Joe’s Jotter: Two Underused Revision Hacks for Success

Students,

As Christmas exam time draws closer, here are two under-rated hacks that might just give you the edge as you try to get the most out of upcoming revision time.

  1. Record yourself

With so many portable digital devices to play content on now, recording audio is a great option being availed of now by many students. This is an excellent revision hack if you have long commutes or spend a lot of time in the car. Playing back notes you have recorded is a very successful method of retaining information. I have recorded questions and answers for job interviews previously, where I called out a possible interview question and then proceeded to answer it as best I could. Recording information on various subjects has been helpful during my career, when different jobs and challenges emerged. The great thing about recorded audio is that it will always be at your fingertips and is easily accessed from multiple devices. You can also barter this material with your study buddy i.e. swap it for other audio content or even for a great set of their written notes.

Bullet points, facts, and lists are ideal revision components that can be recorded to your phone and replayed repeatedly. Remember, you will need to repeat any learning process regularly to achieve success. Having a portable learning tool like your phone or a small hardback in your pocket is great to keep you tuned in when opportunities to catch up arise.

  1. Rotate your learning

I feel it is important to rotate the type of learning you do in order to keep the brain fresh and interested. When you sit down at the start of the week to plan your Lifestyle (Study) Timetable, rotate your learning in each study block. This rotation tricks the brain into going longer. You should even rotate your place of study: for example, study a specific topic in the garden, it will make it easier to recall what you revised there, since you have created an association with this part of your home. Rotation could also involve going down the road to your grandparents or your local library to write some essays or update your hardback. Initiatives like this maintain freshness in your preparation. These ensure each homework or revision session gets the attention it deserves. A change is as good as a rest!

Rotating your learning is achieved by using multiple ways to take in and understand material and notes. There are so many ways you can acquire Information these days. Rotate your learning between reading, writing notes, developing summaries, listening to podcasts, recording something you have learned into your phone, playing back lists through your headphones, searching the Internet, reading out loud, getting someone to examine you, watching educational YouTube videos, watching educational tv programmes, watching ted talks, creating flashcards, summary hardbacks, using postits, sticking key notes up on your wall, underlining and highlighting or discussing a sub-topic with your friends in a study group etc. These are just some of the learning options available to you, which you could and should be using. Select and practice a number of these in order to try and find out what works for you. After that, rinse and repeat the winning formula. Good luck. Joe

‘Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.’

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

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

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

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Joe’s Jotter – Should I Persevere with Higher Level Maths in 2023?

 

More students over the last few years have taken on the task that is Leaving Cert Higher Maths. In June 2022, out of the 57,347 who sat a Leaving Certificate Mathematics Paper, 21,265 of them opted for higher level (37%). 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 change level. 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 misconception 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 fourth 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 June 2022, 98.4% of students who attempted higher level Maths got a H6 grade or above and therefore picked up the 25 bonus points. That is extremely 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. Changing levels 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 changing.  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

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

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

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

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Joe’s Jotter: RIGHT it out by WRITING it out

With a lot of schools switching to iPads and tablets as a mode of Education, the debate rages about which type of notes is best to have from a classroom lecture i.e., typed or handwritten ones. I still think there is a question mark about learning content in digital format, with it being more suitable in some subjects than others. If a student has the possibility of printing something out, in my opinion they should do. With decent printers just over €50, I feel this is a great long-term investment for parents of children at Secondary School.

From listening to students, I think many of them still like to hold a hard copy book in their hand when learning. Even as an ICT teacher myself, I believe that the old-fashioned way of taking notes by hand is still best. Since we now can type faster than we write, students are tending to type notes verbatim (exactly to the word) as they try to keep up with their teacher. We are copying down a lot of the teacher’s language directly. There would be more of our own language than the teacher’s used in a handwritten set of notes, which makes them easier to understand and ultimately, of better quality. The following case for handwritten notes applies to both Secondary and Third level education…

