Joe’s Jotter: Revising Your Less Favourite Subject

Junior and Leaving Certs,

As you prepare for your upcoming mock exams, teachers and parents totally understand that even though you are making great strides, you still have plenty of fears. From talking to students, 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 studying and getting your head right.

Not Crazy about this Subject

Preparing for one of your less favoured subjects is a blatant case of having to ‘get on with it’ i.e. ‘Eating your Frog’. Of course, it is easier to study and work on subjects you enjoy and are good at, but you must not ignore the others. Studying and preparing your ‘frog subjects’ is probably the biggest challenge you will face during your exam year. Author and reconstructive surgeon, Jack Penn, once said:

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

Prioritise Subjects

In order to deal with a subject you find difficult, you need to prioritise it on your Lifestyle (Study) Timetable. It should therefore be ranked in your top three subjects and entered first onto the timetable with the possibility of including more study blocks for it than other subjects. In subjects you struggle with, you need to: ask for plenty of help from your teacher, work with a study buddy, find ways of learning that best suits you, break topics into manageable chunks, write a good set of notes that you can relate to and understand, think outside the box and ultimately dig in and persevere. These are all the characteristics of successful students when they face obstacles. This is on of my favourite quotes and is relevant here:

Someone once told me not to bite off more than I could chew; I said I’d rather choke on greatness than nibble on mediocrity

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Train as you Will Play

Practising past papers is a vital part of revision. It allows you to test what you have learned, what you need to revisit and gives you a taste for the pressures of the exam ‘environment’. The weekend is the best time to practice past papers as you have more flexibility then to create ‘exam timing conditions’. You should train as you play; if you get used to timing yourself and keeping an eye on the clock, it will come naturally on the day. This is one of my ACE tips for success. Remember; only test yourself on material you have studied from the course. The earlier you get practising exam questions against the clock in all subjects, the better.

Use Small (A5/A6) Hardback Notebooks

Use a small hardback for each subject, writing down the keywords/phrases and vocabulary for each topic as you meet them. This will help to improve your knowledge and understanding of a subject. The beauty of a small hardback is its portability. It can be carried around with you, adding variety to your learning. I always give my students one at the start of each year and prompt them to input important information into it every so often. By the end of the year, they have a pocket size set of keynotes that is great for revision. When revising a topic from your textbook, select the key words or phrases which will help you to remember what the topic is about, and then transfer them into your hardback. Your hardback will be a useful resource that you can dip in and out of as the exams approach and it won’t seem as daunting as a big refill pad! Joe.

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

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

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

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Joe’s Jotter: Former Students Provide Excellent Advice

It is a long time since I sat in an exam hall, so I wanted to have a chapter in my book ‘How to ACE the Leaving Certificate’ where student opinions were aired, and feedback was relevant. When I read this chapter now, I feel it gives a great sense of the reality and pressures of the exams from a student’s perspective.

I have listened carefully and recorded information from students who have been through both the Junior and Leaving Cert exams over many years. I also surveyed sixty existing sixth years for their first-hand experience, asking them to think back to how they were feeling and their approach to the Junior Cycle exams; what they did right, what they could have done better, big mistakes and importantly what they learned. I have synopsised that chapter in this article to ensure the practical guidance and recommendations given below are useful to all Secondary School students, but particularly pertinent to those doing exams in 2022.

