Joe’s Jotter: How to Choose Your 5th Year Subjects

Choosing subjects for 5th Year can be daunting enough, and soon many 3rd and all Transition (4th) year students will be faced with that task in school. A 4th year student will have had more time to contemplate options, and so sometimes make more considered choices than those coming straight from the Junior Cycle (3rd year), and this is something Parents need to be aware of. It is important to put some thought into how subject choices may influence career options later. Students should now consult with all their teachers and ask them about the level of work that’s required for success in a given subject at a specific level.

Third Level Considerations

Students, if you have a third level course or career in mind, it is important now to do a little research into its content and investigate if there are any ‘minimum entry requirement’ to gain access to it. All courses now have detailed descriptions of each module online, listing out exactly what you will be required to study on a year by year basis. It is important to note that no matter what points you achieve; you will not be allowed onto a course unless you achieve its minimum entry requirement (if it has one). This may guide you to choose particular subjects. In the case of compulsory exam subjects (which you will be studying anyway), obviously there is no choice to make there. However, if there is a requirement on your desired course to score a certain grade in a foreign language or other subject, you will need to opt for this subject if your heart is set on that course. However, to this tune, I would strongly recommend you have a plan B and C in place when choosing courses and will discuss the importance of this in articles later in the year.

In relation to specific college requirements, it is useful to know that the NUI colleges (UCD, UCG, UCC, Maynooth etc) require a pass in a third language [excluding English and Gaeilge] for many of their courses. However there are now exceptions to this: UCD has dropped this requirement for Engineering and Agricultural Science, and Maynooth has removed it for Business, Accounting, Finance and Law. Trinity, UL, DCU and the Institutes of Technology don’t have this third language requirement, except for language courses. Again, the advice here is to double check the requirements online for each individual course and college.

There are also ‘Subject requirements’ on courses. Examples include: to study Primary teaching, you need a H4 in Irish, Engineering courses may require honours Maths and sometimes a science subject, Medicine may require two science subjects (one being chemistry) and Nursing may also require a science subject. The savvy student will do some research on websites like Qualifax and Careers portal to get a handle on the exact requirements of courses they are Interested in. Be fully informed prior to CAO time.

The Eight ACE ‘Do’s’ for choosing Subjects

All in all, when it comes to subject choice, students should think a little about their futures, talk to teachers, look at courses they may have an Interest in and discuss with their peers gone ahead how they found studying the subject. Take your time and choose well. It may be wiser to choose subjects you have an interest in, as opposed to ones you feel you must choose in order to get into a certain career later. It is definitely a balancing act. Here are my eight ACE do’s for subject choice for 3rd and 4th year students:

  • Do…Choose subjects you enjoy learning about
  • Do…Discuss it with as many people as you can including teachers and peers etc
  • Do…Try and keep your options open as much as possible
  • Do…Choose subjects you have some kind of a flair for or Interest In
  • Do…Research each subject’s content on www.curriculumonline.ie
  • Do…Choose subjects linked to a possible future career you are considering
  • Do…Write down the Pro’s/Con’s when trying to decide between two subjects
  • Do…Make the final decision yourself (not your friends, teachers, or parents)

Final Choice Advice

The best advice I can give about subjects is to select ones that keep your options open.

You can best do this by choosing one foreign language and ensuring that at least two of the other three subjects picked are ones you have an interest in or flair for. Remember that you will be spending a lot of time studying your chosen subjects over the next two years and the nightmare scenario would be dreading going into that class each day. I myself selected a subject I regretted taking in 5th year, but luckily was allowed switch later. You may not be as fortunate in your school, so try and get it right the first time to save any unnecessary anxiety. I also have a degree in a subject that I didn’t study for my Leaving Cert. Life can be funny, so my advice is ‘rule nothing out’ and keep as many doors open as possible.

