Summer Maths Paper.

Your exam paper focus should always be on practicing previous official state exam questions under time pressure. Replicating exam hall pressure is a brilliant way to hone your skills and really check if you can complete the question asked within the time limit allocated. I would start by taking on a short question or two against the clock, and then a longer question, until eventually you feel confident enough to take on a full paper. Constantly doing questions out from your textbook will never fully prepare you for a full sit down test paper in Maths. This is where a lot of students are going wrong.

 

 Using Past Exam Questions to your Advantage

Knowing how to work with past papers and making the most of them is a skill in itself. Some key preparation tips to keep in mind while tackling past papers are:

  • Start with questions you can do in order to build confidence and reduce anxiety as you commence your revision routine.
  • Solve as many past exam questions as possible from every topic on the course. This will help you understand the type of questions that are asked and also how much work you still need to do to reach your target score in the subject.
  • Estimate how an examiner would have graded your work by comparing your solution against a detailed Maths solution book. Using a solutions book to mark your own questions will allow you to see how your percentages are stacking up.
  • Maintain an error-log on mistakes you keep making. This will help you get to know your weak points and what traps you are regularly are falling into.
  • Everyone has deficiencies in Maths. To overcome these, attempt extra questions from topics you are struggling with.
  • When solving past questions, make a habit of always timing yourself with a stopwatch. This will help you improve speed and manage your timing better during the actual exam. Practice makes perfect. Treat your revision work at home as the training sessions before the actual matches in the exam hall.

Doing an exam question trial at home every week will greatly improve your performance in the final exam. After some time, you will cut out silly errors and feel calmer about tackling a full paper. This process will give you the belief that you can get the awkward question started or tackle the unseen graph or diagram on the day.

  Commence a Strict Diet of Past ‘Exam Questions’ Today

If I was in 6th year, i would move quickly now onto the strict but ultimately rewarding ‘Past Exam Question’ diet. Here are some directions to consider as you trawl through good quality past exam questions and their solutions over the next few months:

  • You need to get practicing multiple real life application questions (Section B)
  • You need to get familiar with marking schemes and how marks are allocated
  • You need to practice exam questions under time pressure
  • Constantly strive to get used to the wording, layout, and style of past questions
  • Get accustomed to how the examiners are phrasing exam questions now
  • Be conscious of the fact that there is extra text and less numbers on the papers now
  • You need to be aware that you could now be asked to ‘explain your answer’
  • Be familiar with justifying your answers using Maths calculations
  • Practice different strategies for starting unseen or unexpected questions
  • Be familiar with the exact meaning of each word that appears on past papers. Joe.

To view last week’s feature article on ‘How to ACE any Maths Exam’, 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: 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

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Photo:@ZhangChaosheng

Joe’s Jotter: Maximising Your Results (Junior & Leaving Cert 2022)

 

With the exams finally set in stone for June, what is the best way you can maximise your chances of achievement with a few months to go? How do you go about getting the highest possible result in each subject? As a student, you obviously cannot change any of the work you have done over the last eighteen months, but you still have over two months left to focus in on what you really need to get done. The purpose of this feature article is to give you some practical tips on how to ensure your grades are as high as possible across all subjects. Both Junior and Leaving Cert Students can benefit from the below guidance.

Four Ways to ‘Up Grade’

Maintain Your High Standards.

The best thing for students to do now is to listen to their teachers and complete all homework and classwork to a high standard. Each piece of work you complete well that has been verified by your teacher, will help get you familiar with the examiners expectations in June. This includes daily homework, class tasks and overall contribution to class. Students should actively listen in class and show a genuine interest in topics they are studying.  Similarly, and as I always say, ‘complete each piece of homework as if it were an exam paper question’. If you haven’t taken things seriously up to now in some subjects, start tomorrow.

As you meet new topics in class, work hard to try and get a better understanding of them using the Internet and your book. Each teacher will be aware of your efforts and will be more inclined to help and offer you advice as a result. Be sure to maintain a good working respectful relationship with all your teachers. Remember that any work done or efforts made to create notes and summaries will essentially be ‘money in the bank’ when it comes to sitting the exams in June. Every revision block and hour spent preparing will contribute to your success, as you deepen your knowledge of the course.

