Joe’s Jotter: Was your Revision Good Quality this Year?

 

Students,

Did you struggle to find the best ways to revise this year? Did you feel like your classmates were always a step ahead of you in class? Do you just read your notes aimlessly hoping you will remember some of it later? What areas of revision did you fall down on this year?

Each student learns differently. Each student needs to trial different methods until they find the ones that suit them best. Learning is most constructive when a student approaches a topic from different angles to get a better handle on it. The more ways you can approach learning, as opposed to just ‘learning off’ material, the more successful you will be.

Successful students are those who can think critically about the content presented to them. To do this, you as a student should carefully read the information presented by the author, understand it as best you can, and then begin to question and really think about it. Being critical of text doesn’t just mean being negative; it also means being knowledgeable and really assessing the quality of the information. My ACE tip here is to use your imagination, challenge the question being asked and never be afraid to offer your own personal opinion on topics. State Examiners love personal opinions, as it shows you can think independently.

In 2013, The Open University (UK) developed a ‘stairway’ model to help students understand the skills of critical thinking. Students can apply these steps to a specific topic in order to understand it better. I think this is an excellent way of actively revising, as you are reflecting on all aspects of the information presented. This method would be particularly useful in subjects like English, Economics, History, Geography and Business.  The steps are as follows:

  • Process: take in the information (i.e. in what you have read, heard, seen, or done).
  • Understand: comprehend the key points, assumptions and arguments presented.
  • Analyse: examine how these key components link together.
  • Compare: explore the similarities and differences in each idea you are reading about.
  • Synthesise: bring together different sources of information making logical connections between them.
  • Evaluate: assess the worth of an idea in terms of its relevance to your needs.
  • Apply: transfer the understanding gained and use in response to questions, assignments, and projects.
  • Justify: use critical thinking to develop arguments, draw conclusions, and identify implications.

In today’s more modern Junior and Leaving Certificate, you need to be able to apply knowledge to a topic. Learning off too much information is a common mistake made by students and is not recommended. This is the opposite of applying knowledge. There is more of an emphasis now on applying everyday life experiences to questions asked. Besides, if you were to feel nerves, you are less likely to remember a lengthy essay you have memorised.

Your revision time is better served by preparing summaries, bullet points, post-its, key points, and mind maps. The State exams are now more about identifying important information in a question and discussing its merits, as opposed to emptying the contents of your head onto the answer book. Mix the content you have revised in class with what is going on in your own life. This is something to reflect on as you plan your Autumn revision strategy in each subject.

 

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

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

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

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Photo:@ZhangChaosheng

Joe’s Jotter: Choosing your Course (My CAO Countdown II)

Investigate each Course’s Content

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

The CAO is not the Only Show in Town

If you have not applied to the CAO or do not receive a CAO offer, there are other options. You should go on the SOLAS website (solas.ie) now to investigate further education alternatives. One could be: Further learning with your local Education and Training Board (ETB); for example, Louth & Meath Education and Training Board (LMETB). Many ETB’s offer Post Leaving Cert (PLC) courses which will give you a Level 5 or Level 6 qualification, just below what you would come out with via the CAO system. These courses are one or two years in duration and often involve practical work experience with companies. The fees for these courses tend to be lower than your standard CAO courses and grants are available in many cases also. You can progress thereafter to a level 6, 7 or 8 course.

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

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

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

If you feel right now that the ‘direct route’ third level journey isn’t for you, have a good look at the above alternatives over the next few weeks. It is imperative to have a little plan in the background, should you not get what you want (See below). You may not even need to use it, but it will certainly give you comfort having it there on the back burner.

You must have a Plan B, C and D

I have spoken to hundreds of students over the years who had their heart set on one course and when they didn’t make it, they had no fall back plan. Your 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th and even 6th choice on your CAO form are really important. You would need to be content enough to accept these should it come to that. I cannot emphasise enough about the importance of checking out the module content of each course you choose. Genuinely ask yourself: ‘Would I do this course’?. This then sets the platform for your Plan B, C and D. Have a look at Part 1 of ‘My CAO Countdown’ advisory for specific questions you should ask yourself when deciding on your courses. If there are a limited amount of courses you really want above all others, contact that institution, and ask them ‘Is there any other way to get into the course by studying something else first, as opposed to the direct points route?’. This could be very useful Information later should things not go to plan.