Why handwritten notes are still the market leader…

  • With handwritten notes, we spend more time thinking about the Information before the actual physical act of writing occurs. If we are attempting to type everything exactly as spoken, there is less thinking time about that same information. In essence, I believe that slightly more learning takes place during the actual handwriting process.
  • Keywords are valuable in any content. When you are taking down notes by hand in a lecture/class, you are listening out for the keywords to ensure you are grasping the bones of the sentence. Again, while typing you are trying to get everything down and so your brain misses out on this ‘essential keyword focus’.
  • When handwriting notes, you are putting your own special stamp on them, making it easier to recall information you have translated into your own words.
  • During class, you can link handwritten notes quicker with bubbles and arrows. While doing this, you are learning what the connections are in the teachers’ content.
  • Above all, writing your own notes engages the mind and prompts new ideas and thoughts. It enables your brain to switch to ‘background learning’ mode while you prepare and enhance your notes.

Learning in a variety of ways is the key to success. Working with a study buddy or group is another way that many don’t consider. Students can swap essays and notes, and indeed even teach each other. Upon swapping these notes with friends, they should rewrite them into understandable Information, in order to be able to revise them better later. I am a big believer in summarising your own notes. By all means you can work in a group or with a ‘study buddy’, but once you get their essays or interpretation of topics; highlight and underline their key points. The final piece of the puzzle is summing their content into your own words, to ensure that you really understand it. In my experience, there is a much higher chance of Information sticking with personal and individualised handwritten notes – the old ways are still the best. Try it and see! Good luck, Joe

‘Work hard, dream big, never give up’

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

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

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

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Joe’s Jotter: How to Become More Competent in Maths 2022

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

Can Anyone Be Successful at Maths?

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

Maths is Learning by Doing

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

Skills That will Improve Your Maths

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

“The harder you work, the luckier you get. Every effort will open a door.”

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

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

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

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Photo:@ZhangChaosheng

Joe’s Jotter: How 2nd and 3rd Years Can Make the Most of their Evenings

Students, as we come towards the end of the first few weeks back in Secondary School, it is important now that you get into a routine of homework and revision, both during the week and at the weekend. Breaks are important for all students who are putting effort in at home each night, as well as giving yourself some wind down time before bed also. Over the next few months, try and improve the standard of your homework. Always take pride in how you complete written homework. Doing homework like a mini exam is the best form of preparation for your any upcoming tests. Here are four more practical tips you can try to get the more out of your evenings.

Be positive

Being positive will vastly improve your attitude towards study and therefore its quality. You should always focus on what you have studied, what you have learned or what you know as opposed to continually looking at what needs to be done. When you come across an awkward question, you need to box it off properly in your mind. Instead of thinking, “we haven’t covered this!” or “how is this relevant to what I know?”, you need to reflect on how it links into your subject, topics within the subject and what your teacher has taught you in class.

The same goes for studying prior to the exam. Take control by changing the way you speak about your preparation. Instead of saying “I should be studying more”; be good to yourself and say, “Well I did a solid two hours this morning and will go back to it tonight”. Change “I should be…” to “I’m going to…” Research has shown that positive language can lead to more positive results. If you say: “I can’t climb that wall”, you are less likely to succeed in the task, as your brain has almost been auto programmed to fail. As a Maths teacher, I love this equation of positivity:

Positive attitude + Positive actions = Powerful results

Look after your eyes

You will be doing plenty of reading from textbooks, summary notes, post-its, flashcards and the likes over the next few years, so it is important to look after your eyes during this period. The expert’s advice on reducing eye strain is to apply the twenty-twenty-twenty rule. That is to take twenty seconds to look at something twenty feet away and repeat this every twenty minutes. Going outside on your breaks will get some fresh air to the eyes. Another good exercise is to simply rest your eyes in the palm of your hands for a few minutes, making sure that no light gets through. Too much time on devices wouldn’t be great for keeping your eyes fresh. Just saying!

Rotate your learning

The brain can only concentrate on a subject matter for a certain time period. At times, when I was penning my ACE Study Guidebook, I needed to get away and come back to it in order to maintain my focus. Rotate your work between memorising content, writing, oral work, audio, Internet research and watching documentaries etc. Most importantly, rotate your subjects. We all enjoy discovering about subjects we find interesting, but it is so important not to forget the subjects you find difficult or the ones you are just not as interested in. Rotation of stimulus will trick the brain into performing better and going for longer.