In choosing subjects, always play to your strengths. For example, if business is something you are really interested in, you could choose Business and Accounting (assuming they don’t clash on the school timetable). Similarly, if Science is your area of passion, you could opt for two of the Science subjects i.e. Biology, Chemistry or Physics. Applied Maths or Agricultural Science may also be other options here.

Enthusiasm for any subject will foster a desire to learn more about it and studying these subjects in Senior Cycle won’t even feel like learning. If you are struggling with this decision, put all the information and swaying factors out on the kitchen table. Usually, your heart will guide you one way or the other at that stage. I wish you every success with your decision. Joe

‘Compare yourself against yourself, not how much work your friend is doing.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

*Source: Data from www.examinations.ie

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

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

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

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

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

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Joe’s Jotter: Preparing for a Mock Paper in Maths (3rd & 6th Yrs)

As third and sixth years prepare for their Mock Paper in Maths, here are some quick pointers to help them be ready. Some students get quite anxious about the Mock examinations, but I always feel the focus should be on preparing and being ready for the final June exams. Here are my ACE tips for the Mocks 2023:

  1. Focus on getting the timing right for each question on the day. This is one of the main ‘learnings’ to take from the Mocks. You should come away with better timing skills.
  2. Practice easier past exam question that you feel confident on beforehand. I wouldn’t take on ‘rock hard’ or new content that may actually sway your existing confidence.
  3. Write down all the formula’s that you need to know for the exam (those that are not in your Log Tables). Be very familiar with what formulas are in your Log Tables.
  4. I would give the textbook a break for a short period. Know the core skills and use your notes from class to help you tackle more straightforward questions in preparation.
  5. Do Maths revision in short bursts. Maths can be quite intense, especially if you take on longer past exam questions. Forty mins max and then take a break. Stay fresh!
  6. Rotate your Maths revision between topics over the next few weeks. This will keep your brain more tuned and aid motivation. Note all the key points into a hard back.
  7. Target three main topics on both Paper 1 and Paper 2 (Leaving Certs) as opposed to trying to cover the whole course. It isn’t possible in two weeks. Sensibility rules!
  8. Get advice from a Maths teacher. Ask your teacher ‘how should you best prepare for the Maths mock?’ Each teacher will have their own take on best to prep for this exam.
  9. Invest in a good Maths Solutions book. This will allow you to check your solutions to questions in a step-by-step manner at home. ACE Maths Solution Books will help here.
  10. Be realistic with your Maths Mock exam. You have still so much more to cover in class and haven’t actually sat down to do a full exam paper yet. Time is still on your side. 

To find out more about how to approach the Mock examinations for all subjects (among other topics), there is a full chapter with advice and guidance on it in my ACE Study Guidebook entitled How to ACE the Leaving Certificate’ for all subjects. This textbook is suitable for all students from second year to sixth.

Wishing you all the luck,

Joe.
ACE Maths Tuition
W:
acesolutionbooks.com

Joe’s Jotter: How to Revise 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.

‘The examiners want you to succeed in your exams.’

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

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

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

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Joe’s Jotter: How to Remain Motivated during Holidays

As we enter our Christmas holidays, we will all enjoy a well-deserved break. However, don’t leave it until the day before school to open the school bag again. Depending on what year you are in, you will know yourself how many hours revision you need to put in over these few weeks. Have a read of the below list of pointers and try and implement two or three of them in order to maintain some semblance of revision over the holidays. It will make your life much easier having continued some constructive habits over Christmas.

  1. Reward yourself

Don’t forget to ‘have a life’ as you prepare for any upcoming exam. Reward yourself after a long study session with a trip to the cinema or visit to your friends. Try hard to develop your own balance between work and play. Ultimately, reward yourself with breaks, taking a reasonable one after every good hour’s work. There is nothing wrong with rewards like chocolate, ice-cream, or a packet of gummy bears; as everyone who has done something constructive deserves a little thank you. The best reward you can give yourself on long revision days are breaks. I am a big believer in a five minute break after every thirty minutes revision.

