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

 

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

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

Why Past Exam Questions are Key!

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

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

Doctor Maths, the Poet.

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

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

 

 Using Past Exam Questions to your Advantage

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

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

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

  Commence a Strict Diet of Past ‘Exam Questions’ Today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Joe’s Jotter: How to become a Specialist at Maths Exams (Part 1)


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

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

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

Make Changes to How You Revise and Prepare for Maths Exams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo:@ZhangChaosheng

Joe’s Jotter: Tips for 2nd and 3rd Years to 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 book, 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. 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 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. You need to try and stand out a bit from your fellow students.

Joe’s Jotter next week 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.

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.

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: The ACE Guide to Exam Preparation from Home (Feature 4 of 6)


Working Against the Clock

In order to give yourself the edge over your fellow students, you should work where possible against the clock. There is no substitute for creating a little exam environment at home. Firstly, read and understand a piece of work (e.g. a chapter in Physics) and without looking at your book, take a sheet of paper and over five minutes, write down all the key headings and important information from what you just revised. Go back then and re-read the chapter and update or re-do your summary page. You will notice that your summary page the second time is of much better quality and detail.

In recording and updating your summary page and unknown to yourself, you are actually learning and understanding the information better. Once you believe you have a decent grasp of a topic, you should seek out and try a past exam question based on it. Set your stopwatch to ensure you get the question attempted within the allocated time. It is important to get used to how timing works on exam papers, remembering that each paper in each subject differs.

Ask Your Teacher

Your subject teacher can offer expert guidance on using past papers, marking schemes and being efficient with time. In all cases, reach out to them if you are struggling to get revision started in any subject. They will be only delighted to try help you overcome barriers; always wanting you to do well. One of the ACE questions I would ask them is: ‘ What are the best ways to prepare and then learn the material in your subject’? This open question allows them to give you a range of options.

Through practice and their guidance, you will then find which strategies suit your learning style. This of course is on a trial and improve basis, where you won’t know a methods suitability until you attempt it first. You should also ring up a friend in your class for advice or encouragement to see what their opinion is or what viewpoint they are adopting with certain topics. The more views and advice you obtain, the better decisions you can make that fit your needs.

Practice by Doing

I am a huge fan of ‘summarising your summaries’ in order to have notes written simply in your own language and manageable to learn and understand later. Scientists have found an intrinsic link between one’s hand and brain, emphasising this point. If you manage to source good notes from a friend or online, reading and understanding their relevance isn’t enough. You will need to transcribe their content onto a new page in your own words. When doing this, use simple language, lists and  graphics to make the content memorable for yourself later.

According to the learning pyramid constructed by the National Training Laboratories at Maine (United States), we retain up to seventy five percent of work ‘practiced by doing’. ‘Practice doing’ involves active learning by writing notes on textbooks, attempting potential questions and being willing to make mistakes and learn from them. The retention figure from the pyramid for ‘reading’ reduces to just ten percent. This indicates that we only remember a small amount of what we read.

If your revision sessions thus far have consisted of reading texts (In a recent survey, fifty five percent of students claim that this is their number one study technique), you are wasting time and need to change tact now. You constantly should be reducing the amount of notes you have by re-writing/summarising them. For example, summarise ten lines of written or typed notes into four written. By consistently doing this you are actively thinking about the content instead of just scanning through it.

 Managing Difficult Subjects (Maths for Example)

Some subjects cause more anxiety in students than others. Unfortunately, my own subject, Maths, is one of those for many of you. This is a subject that everyone completes an exam in, and one that needs to be prepared well. With subjects you find difficult, apply the ‘Practice doing’ principle to it, as discussed above. My main advice around Maths (or indeed any subject you struggle with) would be to practice completing as many past questions from recent previous exams as possible. Start with the more straightforward part (a)’s and check your solution against a detailed solution book each time. Then commence the part (b)’s and so on. This will build your confidence levels step by step.

For Leaving Certificate Maths students, the shorter questions are a good place to start with this strategy. When you feel more confident, start combining questions together and measure your performance against the clock. For example, attempt to do two short questions inside the allocated time per question. This strategy links to the ‘home exam centre’ mentioned earlier. I cannot over emphasise enough the importance of testing yourself at home in difficult subjects. Set a quiz (or ask your friend to set one) or write a test for yourself the night before and complete it the next morning, inside a specified time limit. Use test questions from each chapter’s end. Check also if your teacher can e-mail you some mini-tests to tackle. Lack of class testing time means you must cover this base now yourself.