Become an active learner

During study sessions, always have a pen and a highlighter to hand. You should mark the key points onto your textbook, write brief comments at the side of the page or underline the important sentences. This information should then be transferred to a summary page later. I really like this method of revision as it reduces the quantity (amount) of notes you have to analyse and there shouldn’t be a need to revisit that part of your textbook again. Active learning is a great way to keep yourself tuned into what you are studying. Spend time thinking about how you can use your life experiences and places visited to enhance essays or answers with a few extra bells and whistles. Individuality and drawing on your personal experiences are what every Teacher and examiner is looking out for in your answers. You need to try and stand out a bit from your fellow students.

Next weeks ‘Joe’s Jotter’ will provide students with six ACE pointers to settle them back into revision. Don’t miss it. To view last week’s feature article on ‘How to Perform Well in Subjects you Find Difficult’, click here. Get in touch if I can help you in any way. Joe.

‘Record all revision done so you can track whats what later.’

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

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

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Photo:@ZhangChaosheng

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

As you settle into the new year, teachers and parents totally understand that even though you are making great strides, you still have plenty of fears. From speaking with students over the years, I find it’s not the full set of exams that cause concern, it is usually only one or two subjects. Naturally everyone has their own talents and subjects they prefer. Personally, I was better at the Sciences than the languages, but I persevered and got the grades I wanted in the languages I chose.

Sometimes subjects you are not looking forward to are the ones that have you on guard and you end up doing better in; A paper on the day can go well in an exam you were dreading. I regularly hear welcome surprise coming from students on results day, with comments such as “I didn’t expect that result in xxxxx”. The moral of the story here is that too much concern about a subject could end in false worry and be draining you of energy; energy you need for revising all subjects and getting your head space right.

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

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

Building Confidence in Maths

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

Joe’s Top Tips for Success in Maths

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo:@ZhangChaosheng

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

 

Practical steps to smooth the Transition into Secondary School

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

  1. The Importance of Learning Support

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

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

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

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

      Practical Tips for things to do…together at home

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


     Practical Tips for things they can do…at school

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

The Second Year Maths Dip

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

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

Girls – Go for it!

From the students I have taught since the Project Maths syllabus was introduced in 2008, I have noticed another trend in my classes. I have spotted that female students are less likely to take risks when attempting past exam questions. The new phrasing of questions on Maths papers suit boys better, as they are less conscious of what they are writing down and are less afraid of being wrong. In my opinion, it is important for girls to express their opinions freely and openly and we, as teachers, need to help them develop this skill. I think it is important for all students not to get unduly perturbed if they cannot get a certain part of a question out perfectly. In Maths now, it is more important to go onto another question (within the allotted time), instead of looking to complete every single question part absolutely perfect.  I feel that Churchill’s (not the dog) quote is quite apt for our modern day Maths syllabus.

“Perfection is the enemy of Progress”.

Winston Churchill (Former Prime Minister of the UK)

One does not really have time for 100% perfection on a Maths paper as they tend to be ‘question packed’, and unlike other subjects, there isn’t time for admiring your work. Students should apply this principle across the board to all their Maths tests in 2022/23.

The New Practical Style Questions

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

Always Follow Your Passion

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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Joe’s Jotter: Improving our Exam System 2022

 

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

Preserving Fairness

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

Should Teachers assess their own Students?

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

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

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

How can we Improve our Current Exam System?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo:@ZhangChaosheng

Joe’s Jotter: 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: The ACE Guide to Exam Preparation from Home (Parental Support and Final Thoughts)

 

 Parental Support for Students at Home

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

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

ACE’ing Your Prep at Home – Some Final Thoughts

Students,

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

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

Be Honest and Realistic with Yourself

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

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

Strength Based Learning

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

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

Write Down Your Goals

Finally, write down both your short and long term goals and re-read and update them regularly to remind yourself why you are putting in such an effort right now. Goals should be used to motivate and drive you to achieve great things. Focus always on the work you have completed, not what you haven’t done. The quicker you settle down into a routine and discover study techniques that work for you, the better you will feel. Right now, you are effectively searching for the best possible home routine that facilitates an increased accumulation of knowledge. Don’t be afraid to try new learning methods as part of this new phase. These might give you the edge on topics you have struggled to understand so far.