  1. Stay connected

It is important to keep up communication with your friends and family during revision times. Let them know how you are feeling, especially if you are anxious about a particular subject or upcoming assessment. You will feel so much better about a problem if you ‘chat’ about it to someone. Also, it can be easy to get cut off from the outside world when you are highly focused; so try not to let this happen. Always try and find your balance between work, rest, and play; remembering that everyone’s balance is slightly different.

  1. Use your family

Using members of your family to learn material is an avenue that few utilise properly. Some of your siblings will have completed exams and may be able to pass on some good quality information or advice; so remind them to save their best notes for you. Even if the content of their notes isn’t suitable for your learning style; their methods, notes structure, style and layout could give you some fresh new ideas in preparation of your own.

Get your parents involved and tap into knowledge and practical advice they may have on subjects they enjoyed in school. Get them to examine you on topics. They don’t need to be experts on parts of the course you are struggling with, as they can refer to Information from your book or notes in front of them. All you need is their time and a willingness to ask you loads of questions. Get the conversation going together to promote extra learning.

  1. Stick to your plan

Whatever plan you have for the next three weeks, try to stick to it as best you can. Working in retail every hour over Christmas won’t get you any extra points. As I always say, ‘you can work for the rest of your life’ (this includes college). Try and balance time wisely if you do happen to have a part time job. I am not a major fan of 6th year students working part-time, but that’s just my opinion.

On a given day, if you plan to start revision at 9am, get up before then, have breakfast, get ready and commence at that exact time. The students that do well are those who apply this self-disciplined approach, and it guarantees that you are getting maximum efficiency out of your time. A high level of satisfaction will come when you get your exam results; knowing you gave it your all. Time and tide wait for no man (or woman). Keep things ticking over during holiday time. 

  1. Try and maintain some routine

Getting to bed at a reasonable time and getting plenty of sleep will help you to stick to your goals and plans. Do this as best you can, even during holiday periods. We all lose our routine over the hols and that’s ok too. However, try and get back into better habits when the new year turns and your first day back in school approaches. This will allow your body to be somewhat adjusted when you return to those early mornings. Over your holidays, enjoy yourself while maintaining some form of sensibility: eat plenty of fruit and veg, drink plenty of water and get loads of sleep. Rest and replenish both physically and mentally and get ready for the encounters ahead.

Tune in to next week’s blog where I will publish Part two of ‘How to Revise More Effectively from Home’. Joe

‘On bad days, put one leg in front of the other. Move, don’t stand still.’

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

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

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

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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 Prepare for Exams ‘Home Alone’ (Episode 1)

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

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

Next Day’s Plan

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

Learning Successfully at Home

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

Your Study Area

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

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

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

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

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

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Joe’s Jotter: The Benefits of After School Study for Your Child

I am a big advocate of after school study with many schools now running it after class time finishes. Parents, I would highly recommend you enrol your child for these sessions (assuming it is affordable for you). I believe that (from second year upwards) this daily routine will help them settle into positive habits of completing their homework and getting some revision done each day.

Here are my top ten reasons to engage in regular after school study:

  1. Quiet Place

In this noisy world, it can be difficult to find quiet times in the home; meals to be cooked, chores to be done and siblings running around. At school study, students are assured of quiet time to concentrate and put goals and preparation in place for what’s upcoming that week.

  1. Learning Environment

Being in school, students are in the place they are used to learning in. In the study hall, they will be assigned a proper table and chair with good heating and lighting for sessions. Their study environment at home may not be as good. Study in school could turn out to be more productive than efforts to concentrate at home. Their friends studying with them in the hall may provide extra motivation also, fostering a ‘we are all in this together’ group attitude.

  1. Proper Supervision

After school study will usually be supervised by one of the subject teachers (who students will know), and this ensures they will be required to get on with their work and revision during the session. It may also be handy to have someone knowledgeable present that they can ask questions of if they are unsure about homework or notes. 