Homework given at any time of the year should be taken seriously. View homework as a challenge to get your method and answers as close to one hundred percent correct as you can. In my experience, the students who do well are the ones who research methods online or Investigate simple examples from their textbook in order to get started on those difficult past exam question. I still go online to verify Maths concepts that I am not one hundred percent sure of. While doing this, I often go on to discover alternative ways to solve problems and gather new pieces of information. The more pathways you can find to solve a given problem, the more options you will have to reapply these to questions presented on exam day. This applies across all subjects.

Recording new formulas and keynotes into a hardback is also a useful exercise, given you can refer to them in one central place from then on. This hardback will become (in time) your ‘go to fix’ if you get stuck on a problem. Ensure to keep all your notes and hardbacks in Maths (no sum copy bonfires), as you may end up studying a module in it at third level. Life can be strange sometimes. Algebra is the language of Maths, so knowing it is certainly a big help in this subject. The examiners place a big emphasis on this topic at all levels of Maths. If you are struggling in the subject, start by revising basic Algebra now. This will give you the foundations for a palatial residence later i.e. success. I would recommend using a small hardback for keynotes in all subjects.

In summary, if there is a subject you find difficult, build up your vocab of words that regularly appear in it, check in with your teacher to find out what core topics you need to focus on, allocate more time to the subject on your Lifestyle (Study) Timetable and ultimately attempt as many past exam questions on it as you can, starting initially with really basic questions from past papers.

To view last week’s feature article on ‘Students should work together to Improve their chance of Success’, click here.

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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/

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Joe’s Jotter: The ACE Guide to Exam Preparation from Home (Feature 3 of 6)

Dealing with Motivation Issues – ‘I Don’t Know Where to Start’

Students, if you are struggling for motivation at home right now, put a half day’s timetable in place tonight and try it tomorrow. Time will fly, with each revision block being only thirty minutes. As you begin to see progress, your motivation will grow. An alternative approach to developing a timetable would be to create a task list. Each night you could write down a list of ten to twelve challenges you would like to achieve in various subjects the next day. Tick them off then as you get them completed. If you currently feel you are swamped with work and worry, this is your ‘get out of jail’ card. It is so important to set targets, otherwise timetables and lists are just ‘drive by’ and ‘hopeful’ preparations that you will never be answerable to. We all need targets to help us achieve things and it is also a fact that we are more likely to reach them if they are written down.

Once you set a measurable target (example: eight pages from a textbook to be summarised into your own words), assess how much progress you have made. On completion, tick it off the sub-topic list on your A3/A2 subject summary sheet. A short term target could be as simple as ‘understanding emotions’ from two English poems or practicing writing letters to an imaginary pen pal in whatever modern foreign language you study. Remember if you don’t know where to start, commence with the basics of a topic. i.e. view the first few chapters of your textbook or the first set of notes your teacher gave you on it. Start small and then when you get up and running and notice progress, you will be encouraged by your own efforts. Just get a routine going somehow, and then rinse and repeat.

Write out a List of Motivations in Your Journal

Another tip to improve motivation is to write out a list of targets in your Journal and then write ten reasons underneath explaining your motivation to ACE them. On lazy days, open that page and read your ‘motivational list’,  thinking about how you felt when you wrote them. This will inspire you to get started or keep going. Revising and preparing may seem like it is solely for your upcoming exam, but you will discover that learning is a lifelong process. Try to enjoy the challenge of getting that timetable completed or ticking off those tasks; you have nothing to lose and all to gain. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just give it your all.

For those of you who continue to struggle to get started on revision, start by writing down the activities you lean towards to dodge study. Put this list on your wall and be fully aware of the times you drift towards them. Being aware of this list will remind of what you really should be putting your mind to at that given moment. Any effort or movement towards starting a short revision block should motivate you to commence a second one i.e. The hardest part of being successful with any task is often just getting it started. Imagine yourself, on your side, rolling down a steep hill. You will gain momentum as you go.

The Many and Best Ways to Learn

The key to any successful Lifestyle (Study) Timetable is keeping your brain fresh by completing different tasks every thirty minutes. Rotate your learning between different subjects but also within subjects. What I mean by this is: Revise in all the different ways possible. You only need five or six ways that work for you but won’t know which ones suit until you actually road test them yourself. The below is a sample list of the many ways we learn. I am sure you could add even more creative and interesting methods to this list below that match your personality. Pick out three or four of these approaches and give them a try:

  1. Write a bulleted list to explain and summarise a short book extract.
  2. Summarise a chapter of your textbook into your own words.
  3. Create flash cards with a list of facts. Limit each card to seven key points.
  4. Record a summary using the voice memo function on your phone. Replay back.
  5. Put keywords and their definition for each subject (per topic) into a hardback.
  6. View a YouTube video of an expert or listen to audio/podcasts on topics.
  7. Teach or discuss what you have learned with a member of your family.
  8. Get your parents/siblings to ask you questions on a topic you have just revised.
  9. Read a summary out loud to yourself.
  10. Rotate your place of study to retain freshness. e.g. the garden or kitchen table.
  11. Create Bubble diagrams with Microsoft PowerPoint to illustrate topic linkages.
  12. Create a visual Mind Map for a sub-topic you are struggling with.
  13. Stick nine postits onto an A4 sheet. Write a summary with keywords onto them.
  14. Use different coloured pens (red and green) to draw attention to key points.
  15. Use different coloured highlighters to mark relevant details of note.
  16. Chat to friends to find out how they are approaching certain subjects/topics.
  17. Stick stickies/sheets on your wall for memory. Rotate content every five days.
  18. Research topics on the Internet to give yourself that extra piece of information.
  19. Continually test yourself with sample tests, online quizzes & past exam papers.
  20. Use Graphic Organisers to create a more visual set of notes (samples below).

Sample Graphic Organisers*

*Source: Using Graphic Organisers in Teaching and Learning (SLSS)

To view last weeks feature article on ‘Core Methodologies for Revising Maths at Home’, click here.

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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

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© Joe McCormack 2021

Joe’s Jotter: The ACE Guide to Exam Preparation from Home (Feature 3 of 6)

Joe’s Jotter: The ACE Guide to Exam Preparation from Home (Feature 3 of 6)
Joe’s Jotter: The ACE Guide to Exam Preparation from Home (Feature 3 of 6)

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

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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.

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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

Joe’s Jotter: ACE Tips for Transitioning into 1st Year (Part 2)

There are loads of steps and initiative’s both you and your child can take as they start Secondary school. In Part 2 of this feature, I will discuss three key areas for you to consider in order to ease this transition: One, the importance of learning support; Two, your awareness of how the first few weeks are actually going for them; and Three, practical tips for both of you to consider at school and at home. Part 1 is available to read here.

Learning Support

  • Secondary Schools will have learning support for your child. If your child’s new school are missing any key Information around this, ensure they get it as soon as possible. Many schools will have a staff meeting where the year head outlines important strengths and weaknesses of each student. This usually only happens once a year (In September).
  • Learning support at Secondary is different to Primary school. Contact the school if they have been receiving support and their new school aren’t aware of this.
  • Flag any difficulties your child had in primary early so that it goes on their file where their class tutor and year head can access it. Ensure to request the correct learning supports that your child is entitled to.
  • If your child has complex special educational needs they may need a transition plan to assist them to transfer to secondary school. You and your child will be involved in developing this plan. Other people may be involved, as necessary, including relevant teachers from their primary and post-primary school, NEPS psychologist, health professionals etc.
  • Most post-primary schools will have links with their feeder primary schools. This allows for an easier transfer of information. Usually, there is contact between the 6th class teacher/resource teacher and the receiving post-primary school which helps to overcome any disconnect between what was taught in primary and the starting point in certain subjects at second level.
  • A planning meeting may be held for those students with complex needs. This should include you as the parent, the school principal, if possible the class teacher and as necessary other professionals who have been involved with your child in primary school.
  • As appropriate, a support plan may include information on your child’s learning, social and communication, care, (for example: dressing, toileting, mobility and medication), sensory (such as over sensitivity to noise, textures, lights) and physical needs that require environmental adaptations such as adaptations to the school building, adapted seating or other specialised equipment.
  • For all parents, I would recommend writing a one page profile about your child noting the difficulties and barriers they faced at primary school. Include the strategies that worked and that didn’t work for them. This would be valuable Information for their tutor, year head and individual subject teachers.

You may also wish to ask the following questions?

  1. Where can my child go if they are struggling/anxious/having a meltdown?
  2. What happens at break and lunch time i.e. unstructured time?
  3. How can my child get help with reading/spelling/maths/homework?
  4. How will support in assessments work?

Awareness

  1. Watch out for any early signs of bullying by regularly checking in to your child. Personally, I would be tuned in early to see whats going on and whats being said. A lot of bullying goes on via the phone. Ask them to pass on issues if something comes through on the phone i.e. a comment, message or a social media post. In general, if you get them into good habits in 1st year, 2nd year will be way more straightforward (A major ACE tip here).
  2. Things will be a little unsettled for the first few weeks. A routine is really important. I would try to maintain the dinner, bed, study, training and recreational routines at home as best you can. Kids that are going through change crave some kind of routine and they will look to you for that.
  3. After the Initial settling in period is over, keep an eye out for disturbed sleep, anxiety and poor eating habits – it may be a sign of something not quite right at school.
  4. More serious signs of issues are: Not wanting to do activities they enjoy, not wanting to spend time with friends or worse, an unwillingness to go to school. Teach your child to talk to you.
  5. Ask them what classes they like?, who are they sitting beside? Who are you hanging around with? What clubs have they? Always get the conversation going.
  6. Listen if they have a bad day..