I wish you luck and good health going forward and feel free to contact me through the channels below if I can help you in any way. Joe

To view last week’s feature article on the ‘Importance of Nutrition around exam time’, 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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Photo:@ZhangChaosheng

Joe’s Jotter: Nifty Tricks to Remember Maths Formulas

 

Maths Students,

Knowing how to use formulas correctly is still as important as it was back in the 80’s and 90’s when you parents were young. Formulas help us understand questions better and assist us in converting the theoretical wording of a question into something useable. Often subbing in any correct value into the appropriate formula will yield low partial credit in an exam e.g. 4/10.

Formulas also enhance our understanding of practical scenarios. For example, the Quadratic Formula is used to find the location and value of various unknowns, trigonometric formulas are used to find distances and heights of real world objects in architecture and aviation, and Statistics and Probability formulas are used in insurance and mortgage calculations. A student’s problem is that not all Formulas they need to be familiar with are present in the Log Tables provided. So, what is the best way to remember the ones that aren’t?

 The Six Best Ways to Make Maths Formulas Stick 

  1. Link the formula to something fun or interesting in your life.

Build a song or a rhyme around a given formula. The sequence of the song or rhyme can be the different parts of the formula. Look up an example on the Internet, or better again invent your own one which will make it easier for you to recall. Examples include: BOMDAS for order of operations and SOH CAH TOA for Trigonometric ratios in a right angled triangle.

  1. Understand each part of the formula.

When you understand a formula and whats its parts are, it is much easier to memorise it. Take time to understand the rules, variables, logic, and symbols in the formulas you use in Maths classes every day. Be very clear on what each letter represents.

  1. Put it on your wall.

Write each formula on its own A4 page and put it up on your bedroom wall to allow it to sink in. This is the best way to memorise formulas, as they will be seeping into your brain without you even knowing it. Wall summaries regularly catch ones eye, forcing the brain to take pictures of them. This is definitely an underused trick in revision and exam preparation. 

  1. Let formula’s sit before learning them.

In my experience, it takes time to learn formula’s; it isn’t like a set of French verbs or physics definitions that you may be able to cram. Every time you use a formula in class, be sure to write it down in your copy. The more times you write it, the easier it will be to remember it later. I would recommend buying a little A5 hardback and note all formulas from the Maths course into it, even the ones that appear in the Log Tables. This hardback is something you can flick through on journeys or even while keeping an eye on a bit of TV. It’s all learning!

  1. Take them to bed with you.

At the end of each day, have a quick glance at any new formulas you learned that day. Check how well you memorised them by trying to write them down without looking. I would estimate that knowing which formula to use where in Maths is worth at least 25% in exams.

  1. Most Formulas are in your Log Tables.

It is crucial to learn the formulas that are not in your log tables and be familiar with the ones that are in there. Try and get used to using the index on Page 1 of the Log tables in order to access the formulas you need quickly. The main formulas we use in the log tables are on Pages 8, 9, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 25, 30, 31, 34 and 36. Good luck. Joe.

 

To view last week’s feature article on ‘Guiding Your Child Through Exams 2022’, 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 ACE Any Maths Exam

 

No matter how intelligent you are or how well you prepare, if you are not exam smart, you will underachieve in any Maths exam. It is also vital to have a plan in place for the content that can appear on your Maths paper. This involves going in there with your eyes wide open and being tactically aware in case things go a little bit wrong on the day. The following are my ACE tips to effectively deal with a Maths exam paper. These apply to both the Junior and Leaving Certs, as well as being relevant to the summer tests for 1st, 2nd TY, and 5th Years.