Advice from former students to help you maximise your learning in school

  • Start revising now.
  • Everything happens for a reason.
  • Start practising exam questions.
  • Practice short exams at home under exam conditions.
  • Separate notes with labelled dividers to make topics easier to find.
  • As you approach exams, continue to attend class to the end.
  • Failure to plan is planning to fail. Plan each day using your homework journal.
  • Once an exam is done, take a break, move on and never look back.
  • Homework, revision and creating good quality notes are all good forms of study.
  • Breaking a topic into bullet points is a brilliant way to help you remember it.
  • Get into a weekly routine of study, exercise, social life etc, i.e. follow the same routine every Monday; same for Tuesdays etc. Stick to this consistently and you will be able to plan ahead better.
  • Do extra revision in the part of the day you feel more alert depending on whether you’re a night owl or an early bird (This only applies to weekends and holiday periods obviously).
  • Exercise will keep your mind fresh. Walking, gym sessions, cycling, swimming, or Zumba classes are all good. Do something you enjoy, whatever that may be.
  • From the month of January onwards, you need to put a proper Lifestyle (Study) Timetable in place.
  • Prior to the state exams (the last six weeks), do morning trial runs on various foods to ensure they digest well. You will definitely need to eat something substantial for breakfast on the days you are doing exams.
  • Be ruthless with your time. As you practice past exam questions, allocate a time limit for each part of a question (depending on the marks available for that part).
  • Social media commentators and mock papers only speculate about the contents of the final exam papers. Nobody really has a clue what’s on the paper, despite what they may say or have read online.
  • Believe in yourself. You have come so far and have so many talents that cannot be measured by an exam. Your results in any exam will not affect how proud your parents are of you or how important you are to all your friends.
  • You need to figure out how best you learn. Some students learn by writing things out repeatedly, some by talking it out in groups, some by listening to recordings, some by reading, some by Internet research and others by typing out keynotes. A combination of the above learning styles may be your key to success.
  • Try not to approach an exam with a negative frame of mind. If you constantly think ‘I have to do so much study’, it will be like carrying around a bag of coal.
  • If you don’t like a subject, try and take a positive view of it saying, ‘This subject isn’t my favourite’ as opposed to ‘I hate this subject’. Thinking about life more positively can help you solve problems and deal with setbacks better.
  • Spend a few minutes each evening going over what the teacher did with you in class that day.
  • Share work around in a small group. Have information sharing sessions in someone’s house. This reduces the amount of preparation you need to do in each subject, as your friends will already have done the research on it. Sit down with the group and explain things to each other. Write down the key points from the shared session to enhance your own set of notes. If you are not comfortable in a group, get yourself a study buddy (a friend) to work with on the subjects you find difficult.
  • Start revising now (again!).

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: Two Smart Revision Hacks for Success

As Christmas exam time draws closer, here are two under used 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 notes.

Bullet points, facts, and lists are ideal revision components that can be recorded to your phone and replayed again and again. 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, by studying 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 means 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. Joe

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

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

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

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Joe’s Jotter: Changing your ‘CAO’ Mind – The Final Decision (Part II)


Investigate each Course’s Content

In order to rank your courses in a way that suits you best, choose ones you really want to do (not necessarily the ones your friends are doing or ones your parents want you to go into). Choose for you and no one else. When choosing a course, be sure to examine closely the module descriptor for each course. This tells you the exact layout of the course, how many credits each module has, how the exams are assessed in it, how many hours you will spend on each module, how the learning will take place and exactly what you will learn about. Investigate the exact modules you will be studying for each potential course. This is my most important piece of advice. You don’t want to be heading into November or December thinking ‘I am not interested at all in any of this stuff’ #nightmare.

The CAO is not the Only Show in Town

If you have not applied to the CAO or do not receive a CAO offer at all come September, there are other options. You should go on the SOLAS website (solas.ie) to investigate further education alternatives. These tend to be with your local Education and Training Board. For example, Louth & Meath Education and Training Board (LMETB). Many ETB’s offer Post Leaving Cert (PLC) courses which will give you a Level 5 or Level 6 qualification. These courses are one or two years in duration and often involve practical work experience in companies. The fees for these courses tend to be much less than your standard CAO courses and grants are available in many cases also.

PLC courses attaining you a FETAC level 5 or 6 qualification are a steppingstone into higher college courses. These also allow you to see if an area of study suits you. Some courses in Colleges/Universities set aside a quota of PLC (FETAC) students to fill places each year. If you achieve the required results in your chosen PLC course, a college may accept you onto one of their courses. You can verify this by ringing up the college and asking them about accessing a specific course via the PLC route. You can find the full list of PLC courses on www.fetchcourses.ie or contact the Further Education College directly. Examples of PLC courses that students regularly progress further from are Pre-Nursing and ICT. For each CAO course, you will also be able to view (on cao.ie) what PLC requirements will get you a place on a given CAO course. This is well worth researching over the next few weeks.

To enhance your skills in a certain area, you can go also down the apprenticeship training route by checking out www.apprenticeship.ie. The apprenticeship scheme has been expanded greatly recently to include employers and jobs in many fields. Many of these companies would be delighted to take you on and help you grow and learn on the job. Apprenticeships were traditionally only for crafts like carpenters, electrician, plumbers etc. While these still exist, there are now new ones in ICT, Accountancy, Engineering, Insurance, Catering and Fintech etc.