  1. Homework Opportunities

After school study should be looked at as an opportunity to get all homework of the day done to a high standard. Exam students should always complete every piece of homework like an exam question. I view homework as the best form of study.

  1. Revision Blocks

Sometimes if a day contains free class periods, much of the day’s homework may already be finished. In this case, students should set out two or three study blocks of thirty minutes in after school study to maximise their revision time. Getting some extra revision done during the week will give a great sense of satisfaction for that day and will take pressure off their workload for other days that week (including your weekend). After school study is the ideal place for this preparation.

  1. Home Unsuitability

Sometimes good quality study and revision at home may not be feasible; there may be just too much going on. Parents knowing that their children have these extra hours in school will be reassured of genuine work being done and can of course check in on this with teachers.

  1. Catch-up Time

Just before after school study is a great time to get notes from your buddies for any classes you may have missed over the previous few days. Prior to study, you will have a chance to discuss with them what homework needs to be done and clarify any issues for the next day’s school also.

  1. Leisure Time

Putting a big effort into after school study should leave you with more free time when you get home. Even during the week, every student needs a little bit of down time, whether that be, going to the cinema, visiting friends, playing sport, or just hanging out. This free time should be viewed by parents as a reward for their child’s efforts during the day.

  1. Minimal Distractions

After school study is now even more important given the emergence of the smart phone. As you well know, social media and phone access is a big distraction now, especially when trying to revise at home. Not having devices in after school study will make it much easier for your child to concentrate on tasks at hand without being disturbed by notifications.

  1. Early Finish

Going into after school study soon after classes finish will ensure all homework will be completed earlier in the evening. This should improve productivity with their mind being fresher at this time. It should also give more opportunities for family meals and getting into good sleeping habits during the week. Joe.

‘Do not Ignore the subjects you are good at. Nurture them too.’

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: Parents & Primary School Children: Working in Harmony


With Primary school students having spent much time recently learning from home, parents are now taking a greater role and Interest in their children’s education. This is a difficult task, as many parents are working from home and trying to support their child’s learning also. Creating a consistent routine, keeping positive, keeping calm, putting rules and consequences in place, allowing time for your child, talking to, and reassuring them are all factors that will contribute to producing a more harmonious learning environment.

I have worked with a Primary Teacher to develop this feature and I hope you will find it helpful as we move to a new normal and different ways of learning and communicating. In this feature I have included some areas we consider important to you as a parent at difficult times like these. I hope they are of some help and create a safe, happy and loving environment for your child.

It is important to plan a daily structure and involve your child in this process. With your child, sit down together and draw up a balanced timetable of learning, fun and breaks. A child will follow a timetable better if they help plan it and this will also build their confidence. In doing this you are giving them a level of ownership to control and determine their own routine.

Tips on planning a routine and timetable

  • Set times to get up and go to bed
  • Agree a timeline including structured work, recreational/practical activities, and breaks
  • Choose activities the child enjoys
  • Plan short sessions e.g. 20 mins and always allow flexibility. There is no set time if the learning is balanced and varied
  • Identify times you can work with them and times they can work independently
  • Aim to include movement breaks regularly throughout the day
  • Ask your child what they like to do and include this in the daily schedule
  • Introduce a positive reward system e.g. choice time, sticker chart. treats etc
  • Decorate the timetable and display it at your child’s eye level

Supporting Schoolwork at Home

Junior Infants – 2nd Class

The best way to support children of this age is to:

  • Sit with them as they work
  • Work for short intervals
  • Take movement and snack breaks
  • Use the outdoors to break away from tabletop tasks
  • Use a reward system
  • Encourage your child to focus on the task in front of them
  • Read words/questions carefully
  • Form letters correctly
  • Check correct pencil grip
  • Have concrete materials readily available for number work
  • Provide practical experiences for Maths work, e.g. Shapes around me, weighing food from the cupboard, counting, checking etc
  • Challenge them by asking different types of questions in various subject areas
  • Try and relate topic areas to your child’s own experiences
  • Always give praise and encouragement