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

Six Final Key Points of Note

  1. Keep an eye on the CAO ‘alert list’ for new courses emerging in various colleges on www.cao.ie. Courses are added here on a continuous basis in the ‘Applicant Resources’ section of the ‘Course’ Tab on CAO.ie. You can add these into your CAO listing before July 1st (5pm). These courses are not in your CAO handbook (hardcopy). They may also come in at lower points, as many students may not be aware they even exist and will not have them on their listing. As this article goes to press, twenty four third level institutions have courses on the ‘alert list’. Subsequently, if there is a lower than expected application or take up of certain courses, these may be added to the ‘alert list’ after CAO round one.
  2. If you have applied for the HEAR or DARE scheme, you will find out if you are successful or not at the end of June. You will also be able to appeal any decision made from these schemes from early July. Information on HEAR and DARE is on www.accesscollege.ie.
  3. For those of you who have applied for Medicine in various Universities, the HPAT results are due out around the end of June.
  4. The Leaving Cert results are due out the end of August, with the first round of CAO offers due to be issued a few days later. Don’t plan a ‘Leaving Cert holiday’ then!
  5. Students will be able to view their exam scripts (which I would recommend) soon after the results have been released. I will publish further guidance on this at the end of August, so keep an eye out for that. Subsequently, students will be able to appeal their grade in each subject (as required) by filling in a form provided by their school.
  6. I would recommend you sign up to the excellent https://careersnews.ie/ to keep up to date with announcements, CAO developments and news from third level institutions. They send a daily update to your inbox, which is very useful during those few weeks.

I will circulate another advisory article just before CAO Round 1 results are published in late August/early September.

To read Part 1 of this CAO advisory article, click here.

In the meantime, wishing you good luck with your upcoming choices. Joe

 

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

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

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

*****

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

 

 Parental Support for Students at Home

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

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

ACE’ing Your Prep at Home – Some Final Thoughts

Students,

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

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

Be Honest and Realistic with Yourself

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

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

Strength Based Learning

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

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

Write Down Your Goals

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

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

To view last week’s feature article on the ‘Importance of Nutrition around exam time’, click here.

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

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

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

*****

*****

Photo:@ZhangChaosheng

Joe’s Jotter: Guiding your Child Through Exams 2022

Your Role as a Parent as Exams Approach

One of your main roles, as parents, around exam time is to create a good atmosphere at home. It will be important to remain calm and try not to transfer additional pressure on to your child in the lead up. This applies whether they are sitting a state exam or an end of year summer test. I would be wary of placing any extra emphasis on them achieving certain grades or points. Allowing them to talk without judgment, actively listening to them and keeping career options and results in perspective are other ways that you can be there for them at this time. Be sure to check that they have a plan ‘B’ in place for further education/training, as this will help greatly to regulate their stress levels.

Try not to let uncertainties or worries you had in school, especially any negative vibes you had around exams or certain subjects influence how your child deals with their exam year. I don’t think conversations beginning with “When I was doing the Leaving Cert…” are really that helpful or relevant to their situation now. Similarly, never compare your child’s performance or study ethic to that of their peers or siblings, as this will just add to the stress. Complaining about the unfairness of the exam process is also airing unhelpful negativity. Keep it all on a positive plane and let them breathe. If you have any concerns at all about your child, you should contact their school, as teachers and management are usually more than happy to help. If you meet a roadblock, I would be delighted to help and advise you in some small way; so don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

More than any other time in their life, it is important to help your child manage their feelings, as they may struggle with overwhelming emotions and pressures placed on them by exams. There are lots of great techniques you can show them, like slowing their breathing down or helping them become aware of their feelings. Maybe, look up one or two of these online, so that you can pass on something practical to use during intense situations. Exercise and involvement in activities right up to exam start are brilliant stress reducing techniques and should be strongly encouraged.