A traineeship is also another option which can be considered. A traineeship is based around making your more employable by improving your skills. These tend to be a short duration courses (12-18 months) and are mostly run by the ETBs. Many apprenticeships and Traineeships are ‘Earn as you learn’ and therefore you can get your qualifications and have a few quid to live or pay for accommodation also.

Personally, I would have a look at alternatives like these above over the next few weeks, just in case the CAO process doesn’t go in your favour. It is good to have a little plan in the background, should you not get what you expect. You may not even need to use it, but it will certainly give you the comfort of having it there on the back burner.

Have a Plan B, C and D…..

I have spoken to hundreds of students over the years who had their heart set on one course and when they didn’t make it, they had no fall back plan. Your 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th choice are really important, so you would need to be content enough to accept them should it come to that. I cannot emphasise enough about the importance of checking out the module content of each course you choose. For each course, you need to genuinely ask yourself, ‘Would I do this course’?. This will then set the platform for your Plan B, C and D. If there are limited amount of courses you really want above all others, contact the institution offering it and ask them ‘Is there any other way to get into the course by studying something else first as opposed to the direct points route?’. This could be very useful Information later should things not work out perfectly.

Remember, if there is a subject matter you really enjoy or a course you feel you would be really good at, you may need to travel and live in another part of Ireland. Do not rule out the possibility of the UK (UCAS), the Netherlands, Poland, Italy or other European (UNICAS) countries. Fees and demand have dropped for some courses in Europe that are very popular here. Usually, your results do not need to be as high to study courses in the UK and Europe, compared to Ireland. Do that bit of exploration here if your heart is dead set on something. Just like in Ireland, places in certain courses may become available when not filled in early rounds.

Six Final Key Points of Note

  1. Keep an eye on the ‘CAO alert lists’ for new courses emerging in various colleges on www.cao.ie. Courses are added here on a continuous basis in the ‘Student Resources’ section of the left hand side of the CAO Homepage. You can add these into your CAO listing before July 1st (5.15pm). These courses are not in your CAO handbook (hardcopy). They may also come in at lower points, as many students may not be aware they even exist and will not have them on their CAO listing. As this article goes to press, twenty three of the third level institutions have an ‘alert list’ with new courses on them now.
  2. If you have applied for the HEAR or DARE scheme, you will find out if you are successful or not on June 29th this year. You will be able to appeal any decision made from these schemes from July 5th. Information on HEAR and DARE is on www.accesscollege.ie.
  3. For those of you who have applied for Medicine in various Universities, the HPAT results are due out before the end of June.
  4. The Leaving Cert results are out on September 3rd with the first round of CAO offers issued four days later on September 7th at 2pm.
  5. Students will be able to view their exam scripts and appeal their ‘written exam’ results sometime after September 3rd. I will issue a further guidance document on this in early September. Separately, students will also be able to appeal their ‘accredited grade’ in September. This appeal will only encompass a clerical check, ensuring that marks were correctly transferred. Accredited grades given by your school will not be changed unless a clerical error (only) is detected. As you all know at this stage, you will receive the highest result between your ‘Accredited Grade’ and ‘Written Papers’ for ALL subjects.
  6. I would recommend you sign up to https://careersnews.ie/ to keep up to date with announcements, CAO developments and news from third level institutions. You can contact me (via the below details) for a short consultation should you need advice or more detailed information on this year’s CAO process or third level applications 2021. Wishing you good luck. Joe

To read part 1 of this article, click here.

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

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

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Joe’s Jotter: Changing your ‘CAO’ mind – The Final Decision (Part I)


Change of Mind Oncoming

As the ink dries on the final few Leaving Cert Papers, the attention for 6th years immediately turns to reviewing and checking their CAO choices made earlier this year. With the CAO change of mind deadline approaching next week, I felt it good timing to provide some guidance to help you re-evaluate and analyse your earlier decisions. I would recommend that every student begins reviewing their initial choices (made way back in February) over the next day or two and not leave it until the final hours, when making key decisions under the stress of a deadline isn’t good. I think it is well worth spending a few days ensuring that you make the best possible choices for your future, and knowing you have done your best, will set your mind at ease for the summer. Your final CAO choices must be submitted online by 5.15pm on July 1st.