Sensible Tips When Dealing with a Maths Exam Paper

  • Units matter. If they are present in your question, they are required in your answer.
  • Do not type anything into the calculator that you have not already written down in your answer book.
  • You can get almost full marks (high partial credit) with just one slip/mistake in your solution. High partial credit could gain you as much as seven or eight marks out of ten.
  • If you make two attempts at a question, they will all be corrected and the highest marks from your efforts will be counted. Don’t be afraid to have a proper go.
  • Marks will be given for any work done on diagrams that have been printed on the paper.
  • Be careful when dealing with minus signs.
  • You must show your full workings out for all questions.
  • Write down every single step until you arrive at the solution.
  • If your answer is ‘off the wall’, it is probably incorrect.
  • If there are many steps required in a solution, continually double check completed steps for accuracy; otherwise, you may need to re-write the whole solution. In that case, watch the clock very closely.
  • Never rub/tippex out any work done even if you think it isn’t neat. Draw a single line through any part of the solution you are unsure about. The examiner must correct it.
  • When asked for your opinion, give it, and refer to any numbers or statistics given in the question if available.
  • Algebra is the bedrock of all Maths courses and is the main area that students struggle with. You need to become a master of Algebra to achieve high grades.
  • Get used to attempting questions involving real life statistics.
  • Estimating the heights of larger objects outside in nature is now an important part of Geometry and Trigonometry.
  • In Co-ordinate Geometry, the slope of a line is very important in practical questions.
  • More recent Maths exam questions tend to contain an increased number of words. The reason for this is the examiners need more English to describe real life Maths scenarios. You need to be able to separate the important keywords in the text from the padding that surrounds them. Use your highlighter or green pen to mark the significant words.
  • Look through the wording of each question and pick out the Maths related information. In all subjects, but especially Maths, identify exactly what you are given and what you are looking for. Watch out for numbers written as words, for example “thirty” instead of “30”.
  • If no diagram is presented, draw one yourself to give a clearer picture of what is being asked. This is especially important in Geometry, Trigonometry, and Area and Volume.
  • If given a diagram on the paper, mark in the numerical information given in the text of the question onto it. Re-drawing sections of more complicated diagrams into your answer book can help to simplify question parts for you.
  • Do not leave any blanks, ensuring that every question is fully attempted. If you leave a blank, the examiner can give you at most zero marks for that question part. If you attempt the question; you may get some marks and perhaps more than you think. In summary: No attempt = No marks.
  • If you are dealing with a Trigonometric problem at Leaving Cert level, know how to apply the three basic Trigonometric ratios (SOH, CAH, TOA) , Pythagoras’ theorem, the Sin rule, and the Cosine rule. In these, you have all you need to solve most right-angled and non-right-angled triangle problems.
  • Relate the information you have in the exam question to the theory and equations you have worked on in class. In Geometry, have you got two right-angled triangles that need to be solved separately? Again, if you are unable to start a question, there is nearly always something you have learned from your teacher or hopefully from my ACE Maths Solution Books that you can draw on to help you. Don’t give up. Be persistent.
  • The relationship between two data sets is important. At LC Level, this concept links ‘slope of a line’ in Co-ordinate Geometry to that of ‘correlation’ in Statistics. Other examples of where topics overlap in Maths at Leaving Cert level include Co-ordinate Geometry of the line and the Circle, and of course Geometry and Trigonometry. Across all levels of Maths, there are many links between topics that you need to keep an eye out for.
  • Do out a ‘time budget’ plan before sitting any Maths paper and be sure to stick to it.

Most importantly, remember that you are not alone and there are tens of thousands of other students in the same position as you on exam day, many of whom have had their various struggles with Maths. Above all, practice your Algebra and be familiar with what formulas are available to you in the log tables on the day. If you are familiar with the main equations and some theory on your course, you have a solid base for giving any exam your best shot. Joe.

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

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

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

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

*****

*****

Photo: @ZhangChaosheng

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

 

The Importance of Your Friends

Dear Students,

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

Maintain Some Form of Exercise

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

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

Trusting the Exam System

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

Staying Positive

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

Keeping a Diary

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

Things Change Quickly

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

“Nothing lasts forever, even cold November rain.“

Guns N’ Roses

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

 Recommended ACE Stability Measures

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

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

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

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

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

*****

*****

Photo:@ZhangChaosheng