Stay Engaged in Class.

As always, teachers look for genuine engagement from all students during class. Students should endeavour to participate and learn as much as they can in each class. They shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions as they normally would, as this shows initiative and a desire to learn. If I were in your position now, I would bring a little hardback into each class and note down any key points the teacher emphasises as important. This ensures you stay engaged during each class. Treat all topics from now on seriously and consider that they could appear on your Junior or Leaving Cert Paper. Tend carefully to homework in subjects that you didn’t show much interest in up to now. It isn’t too late to turn things around in any subject. It is never too late to begin revision for any exam, but certainly the sooner you start the better.

Keep ‘Showing Up’.

During the various restrictions and lockdowns, we all had to find ways to stay focused and motivated. Key elements that help motivation include having a daily structure, having a sense of achievement, and having something productive to show at the end of each day. Be sure to attend school every day and go into each class with a positive can do attitude. With only a limited number of weeks left, stay motivated as best you can. For 6th year students, you may be attending third level in the Autumn, and you will have to learn new ways of processing Information. Any knowledge or skills you can pick up now will be useful for that. Investigate different ways to learn. Creating study notes, analysing texts, doing summaries, and listening well are all useful skills to enhance prior to commencing any third level course. Practice giving your subject teachers as close to 100% attention as you can now.

Retain Your Focus.

At this stage, your Teachers and Parents know your abilities. They also know that you may have had dips in your results over the last two years. If your Christmas test or mock result  was a lot lower than you could have got, they will know it may have just been a blip or a bad day for you. Worrying about previous performances or past class results will not get you one extra percent in June. In fact, it may affect preparation. Take the learnings from each test by writing your mistakes down, and then move on and be forward looking in your approach.

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

A healthy daily balance improves ones chance of success. Continue to enjoy activities and maintain that sense of fun daily. Since much of the hard work is now behind you, park the past and focus on the present and future. For 6th years, shift focus onto your subject performance, as opposed to a certain set number of CAO points. You have done so well to make it through this difficult year, so believe in yourself and the work you have done now. Get in touch with me if I can advise you and I wish you luck in your endeavours. Joe

To view last week’s article on ‘Positive Ways to Cope with Exam Strain’, 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 – 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: Your Guide to the CAO – You Always Have Options…

The results of the State Examinations Commission (SEC) jury are now in as we await round one of CAO offers on Tuesday September 7th at 2pm. Successful students will  be sent an e-mail from the CAO with round one offer(s) from 1.30pm onwards on Tuesday. Students who do not receive an offer will get an e-mail from the CAO with their ‘Statement of Application Record’.  All students should again check that all details on this e-mail are accurate to ensure the CAO has not made an administrative error.

Over the next few days, it is sensible not to overly predict what will happen with your CAO application. Predicting points for courses can be a futile exercise, as points on a given year are determined by demand from students for a course, combined with the number of places on it. Unfortunately, there is no magic formula for predicting what can happen.

Accepting a Place

On Tuesday, you may get two possible offers; one from your level 6/7 list and one from you level 8 list, assuming you have filled in both. Level 6 courses are ones offering a two-year higher certificate, which are found mostly at the Institutes of Technology. Level 7 consists of three-year ordinary level degree courses, while level 8 are honours degree courses. You may be offered a third level place from both lists; however, you can only accept one.

Once you accept a place on a course from your list, you cannot be offered a place on a potential course below it (on the same list) in future rounds. You can however be offered a place on a course above it (on the same list), irrespective of whether you accepted your initial offer or not. You can always move up on your listings, but never down.  Note that if you do not accept an offer and no subsequent offer is made to you, that original offer will be distributed to another applicant in the next round.

If you are offered a place on any course, I would advise you to do some serious research on its content to ensure it is suitable one for you. You can do this on Qualifax or the specific college website. Do not accept a course that you don’t really want to do, as you may end up dropping out and possibly paying full fees (€3,000 approx.) the following year. I feel that it is important to be somewhat passionate and have a degree of curiosity about a course and subject matter in order to study and research it for three or four years.