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

Complete the Final Check

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

Note that any change you make to your CAO account/choices over the next few days will be confirmed to you by e-mail. You should always comb over these e-mails for accuracy. If this confirmation e-mail doesn’t arrive (keep an eye on your junk mail), you will need to contact the CAO office. If you make a mistake on your CAO form, you may not be able to correct it after July 1st  (5.15pm). If you enter the incorrect course or accidentally place them in the wrong order, you could see the third level place you want given to another student. From this point of view, I would get a second person to double check all your Information is accurate. All students must check their ‘Statement of application’ e-mail whether they are changing their mind on courses in this window or not.

How do I get onto a Third Level Course?

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

Genuine Order of Preference

The first and most important thing to be sure of is to put your course choices in the exact order you would like to do them in. You should not order them on how many points you think you will score or change them around based on how your exams went. At the end of an exam, you may feel you have underperformed or haven’t got the required grade for a specific course. Often, this may not be the case. Your first choice should be the course you want to do above all others, no matter what last year’s points were. This philosophy should be applied to all other choices also.

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

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

Changing your Mind

You can change or add in new courses to your Level 6/7 and your Level 8 list. The only courses that you cannot add in at this stage are called the ‘Restricted courses’. Restricted courses will be marked in your CAO handbook. An example of a restricted course may be a music degree where a practical was required to be completed. Another example is completion of the HPAT exam earlier in the year in order to get into medicine.

In an ideal world, you should fill out all ten choices on both lists. Ensure you have at least seven courses down on both lists to cover your bases well. When selecting your courses ask yourself questions like:

What areas did I enjoy learning about in school?
What subjects in school have I a natural curiosity for?
What subjects in school did I enjoy so much that it didn’t really feel like learning?
What modules would get me up for lectures at 7am on a cold winters morning?
Is there a topic or career I believe I have a passion for?
Am I narrowing my focus on a specific area too much?
What subject would I like to find out more about?
Could I see myself working in this career or a similar one in five years’ time?

You don’t need to know the exact answers to all of these above questions, but it will certainly get you thinking about the reality of whats ahead and your current decisions. A bit of soul searching is necessary before reaching your final order of preference. Keep in mind also that you will probably be graduating in three or four years’ time, so think ahead a little about what jobs and careers might be in demand them. In general though, select your courses based on your talents and passions, not how much money you can earn from a career or what other people think. Oh! and did I mention the deadline is July 1st at 5.15pm? I did of course. The sooner you start your deliberations, the more thinking time you will have. You can contact me (via the below details) for a short consultation should you need advice or more detailed information on this year’s CAO process or third level applications 2021. Good luck to everyone. Joe

To read part 2 of this article, click here.

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

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

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Joe’s Jotter: The ACE Exam Day Quick Reference Guide

As we reach the start this year’s exams and work our way through each subject, here is a little checklist that you can have a glance at before setting off each morning. It is important to get your brain into ‘exam mode’ in order to exact the maximum out of each paper. The below pointers will help you get organised and put you in the right head space:

  • Do your best – that is all that is expected of you.
  • Get to the exam hall at least fifteen minutes before each exam.
  • Be fully aware of the start and finish time of each exam.
  • Read the instructions carefully on every single page.
  • You cannot leave during the first thirty or the last ten minutes of each exam.
  • Prepare for a longer exam paper than any of the ones you have sat during school
  • Make sure you have plenty of pens, pencils, rulers, etc.
  • Phones, books and notes are all forbidden in the exam hall.
  • Use the toilet before entering the exam hall.
  • Answer your best question first to settle the nerves.
  • Take your time when reading each question.
  • Attempt all parts of every question asked.
  • If you make a mistake, draw a line through, so it is still readable.
  • Questions answered, even if cancelled out, must be corrected by the examiner.
  • Check that you have answered all parts of all questions.
  • Make sure to include all extra pages used e.g. graph paper etc
  • Place twice as much emphasis on ten markers than fives etc (twice as much time also)
  • Carefully label any diagrams you draw or use.
  • Layout your paper well. You can save the trees in later life.
  • Do not repeat yourself in a question.
  • Skip a line or two after each full question.
  • Remember that any reasonable attempt will get you some marks.
  • Bring some sweets and water into the exam hall.
  • Focus on your own exam paper not your friends efforts beside you.
  • Don’t panic if you don’t understand a question at first.
  • Eat good meals before and after each exam.
  • If you run out of paper, ask for more from the superintendent.
  • Think how your answers will sound to someone else reading it.
  • Spend appropriate time on a question depending on marks allocated.
  • Try and write clearly especially in subjects with a lot of writing.
  • Answer the exact question that you are being asked on the paper.
  • Go into each exam with a positive and determined attitude.
  • Put a ‘*’ on questions you didn’t finish and revisit at the end.
  • Show all rough work for each question on your answer book.
  • A labelled picture/diagram can explain better than words.
  • Scribble down notes if you happen to run out of time.
  • You are ready. Leave all doubt outside the exam hall.
  • Stay until the end of all your exams.
  • Do your best!