3rd Class – 6th Class

  • Allow children to work independently as much as possible
  • Offer support and assistance as needed
  • Assess learning by observing, questioning and correcting work
  • Monitor presentation of work and handwriting
  • Look at their school workplan beforehand to familiarise yourself with the different subject areas
  • Use age-appropriate actions from the ‘Junior Infants – 2nd Class’ list above

Outside the Classroom

It is important for your child to enjoy free time and activities they have fun with. Here are a range of activities that you and your child can choose from:

  • Practice how to keep safe during Corona virus spread
  • Exercise, sport, games
  • Imaginative free play
  • Fine motor skills: Lego, play dough, beading, building blocks and cutting
  • Linking in with loved ones and friends on voice calls and video calls as social interaction is very important
  • Learn life skills: indoors and outdoors (Choose jobs that children can do)

– Baking, cooking, gardening, (planting, weeding), setting the table, emptying the dishwasher, making their bed, tidying their room, folding clothes, sorting clothes, hanging out the washing, farming (safely) etc

Media and Online Time

It is important that your child has access to recommended online facilities during any school closures where possible. Ensure your child’s safety online and set up parent controls on devices to monitor child’s activities online. Below I will list some of the more useful websites you can work on with your child.

It’s a good idea to link with the school and class teacher through email, in order to give and receive feedback and to send on work samples for assessment.

 Eleven Useful Websites to Support You as Parents (Click below)

helpmykidlearn.ie (Learning for all Age Groups)

PrimaryScience.ie (Science)

twinkl.ie/offer (enter the code IRLTWINKLHELPS)

webwise.ie (Online safety)

vooks.com (Literacy)

starfall.com (Literacy)

scoilnet.ie (All curricular areas)

topmarks.co.uk (Maths)

learn.khanacademy.org/khan-academy-kids (Words and Numbers)

askaboutireland.ie (SESE)

krokotak.com (Arts and crafts/colouring)

positiveparentingsolutions.com (Parental Advice)

“Mistakes are proof that you are trying.”

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: Guidance on How to Boost Your Motivation

Students, did you find being at home all the time during lockdown with no teachers or fellow students to encourage and motivate you challenging? Most did in fairness. Even us adults struggled greatly with the situation. The reality, however, is that a good chunk of your preparation will be done ‘home alone’ no matter what the circumstances. There are plenty of things you can do to maintain high spirits and decent motivation levels, both for home and school time. Have a read of this feature article and pick out two or three things you can implement that might improve your motivation levels and your attitude towards schoolwork and the homework/revision you do each evening.

Set up a Lifestyle (Study) Timetable

Firstly, set up a Lifestyle (Study) Timetable with all different subjects, different subtopics, and different ways of learning each day. Start with a trial run for three days and tweak it as you go along. 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. These are definitely two starting points to help drive the desire to be more successful, whether that be in a small class test or the final state exams for exam years.

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 new academic 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 class tests and Christmas 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.
  • 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 class and 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 for this year’s Junior and Leaving Certs is its length. The length of the school year is just nine months. 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’.

It’s a nice idea to copy down your motivations 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. Just improve on your last test result!

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. Your job at this time of year is to settle into a good revision routine at home and to listen as best you can in class. You can only do your best, so try not to be too hard on yourself. Joe

“It’s never too late to step into your own greatness!”

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: My ACE Pointers to Help Students Settle Back into Revision

Students,

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

  1. Take regular breaks.

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

  1. Stay alert and interested.

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

  1. Be ruthless with your notes.

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

  1. Set goals and keep records.

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

  1. Earn your rewards.

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

  1. Start thinking about Past Exam papers.

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

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

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

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

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

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Joe’s Jotter: 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