Practical Insights to Really Support Your Exam Student

The following are some real and practical insights into how your support can really help your son or daughter be their best around exam time. This advice applies to all types of examinations, not just the Junior and Leaving Certificate.

  • It’s an obvious one to start but ensure that your child is present in the exam hall for each exam. For parents who are working and leaving home early, avoid the ultimate disaster of your child missing an exam. This advice applies on days they have important class tests also. Ensure they are up and dressed before you leave home for work each morning. A small number of students regularly fail to turn up for morning exam papers.
  • Making them a healthy and substantial breakfast will greatly help their focus and concentration all the way to the end of an exam, especially if they have an afternoon paper to sit also.
  • Help them to draw up a check list of daily requirements based on each day’s exams. Make a final check with them each morning, so that your child is fully prepared for the day’s exams. The amount of guidance required will obviously depend on how organised your child is. Writing instruments along with the other requirements such as rulers, erasers, calculators, water, and any non-intrusive nourishment such as sweets, or fruit should be checked off for inclusion.
  • When your child arrives home after their exam, listen to their experience carefully and then move on. After each day’s exams allow them to recount their daily story to you. Do not be tempted to review in detail with them any errors or omissions on the paper. Such a process achieves absolutely nothing, other than to again increase anxiety levels. Simply allow them the time and space to tell their tale and move on to the next challenge (i.e. the subsequent paper) is the best policy.
  • Know the exam schedule. Pin the exam timetable prominently up at home; highlight each exam to be taken. This applies to house exams also. Diary the date and time of each paper your child must take. In the stress of the whole exam period, you need to be continuously aware of whats going on and when. Investigate which days or subjects your child isn’t looking forward to so that you can be there for them in a real and practical way.
  • It can help them greatly if you have a little knowledge of each exam paper or at least show some interest in it. Simple questions such as, “What is up next?”, “Are there any compulsory sections?” or “Are there any predictable questions?” can be asked. The best open question to ask is “How are you feeling about …? “. This will allow them to express themselves more freely if they wish. This also ensures they won’t feel alone and that you really care about how they get on. If they will allow you, work with them on devising a short but efficient revision schedule, as this is something I have noticed that students struggle to do alone. How all students manage their time from now on is key. Wishing you luck, especially if you are a ‘first time exam parent’.

To view last week’s feature article on ‘Why Practicing Past Exam Questions in Maths is Crucial’, click here.

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

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

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

*****

*****

 

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

*****

*****

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

 

The Importance of Your Friends

Dear Students,

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

Maintain Some Form of Exercise

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

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

Trusting the Exam System

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

Staying Positive

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

Keeping a Diary

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

Things Change Quickly

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

“Nothing lasts forever, even cold November rain.“

Guns N’ Roses

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

 Recommended ACE Stability Measures

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

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

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

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

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

*****

*****

Photo:@ZhangChaosheng

Joe’s Jotter: Supporting your Child Through to Exam Day

Dear Parents,

You may now be in the situation where your child is preparing for a final state exam and at times it will seem like you are the one actually sitting the papers. Firstly, ‘you’ getting stressed out and worked up will only make them more anxious. Students need to be encouraged and rewarded and this will be your main role as we approach exam time. Getting annoyed or even angry with your child for not studying or putting in the hours is tempting but will actually achieve very little. Ultimately, the only person you are upsetting is yourself. The old adage is apt here:

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink

As a parent, all you can do is put the conditions in place to help them flourish. Purchasing some revision and solution books, making healthy food, providing a quiet house for study and plenty of love and support are all constructive actions around this time.

Providing that Subtle Support

Being in the background and offering that hassle free support is what most exam students want right now. Firstly, let’s focus on the support they need for revision and homework. Homework is an extremely important part of your child’s learning in exam year. Below are some short tips that will facilitate your involvement in ensuring homework is a positive learning experience for your child.