Ten admin checks to do before entering the Exam Hall

If you are getting ready to sit your Leaving Certificate examinations this week, the following administration information is certainly worth a quick read. The more familiar you are with exam hall procedures, the more you can focus on your own game plan:

  1. Be very clear on the timing of each exam.
  2. Get there early on the first day of your exams to find out where to put your school bag and what centre (exam hall) you are sitting in.
  3. When you sit down each day, double check you have the correct paper and label in front of you. At Leaving Cert level, you can change from one level to another on the morning of the exam, but this does not come recommended, as you have spent considerable time preparing for a specific level.
  4. You cannot bring any notes, school bags, phones, or materials into the exam hall with you. You should just bring in your pens, instruments, and some water/sweets.
  5. Listen to the superintendents’ instructions carefully at the start of each exam, as there may be corrections to be made to the exam paper or other announcements.
  6. Be aware that Higher, Ordinary and Foundation Papers may finish at different times.
  7. You will not be allowed enter the exam hall once thirty minutes from the official start time of the exam has elapsed.
  8. If you take paper one at higher level for a subject, you must take paper two at higher level also. The same obviously applies to Ordinary and Foundation levels.
  9. You can obtain a copy of the exam paper from the school authorities after the exam. Each exam paper will be uploaded to the examinations.ie website soon after each exam.
  10. Ensure you write your exam number on each booklet you use, and be sure to hand up all your writing material. Good luck. Joe. :-)

To view last week’s feature article on the final ‘ACE Guide to Exam Preparation from Home’, click here.

                                                                                        

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

W: acesolutionbooks.com

FB: facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/

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Joe’s Jotter: Students should Work Together to Improve their Chance of Success

 


Revising Together to Shrink the Workload

Some students really struggle to motivate themselves on their own. Are you one of these people? Others work better in a small group or with one other person. Working on questions and tasks with your friends is a very effective study method, as long as you stick to the topic. Zoom sessions can be easily organised in pairs (with a study buddy) or three’s. Use this time to discuss topics or plan who is going to note take or write a certain essay to share with the group later. Working together is almost vital now given the amount of time you have spent at home working alone recently. I revised in groups for a small number of modules in university and found it very useful in fact-based subjects.  We rattled off stats and opinions to each other that many of us recalled at exam time.

Collaboration with one or two friends for some subjects can work. Avoid large groups, as you end up with too much information that you haven’t time to process and condense it then. Too many voices can lead to chaos and too many opinions can lead to a lack of conclusions. Collaboration is particularly good in fact-based subjects like History, Home Economics (S&S), Physics, Ag Science and Biology etc, as you can get a good flow of information going between you. It may not be as useful in Irish, Music and Maths as many topics in these subjects need to be worked on alone. Sometimes it is difficult to measure the success of a study technique or approach prior to testing it out, so make the decision and see will it work for you. I would recommend it.

‘The road of life is paved with flat squirrels who couldn’t make a decision’

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I’m sure you will agree that studying on your own for the last few months has at times got boring and tedious, so collaboration could be a way to spice up the ‘run in’ and reignite your spark. With a trustworthy ‘study buddy’, you can divide work up, teach each other and share notes. Rotate your study between working alone and with your friend(s) – this will keep you fresh. Work to your strengths is the advice here.

Thinking Outside the Box

If the usual revision methods of reading and note taking are not working for you, you need to think outside the box. Try and come up with new ways to learn and understand content. Use acronyms, create raps or songs to help aid memory. Associate your notes with lyrics from your favourite tunes. Use postits, summary sheets, colourful mind maps etc.

A good technique is to read your notes aloud recording them into your smartphone. Listening back to them will help you absorb the information and keep your memory sharp. I have used this method myself where I converted essays I was lecturing on into audio files. I then played them via my phone (using the AUX connection) in the car on the way to work. The advantage of this method is that you can educate yourself ‘on the go’ and make the best use of your time.