Remember that the level 6/7 route is also a viable option for students. In many cases, you can subsequently progress to complete an ‘add on year’ to reach your level 8 degree target. This course transfer process is known as ‘Advanced entry’. If you accept a level 6/7 course, you should then think about a potential pathway to maximise your qualifications later. A phone call to the third level college may be worthwhile to get more Information on this. If you are in doubt about anything CAO related over the next few weeks, you can contact them through the correspondence section of their website.

Deferring your Place

If you wish to defer the place you have been offered, you need to contact the third level college directly (not the CAO office). They will ask you to confirm your deferral by e-mail. The college will subsequently send you an e-mail confirmation of this status, which you should retain.

In order to take your place on this course the following year, you should re-apply to the CAO and simply enter that one course on your CAO form. You should not enter other courses on the form unless you have changed your mind about accepting the one you have deferred.

Available Places

The available places facility of the CAO website will re-open on Wednesday September 8th at 12pm. These courses can be applied for by any student. Applicants must meet the normal minimum entry requirements for a given course. Previously published points in earlier rounds should not be taken as an indication of the points required for entry to an available places course. The role of the available places facility is to advertise new courses that have been launched since the CAO deadline. They also advertise courses where all places have not been filled on them i.e. demand wasn’t as high as expected. The available places application procedure is similar to the ‘Change of Mind’ one. Available places courses are added daily on the CAO website, so a regular check in here is recommended.

Available places, although limited, may be a saving option for those who didn’t get their desired course and aren’t sure about accepting another offer they didn’t really want. Again, my advice here is to research the course really well. The UK’s version of available places is called ‘clearing’. This is also worth a look if you are willing to travel and have your heart set on something. When I was doing my exams in the 1990s, there was really only one way into courses and by inference careers. Now, there are so many routes and pathways you can investigate. No matter how bad things are, ‘You always have options’.

Script Reviews and Appeals

If you do miss out on the course you had your heart set on, you should seriously consider reviewing your scripts with the possibility of an appeal (completed through a shorter timeline from now on) later. Under the new system this year, upgrades after rechecks will not see students lose out on college places which they have achieved the required points for (unless they are unlucky enough to lose out through ‘random selection’, which can happen at any stage of the process). Some third level institutions will allow you to complete a ‘Second chance’ Maths exam to reach a specific grade requirement and therefore be accepted on a course you have enough points for.

Details of how you can review your exam scripts and the appeals process has now been released. I will publish advice and full analysis around this in my next ‘Joe’s Jotter’ feature article on Tuesday 6th September.

Apprenticeships and PLC Courses

If a CAO offer doesn’t come your way, don’t lose hope. Apprenticeships and PLC courses are also real options for you. Full Information about these options is available on the Careers Portal website. Apprenticeships were traditionally based around the crafts, but many new ones have emerged (almost fifty in total) including in areas such as Accounting, Commi Chef, ICT, and Insurance.

While Ireland now needs more graduates for the health, teaching and IT sectors, it also needs those with the skills acquired through the various apprenticeships. For every eight students attending higher education, only one of these will be in an apprenticeship. I think the minister needs to continue to work on re-addressing this balance through consistent encouragement, promotion, and expansion of this sector.

PLC’s courses can be used as a springboard to a certificate, diploma or even a degree course. Personally, I find the courses section of the Careers Portal website brilliant for researching these courses and this site will also show you a route to move from your chosen PLC course into higher courses at third level later. This allows you to map out your future pathway. It is worth noting that the minimum entry requirements on PLC courses is usually lower than third level ones. Once you get your foot on the first step of the ladder, it is a lot easier to keep climbing. As outlined above: ‘You always have options’.

Keep an eye on my Facebook page (link below) for more Information on the CAO and college offer process. To view last week’s feature article on ‘Navigating Secondary School as an SEN Student’. click here. Joe

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

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

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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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