  • Provide your child with a suitable place and time to do their homework. Minimise interruptions and distractions from television, phones, and other siblings.
  • If a child has difficulty with homework, you should try where possible to help them overcome it with explanations and examples, without actually doing it for them.
  • In the case of recurring homework problems, it is advisable to ring or send a quick note to the subject teacher to explain what the problem or issue is. If you are a parent of an exam year student and want to get in touch with a teacher, a phone call is probably the recommended form of communication at this stage of the year.

 Encourage them to Express Themselves

If you find your child is getting increasingly anxious about upcoming exams and needs more than talking, ask them to write their thoughts and concerns on a sheet of paper. Having kept a diary for ten years as a child, I found that writing down anxieties and feelings helped to get them out of my head, allowing me to process them better. Another idea is to ask them to write down some positive actions, such as “I will relax and perform well” or “when I get the first question on the first paper started, it will settle me”.

Success and Failure

It’s important to guard against what they perceive as failure; support instead of policing is the way to go. To me failure in school is not about grades; the students that fail are those who don’t try, and the same philosophy could be applied to life. From this point of view, encouraging all their efforts and promoting calmness is the ideal standpoint for any parent now. This also applies if your child is sitting ‘house’ exams.

Get in touch with their school if you are overly concerned about your child’s anxiety, as sometimes it can happen that teachers are not aware of personal issues faced by students. Informed teachers can often take steps to help them or at least cut them some slack in class. Ultimately, if you feel exam anxiety (or any other serious anxiety for that matter) is reaching an uncontrollable level, you need to seek advice, support, and guidance, probably from a medical practitioner. You know your own child best.

Five Practical Tips to Support Your Exam Student

 

Parents, here are five practical actions you can take to help your son or daughter be the best they can be around exam time. This advice may be particularly useful to those who’s oldest child is doing exams this year.

Help them maintain a well-balanced daily routine.

You should guide your child to aim for a proper balance between revision and rest. After each exam or class test, they need time to rest and recharge before they can do any beneficial study for the next challenge. With a lot of tests in school at the minute, it is important to maintain that freshness where possible. Late-night study sessions are not advised.

Studies have shown that a good night’s sleep improves exam performance.

All revision should end at least an hour before bedtime to allow your child time to unwind before sleep. Encourage them to conclude revision at a reasonable time and start unwinding in order to slow down their body and mind. This will result in a more refreshing night’s sleep. It is not advisable to fall straight into bed from their study desk. The issue here is that their mind will be buzzing for hours as they attempt to get to sleep. You will need to use a collaborative partnership approach for success on this action.

You are what you eat.

What you eat and drink affects your performance in any activity, especially one involving mental sharpness. As a parent, you should try to ensure your child has nutritious food as exams approach. Start with breakfast each morning, the lunch they bring with them if they are facing long days, their evening meal, as well as snacks during the day. Grazing on junk food is very tempting at times of increased stress but should be avoided as much as possible.

Success is always a team effort.

Drawing on the support of everything that is potentially positive in a student’s life helps to maximise exam performance. Such supports include a heightened awareness on the part of all family members in their interactions with the person doing exams. Meeting with friends and participation in sporting or social activities should be encouraged. All these factors help to maintain a student’s ‘high spirits’ during an extended exam period.

It is advisable not to over hype the importance of any subject examination.

It is very easy in the middle of a stress-induced experience, such as a major exam, to get the whole event totally out of perspective. The secret here is to try and maintain their normal school routine. It is better to focus on their performance rather than their points. Parents should ensure their child is clear that your unconditional love and regard for them is in no way dependent on how they perform in the annual academic Olympics. Your affirmation is the greatest gift you can give them, prior to and during their tests. Good luck. Joe

 

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

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

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

*****

*****
Photo:@ZhangChaosheng

Joe’s Jotter: How to Improve Homework at Secondary School

 

 

Is Homework Useful?

Students, Time spent at homework each night serves two purposes. Firstly, it is a reminder of what you did that day in school. In my opinion, the first five minutes of homework you do in each subject should be to go back over what the teacher did in class that day. Secondly, it also allows you to test yourself to see if you now understand information about a topic, and maybe how you may need to explore it further. Students should take care over each piece of homework and complete it as best they can. Personally, I really see the value of homework as a key tool in re-enforcing learning that has taken place during each day.