Audio files have become an option, now that all smartphones have the facility to record. Trial it by maybe recording an English poem into your phone, constantly playing it back to yourself, in order to get an insight into its theme. Various content from subjects can be recorded and replayed on your phone. You are only limited by your imagination. Your phone can be your mobile educator over the next few months. Some students actually enjoy listening to lectures, podcasts, or audio notes. Try it and see what you think!

Dealing with Distractions aka ‘Your Phone’

In my opinion, you are either studying or on social media: Which? There is no problem with ventures onto the Internet any time during the year, but I believe if you are inside a thirty-minute study block now you need to stay off Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat et. al. Nothing harms productivity as much as constant notifications from social media. As I have previously said, set your phone to silent or turn it off completely and only check social media during your set breaks. Being a ‘screenager’ around exam time will distract you from your key short-term goals. For those of you who really struggle to stay offline, try a blocking app that will temporarily keep you away from social media sites – there are plenty in your app store. I would request my Parents help on this one also.

We are all been guilty of spending too much time on our devices, but there is a time and a place for everything. I feel that the best way to prevent this distraction is to leave the phone in a separate part of your house. If you are in an exam year, work out the amount of time you spend surfing on your phone/laptop every week. Can you afford to spend this amount of time on it from now on…? Think about it. Now is the time to sacrifice and do without, so that you can enjoy and celebrate your success later. Joe.

To view last weeks feature article on ‘How to Maximise Your SEC Accredited Grade’, click here.

*****

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

W: acesolutionbooks.com

FB: facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/

#:   #JoesJotter

*****

© Joe McCormack 2021

Joe’s Jotter: Students should Work Together to Improve their Chance of Success

Joe’s Jotter: Students should Work Together to Improve their Chance of Success
Joe’s Jotter: Students should Work Together to Improve their Chance of Success

Joe’s Jotter: How to Maximise Your SEC ‘Accredited Grade’

With ‘Accredited Grades’ being a pathway for all 6th year students in 2021, what is the best way they can maximise their chances of achievement in this process over the next few months? How do they go about getting the highest possible result and take some pressure off sitting the exams? As a student, you obviously cannot change any of the work you have done over the last eighteen months, but you still have two months to influence what grade you receive from your school. The purpose of this feature article is to give you some practical tips on how to ensure this grade is as high as it can be across all subjects.

How Your SEC ‘Accredited Grades’ will be Calculated

In May, Teachers will be asked to estimate their pupils grades based on evidence that their work is to the standard of that grade. This estimation will include any previous exams and work completed including Class, Christmas, and Summer tests. Teachers will also consider their experience of teaching the student and how the student engaged during their classes.

Teachers are fully aware that pupils have missed many months of in-school learning, might not have had proper access to wi-fi or technology, and are unlikely to have completed all aspects of the curriculum. I am sure they will keep this in mind in their deliberations. Final grades will also depend on a limited number of class tests that teachers will set for students over the next few weeks. At this stage, students still have ample time to convince teachers to allocate the grade they think you deserve.  

 Four Ways to Maximise Your ‘Accredited Grade’

 

  1. Maintain Your High Standards.

The best thing for students to do now is to listen to their teachers and complete all homework and classwork to a high standard. Each piece of work a student completes will help their teacher build a picture of the grade they should be awarded. This includes daily homework, class tasks and overall contribution to class. Students should actively listen in class and show a genuine interest in topics they are studying.  Similarly and as I always say in ‘normal times’, complete each piece of homework as if it were an exam paper question.

If you are struggling with new topics, but work hard to try and get a better understanding of them, the teacher will a) be impressed that you have worked through the challenge and b) have shown evidence of Improvement and extended effort. Remember, work done, and efforts made to Improve your SEC Accredited Grade will essentially be ‘money in the bank’ when it comes to sitting the exams in June. All notes and revision done contribute to preparation for June’s sit down exam as your knowledge of the course deepens.

  1. Stay Engaged in Class

As always, teachers look for genuine engagement from all students during class. Students should endeavour to participate and learn as much as they can in each class. They shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions as they normally would,  as this shows initiative and a desire to learn. If I were in your position now, I would bring a little hardback into each class and note down any points the teacher emphasises as important. This ensures you stay engaged during each period. Treat all topics from now on seriously and consider that they could appear on your Leaving Cert Paper.