At home you could…

  1. Photocopy their timetable. Have copies in their locker, on the fridge,  in their journal and one for their pocket.
  2. Photocopy the bus ticket. Have a spare ticket in their school bag, at home and in their locker.
  3. Help them get organised with colour co-ordinated folders (available in most stationary shops). Give each subject a colour, so for example, English goes in the blue folder. Put a blue sticker on the English textbook/copies and colour ‘English’ blue on the timetable. If you have a map of the school then the room where English class is on would be blue also.
  4. Have a morning checklist on the fridge for: books, lunch, key, jacket etc.

In school they should consider…

  1. Having a safe person they can approach for help or advice, more than one if possible.
  2. Making sure they have a copy of a colour coordinated timetable, a spare key/combination code and bus-ticket.
  3. Trying to build a good relationship with their class tutor and year head.
  4. Having a notebook that they can write in during the day if they find something challenging. Don’t expect them to talk immediately after school. Give them some quiet processing time.
  5. Getting to know a buddy or designated person in a class that they can text to find out what homework they have.
  6. Checking: If using a laptop, most secondary school books now come now with a code where you can upload their book onto the laptop at home. This may sometimes allow them to leave books in school.
  7. Getting to know the school secretary.
  8. Putting a dob of bright nail varnish or small badge on their school jacket, allowing it to stand out in a crowd. Marks on all their property will reduce the chances of it going missing.

In next week’s Jotter entry, I will provide an insight into Preparing difficult subjects e.g. Maths. Don’t miss it. To view more of Joe’s Jotter features, click the hashtag #JoesJotter. Joe

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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 copies today!

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

******

© Joe McCormack 2020

Joe’s Jotter: ACE Tips for Transitioning into 1st Year (Part 2)

Joe’s Jotter: ACE Tips for Transitioning into 1st Year (Part 2)
Joe’s Jotter: ACE Tips for Transitioning into 1st Year (Part 2)
More details about Joe as a Maths Tutor for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate (2022), ACE Maths Assessments and Solution Books via the links below.

Repeat Leaving Cert

Schoolbooks Support From Ace Solution Books Ireland

Schoolbooks Support From Ace Solution Books Ireland

Schoolbooks expert, Joe McCormack, an Irish eduational expert, has taught Mathematics, Geography, ICT, Technical Graphics, C.S.P.E, Woodwork, and Science in various Secondary schools in Ireland for the last fifteen years.

Joe offers expert Schoolbooks support. To find out more about this Schoolbooks support, click here.

Joe corrects exam papers for the Department of Education and Skills as well as the Dublin Examining Board. In addition to this, he has worked in Ireland’s top school for tuition, the Dublin School of Grinds.

Schoolbooks Support From Ace Solution Books Ireland

Through his experience and research, Joe has gained a unique understanding of the struggles and obstacles students’ face when it comes to the Leaving Certificate. With more than five thousand followers on Facebook, Joe answers queries and posts informative material to provide ongoing support to Leaving Certificate students and their parents.

Joe also offers a range of other support combined with support for Schoolbooks.

ACE Solution Books are an unrivalled suite of books that will ensure Secondary school students achieve their maximum potential in their final exams.

Schoolbooks Support From Ace Solution Books Ireland

Schoolbooks, Support From Ace Solution Books Ireland

From Project Maths Guru to Informative Educational Expert….

Over the last number of years, Joe has enhanced his popular Junior and Leaving Certificate Maths exam paper solution books and distributed them through bookshops and his former website http://www.projectmathsbooks.com

He has now widened scope to produce a suite of guidance books including a comprehensive two hundred page text book for all subjects on ‘How to ACE the Leaving Cert’.

This book, unique in the educational market, encompasses advice, information and tips across all subjects for students who wish to excel in their exams. Its content includes expert guidance on study skills, mock preparation, leaving cert hacks, exam day advice, advice from current and former students as well as exam nutrition and parenting an exam student.

Combined with a Maths solution book, an ‘ACE’ package is a must for all sixth year students to achieve excellent Leaving Cert results.

Schoolbooks Support From Ace Solution Books Ireland

Schoolbooks Support From Ace Solution Books Ireland
Schoolbooks Support From Ace Solution Books Ireland
More details about Joe as a Maths Tutor for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate (2022), ACE Maths Assessments and Solution Books via the links below.