The Best Way to Tackle Homework

 How you approach homework after a long day is the secret to being more efficient with it. Firstly, I would make sure to rest a little when you get home and get a good solid meal into you, especially if you have plenty to do. Clever students ‘eat their frog’ and do the difficult homework or subjects they struggle with first. This allows them to feel better as the evening goes on. As I see it, this make total sense, as your concentration levels, later in the evening, do not need to be as high for subjects you are good at or enjoy as tiredness creeps in.

On a similar note, attempt the type of learning you do not particularly enjoy first. In other words, if you aren’t fond of reading or learning off, do that first as opposed to writing or note taking. Homework and revision are about playing to your strengths and working smarter. It is better to write short key jottings as opposed to spending hours mindlessly reading. Fact!

No Homework Tonight!

 If your daily homework has been completed during ‘free periods’ during the day, it is still important to use those few hours in the evening to revise material from last week or the week before. You need to take these opportunities, if they arise, to catch up. For students in Senior cycle, you cannot really afford to take a full night off. Am I saying you should work from 5 – 11pm every night? No, and you certainly should take a short break every thirty minutes. Even on weeknights, take some exercise or go do that little activity you enjoy that keeps you sane – whatever works for you to get your mind off things.

Homework is the Best Form of Study

 Homework done to a high standard is a brilliant form of study. Reviewing work done in class via mini test questions or checking what’s coming up tomorrow can be included as part of your homework if time allows. Homework teaches you to analyse the information your teacher has given to you. Always take pride in the homework you produce, as it will stand to you in the long term. Time spent doing homework should be counted as part of ‘exam preparation’ time and you shouldn’t feel in anyway guilty when there are nights you do ‘all homework’ and ‘no revision’. Judge each night on its merits and how important each task is.

Super Organisation

Being super organised with homework and your journal are important aspects to kick-start your success. In my opinion, homework is the best form of study, and you need to be disciplined with it. Write homework diligently into your journal each day and complete each piece of homework like you are doing an exam question. Being ‘smart’ with how to tackle homework is a skill, which could take months to refine. Ensure each subject gets a fair amount of ‘homework time’, depending on what you schedule is like for the next day.

Every day, I make a list of tasks on my phone that I need to complete. At the end of the day, I review this list to see how many of them I have actually fully completed. Tasks unfinished are then moved to another day so that each task eventually gets dealt with. At times, tasks are postponed (put off into the future), but ultimately they always get completed unless I deem them unimportant. Apply this technique to your revision, ensuring that everything gets completed eventually in the most efficient manner. Task monitoring, homework discipline and dedication are all attributes of the ‘Super Organised’ H1 student.

Student Survey: The Importance of Homework

 I completed a survey of students previously and asked them to think about the importance of homework to them and how its benefits helped them achieve their goals. Here are some of the more interesting observations they made in their surveys:

“Record your homework carefully in your journal every day.”

“Use class time well if teachers allot it to homework.“

“Set the same time aside every evening for homework.“

“Do your homework after dinner and soon after arriving home.“

“Try to complete your homework before nine p.m.“

“Try to be honest with your teachers in relation to homework.“

“Tick off your homework for each subject as it gets done.“

“When doing your homework, do not lounge on a bed or sofa.“

“Ask your parents or teachers if you cannot understand your homework.“

“Have a quiet study area with a desk, fresh air, and good lighting.“

“As well as written work, browse over what was covered in class that day.“

“Do not let homework affect sleep time, but don’t leave it until the next morning.“

“Plan ahead on assignments if you are expecting a busy week.“

“Get the phone numbers of classmates for queries on homework.“

 

To view last weeks feature article on ‘How to become a Specialist at Maths Exams (Part 2)’, click here. Joe

 

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

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

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

*****

*****

Photo:@ZhangChaosheng

Joe’s Jotter: Maximising Your Results (Junior & Leaving Cert 2022)

 

With the exams finally set in stone for June, what is the best way you can maximise your chances of achievement with a few months to go? How do you go about getting the highest possible result in each subject? As a student, you obviously cannot change any of the work you have done over the last eighteen months, but you still have over two months left to focus in on what you really need to get done. The purpose of this feature article is to give you some practical tips on how to ensure your grades are as high as possible across all subjects. Both Junior and Leaving Cert Students can benefit from the below guidance.