  1. Keep ‘Showing Up’

During the various restrictions and lockdowns, we have all had to find ways to stay focused and motivated. Key elements that help motivation include having a daily structure, having a sense of achievement, and having something productive to show at the end of each day. Be sure to attend school every day and go into each class with a positive can do attitude.

Students, remember that the accredited grade could be the result that you end up receiving in a given subject. Enter your target grade for each subject in your Journal asking yourself ‘am I on target for this?’ With only a limit number of weeks left, stay motivated as best you can. In October, you may be attending third level and have to learn alone in a whole different way. Any knowledge or skills you can pick up now will be useful for then. Creating study notes, analysing texts, and doing summaries are all useful skills to enhance, prior to commencing any third level course. Listening will also a key skill at that level.

  1. Keep Your Head

Teachers know what your abilities are. They also know that you may have had dips in your results over the last two years. If you have had a result in 5th year (a Christmas test for example), that was a lot lower than you could have got, your teacher will know it may have just been a blip or a bad day for you. Teachers will provide a rounded and fair judgment during the Accredited grades process, so try not to worry. Worrying about what grade you will get or previous class results will not get you one extra percent. In fact, it may affect and possibly lower your performance in class in the run up to the exams.

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

Ultimately, you need to keep June’s exam in focus. Try not to let these upcoming class tests overshadow your overall goal of the final exam. Keep doing your revision sessions and preparing notes each day. Keep in mind that your ‘Accredited Grade’ will be calculated on work you have done since the beginning of 5th year. Since so much of this is in the past, try and let the past go and focus on the present. Stay hungry, stay consistent and just keep doing your best. You have done so well to make it this far in a difficult year. Do get in touch with me if I can advise you in any way and I wish you luck in your endeavours. Joe

To view last weeks feature article on ‘The Importance of Practising Past Exam Questions in Maths’, click here.

*****

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

W: acesolutionbooks.com

FB: facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/

#:   #JoesJotter

*****

 

© Joe McCormack 2021

Joe’s Jotter: How to Maximise Your SEC ‘Accredited Grade’

Joe’s Jotter: How to Maximise Your SEC ‘Accredited Grade’
Joe’s Jotter: How to Maximise Your SEC ‘Accredited Grade’

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

The Routine of a Daily Lifestyle (Study) Timetable

Routine and structure to me should be based around what I call a ‘Lifestyle Study Timetable’. Through this, you plan exactly what you are going to do during each part of your day. The best starting point is to make a list of sub-topics to be revised for each subject; do this on a A3/A2 sheet of paper so that you can see a full picture of all the content you need to cover (for each subject) between now and the exams. Each sub-topic on this sheet is ticked off as it gets completed. The next step is to rank your subjects (one to seven) in the order that you enjoy/excel at them. The first four subjects being the ones you are good at/enjoy, with subjects numbered five to seven being the ones you are not so fond of/not the best at. Numbers five to seven are the subjects you need to allocate more time to on your daily timetable each week. Each daily timetable should be written down to help you be more accountable to it i.e. More likely to complete it. It will also allow you to monitor progress at the end of each day and you can check back, as required, on exactly what you got finished.

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

I recommend you write out a new timetable each evening for the following day. On this timetable, inbuild your breaks, exercise, time out chatting to friends, tv time, family time etc. Below is a partial sample of what a Lifestyle (Study) Timetable might look like (Increase the Zoom level to get a closer look if viewing on a device). As you can see, each revision ‘block’ is thirty minutes long and there is a five-minute break at the end of each block. Use short breaks to check your phone or get some air. Exercise of any form far out ways time spent on your phone or console; Fact. I would never have the phone in your study area. Putting it in a different room will allow you to focus on what you should be doing. Take a good thirty-minute break after every two to three hours work. Reward your efforts.

A Sample ACE Lifestyle (Study) Timetable*

*Based on the Standard School Week.

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

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

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

To view last weeks blog on ‘Five keys to Holiday Motivation’, click here. The link posted last week for this feature has changed, so apologies for that. Joe

*****

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

W: acesolutionbooks.com

FB: facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/

#:    #JoesJotter

*****

© Joe McCormack 2020

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

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

Joe’s Jotter: Check in Now on Your Motivation levels

Students, did you find that being at home all the time with no teachers or fellow students to encourage and motivate you has been a tad challenging? Could you have higher motivation levels? The reality is that a good chunk of your preparation will be done ‘home alone’. There are things you can do to maintain high spirits and decent motivation levels. Firstly, set up a Lifestyle (Study) Timetable with all different subjects, different subtopics and different ways of learning each day. Secondly, challenge the brain to perform different types of tasks every thirty minutes, whether that be taking notes, writing bullet points, watching a YouTube video, listening to an audio file or discussing a sub-topic on the phone with your friend. Variation in stimulus will trick the brain into maintaining concentration for longer. Mixing the above with regular breaks will alleviate boredom and increase productivity.

