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: 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

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Photo: @ZhangChaosheng

Joe’s Jotter: How to Revise more Effectively

 

Spending a short amount of quality time with someone is better than spending hours paying very little attention to them at all. Revising for an exam is similar. You must hit revision in small intense bursts where you give it your 100% attention. The following are three useful efficiencies that will help you construct good study sessions.

Rotate your Place of Study

It is good practice to rotate where you study. The main reason for this is that if you start to get bored or listless there, you’ll associate boredom with learning. Try other places such as the kitchen table, the park, the back garden, the library or just a different room; anywhere you want to really. Try revising certain topics in unusual locations. An example of this could be to learn English drama quotes on your lawn in the sun. When you need to remember these quotes in the exam hall, you can visualise yourself being back there in the sun, recalling the day you learned them and hopefully triggering your mind to recall that information. Experiment to see if music or TV helps you concentrate. Some subjects will be more suited to this than others. I believe some Maths topics do not require one hundred percent attention, an example being adding words or formula’s to your hardback notebook. This, however, may be associated with my aptitude for the subject. You may be able to listen to some low level music in subjects you are more tuned into. This varies from person to person obviously and definitely won’t work for every subject.

Leaving Material Out

Come the next few weeks, as regular as a clock ticks, the rumour mill kicks into action. Comments like “Oh, this is coming up this year”, “I heard this is expected to come up”, “There’s no way that will be on the paper” or even ‘I’m leaving that out’ are common both online and offline. Please be aware that if a topic is listed on the syllabus for your subject, it can appear on the paper, even if it came up last year. Your teacher will source you a copy of the syllabus document if you wish to view it, or alternatively you can download it online. The syllabus document will tell you exactly what can be examined in the subject and is useful when you are creating a list of topics to be covered for each subject.

In relation to exam preparation, I know you all will try cutting corners; you will predict, throw topics away and ignore information. I would not recommend leaving out big chunks of the course. The State Exams Commission, who set the exam papers each year, state that they do not want any element of predictability in them. In general my advice is to cover your bases well and be as sensible as you can.

The plan now should be to continue to whittle down and reduce the volume of your keynotes. I am convinced that summarising information helps assimilate it better and leaves one with a more concise set of notes. Keep re-writing summaries into something manageable that you can read and understand. As exams approach, be careful who you listen to. Teachers with many years’ experience (whether that’s your subject teacher or someone you know well) won’t put you far wrong. Having seen many exam papers, I think you can certainly place a good level of trust in them. The newspaper revision supplements, written by experienced professionals, can be a useful revision aid also. However, too much notes are a bad thing and may overwhelm you. Summarise, Summarise, Summarise!

Implement a Solid Study Plan Now

Now that you are aware and have listed out all the topics on a sheet (per subject), it is time to make a robust yet practical study plan that you can follow. Here are twenty practical study tips you can start using today:

  • Divide your study time into small sessions
  • Take a break of five or ten minutes after every session
  • Revise during the hours when you feel most productive
  • Each student has their own method of studying, so figure yours out and use it
  • Divide study times as per topics and effort needed. Difficult topics = More time
  • Underlining the key points for each topic is a great habit to start now
  • Make a practical study plan you can follow. A plan that is not doable is a big NO
  • Short notes should be just that – short and concise. This makes revision easier later
  • Use abbreviations and note down the key points only. No waffle or padding
  • Do not skip a topic because it seems difficult. Revise it a few times to let it sink in
  • Use revision breaks for something productive such as music, exercise, or activities
  • Always set a target score you are aiming towards in each subject
  • Take tests regularly. Your test scores are a regular reminder of your target score
  • Maintain test records so that you know which subtopics you need to work on
  • Sleep 7-8 hours daily. Losing sleep will affect your ability to concentrate and retain
  • Stay as healthy as you possibly can. Exercise
  • You cannot change the amount of revision you did yesterday. Start today
  • Be kind to yourself. Use positive self-talk each day
  • Reflect on the amount of revision you did today, instead of what you didn’t do
  • If today’s study plan didn’t go well, revisit it and tweak tomorrows one

and remember..

“It is never too late to step into your own greatness”

Joe McCormack

To view last weeks article on ‘How to become a Specialist at Maths Exams (Part 1)’, 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: How to become a Specialist at Maths Exams (Part 1)


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

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

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

Make Changes to How You Revise and Prepare for Maths Exams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo:@ZhangChaosheng

Joe’s Jotter: How to become more Successful in Maths (2021)

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 the 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 amount 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 key concepts without being born a Maths genius.

Can Anyone Be Successful at Maths?

People regularly ask me about this hypothesis, and I believe Maths is a subject everyone can do well in by being more open minded and willing to try different methods. For sure, your parents have a role to play here, so make sure and 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 in their child’s development. 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 and 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.

Skills That will Improve Your Maths

You must adopt different approaches in Maths; it is unique. 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 easy access later. It’s amazing how much you will recall about what you wrote down and what advice your teacher gave you back then. Re-do some questions from then to start a Maths revision session. 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.

More Interesting and Informative Maths feature articles will follow as we lead up to the Junior and Leaving Cert 2022.

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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