Improving your Motivation at Home

Maintaining high motivation levels is an important element of getting any task completed. The first thing to realise is that you can achieve any goal by discovering ways to motivate yourself. The way we converse can sometimes reflect our motivation levels and can also increase them intrinsically, without us even knowing. Highly motivated individuals will use words like ‘could’, ‘will’, ‘may’, ‘like to’ as opposed to ‘must’, ‘won’t’, ‘can’t’ and ‘need to’. Writing, considering and repeating positive sentences out loud can improve motivation and reset a positive mind-set. Here are some examples of these sentences in the context of your exam year. You should re-write these into the back of your journal to reflect your own current situation and attitudes:

  • I want to start preparing myself for the upcoming exams.
  • I need to put a structured timetable in place.
  • I’d like to get into Third level when I complete school.
  • I should get my head in the books this week.
  • I must start working hard to reach my short-term goals to enhance motivation.
  • I can achieve whatever I want through hard work.
  • I will deliver brilliant exam scripts in this year’s Junior/Leaving Cert.
  • I will get organised and sort this out step by step.
  • I know that I have plenty of ability.
  • I must organise to share study notes with my friends.
  • I can be as positive and as focused as anyone in my year.
  • I am a good all-rounder.
  • I am well able to take on this challenge.
  • I am a force to be reckoned with.
  • If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me.

Hearing about the study habits of others on Instagram or Snapchat can be a positive thing. Instead of feeling guilty about not being currently highly driven; use it to motivate yourself. The fact that there is someone out there competing against you, who wants your college place, should get you going and make you more determined.

Another motivating factor in your exam year is its length. The length of the school year is nine months, and with only a few months of that left now, you only really need to raise your game for that short period. Do you fancy repeating the year while your friends head off to college or employment? Not too appealing I would imagine. Again, don’t ignore these thoughts; instead use them as the driving factor every morning to ‘get started’, while always remembering It’s never too late to step into your own greatness! ?

It’s a nice idea to copy down your motivation drivers into the back of your school journal, having a glance at them whenever you find yourself losing interest in your work. Having a role model friend who is very driven can also help you to fulfil your potential. Talk to as many former exam students as you can to find out how they navigated their path. Above all, I want you to compete against yourself and not anyone else. Use your previous results, grades and recent comments from your teachers to strive for something more.

Accept the Things You Currently Cannot Change

As this point in time, you need to reflect a little about what kind of a start you have made to the year.  Ask yourself now, “Am I on track to deliver a performance when the big day arrives?”, “Will I feel better or worse if I do absolutely nothing over the next week?” It is worth remembering that you cannot change the past and it shouldn’t limit you either. This week is a good time to start. I always remind my students that you can only shape your future through present actions. Start again tomorrow if today didn’t go so well. Move on and accept. For me, the prayer of serenity comes to mind here:

“Accepting the things, I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”

Having a bad day may commence a negative thought process: “I’ll drop down to pass or foundation to concentrate on other subjects”. You need to guard against one lapse destroying your desire to achieve at a given subject. A bad day is not a bad week and remember that this is a long-term project. However, there are things that you can control, including, keeping yourself as healthy as possible by eating well, exercising and completing those timetabled revision blocks you put in place.

In summary, find out what motivation techniques work for you and repeat them. Try not to worry about what you cannot control. At the minute, you have no control of when the exams will happen or even when you will be back in school. Your job now is to settle into a good revision routine at home. You can only do your best so try not to be too hard on yourself. Joe

Click here for the steps top set up a Lifestyle (Study) Timetable.

*****

More details about Joe’s ACE Tuition (Maths and English), ACE Career Coaching, and his ever popular ACE Maths Solution Books for the Junior and Leaving Certificate can be found via the links below. Be sure to pick up your copy today!

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

*****

© Joe McCormack 2020

Joe’s Jotter: Check in Now on Your Motivation levels

Joe’s Jotter: Check in Now on Your Motivation levels
Joe’s Jotter: Check in Now on Your Motivation levels