Four Ways to ‘Up Grade’

Maintain Your High Standards.

The best thing for students to do now is to listen to their teachers and complete all homework and classwork to a high standard. Each piece of work you complete well that has been verified by your teacher, will help get you familiar with the examiners expectations in June. This includes daily homework, class tasks and overall contribution to class. Students should actively listen in class and show a genuine interest in topics they are studying.  Similarly, and as I always say, ‘complete each piece of homework as if it were an exam paper question’. If you haven’t taken things seriously up to now in some subjects, start tomorrow.

As you meet new topics in class, work hard to try and get a better understanding of them using the Internet and your book. Each teacher will be aware of your efforts and will be more inclined to help and offer you advice as a result. Be sure to maintain a good working respectful relationship with all your teachers. Remember that any work done or efforts made to create notes and summaries will essentially be ‘money in the bank’ when it comes to sitting the exams in June. Every revision block and hour spent preparing will contribute to your success, as you deepen your knowledge of the course.

Stay Engaged in Class.

As always, teachers look for genuine engagement from all students during class. Students should endeavour to participate and learn as much as they can in each class. They shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions as they normally would, as this shows initiative and a desire to learn. If I were in your position now, I would bring a little hardback into each class and note down any key points the teacher emphasises as important. This ensures you stay engaged during each class. Treat all topics from now on seriously and consider that they could appear on your Junior or Leaving Cert Paper. Tend carefully to homework in subjects that you didn’t show much interest in up to now. It isn’t too late to turn things around in any subject. It is never too late to begin revision for any exam, but certainly the sooner you start the better.

Keep ‘Showing Up’.

During the various restrictions and lockdowns, we all had to find ways to stay focused and motivated. Key elements that help motivation include having a daily structure, having a sense of achievement, and having something productive to show at the end of each day. Be sure to attend school every day and go into each class with a positive can do attitude. With only a limited number of weeks left, stay motivated as best you can. For 6th year students, you may be attending third level in the Autumn, and you will have to learn new ways of processing Information. Any knowledge or skills you can pick up now will be useful for that. Investigate different ways to learn. Creating study notes, analysing texts, doing summaries, and listening well are all useful skills to enhance prior to commencing any third level course. Practice giving your subject teachers as close to 100% attention as you can now.

Retain Your Focus.

At this stage, your Teachers and Parents know your abilities. They also know that you may have had dips in your results over the last two years. If your Christmas test or mock result  was a lot lower than you could have got, they will know it may have just been a blip or a bad day for you. Worrying about previous performances or past class results will not get you one extra percent in June. In fact, it may affect preparation. Take the learnings from each test by writing your mistakes down, and then move on and be forward looking in your approach.

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

A healthy daily balance improves ones chance of success. Continue to enjoy activities and maintain that sense of fun daily. Since much of the hard work is now behind you, park the past and focus on the present and future. For 6th years, shift focus onto your subject performance, as opposed to a certain set number of CAO points. You have done so well to make it through this difficult year, so believe in yourself and the work you have done now. Get in touch with me if I can advise you and I wish you luck in your endeavours. Joe

To view last week’s article on ‘Positive Ways to Cope with Exam Strain’, 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

*****

*****
Photo: @ZhangChaosheng

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


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

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

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

Make Changes to How You Revise and Prepare for Maths Exams

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

*****

Photo:@ZhangChaosheng

Joe’s Jotter: The ACE Guide to Exam Preparation from Home (Part 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 give it a go tomorrow. Set each revision block to just thirty minutes and time will fly. 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 now your ‘get out of jail’ card, so try it.

Set Measurable Targets

It is so important to set targets, otherwise timetables and lists are just ‘drive bys’ and ‘hopeful’ preparations that you will never be answerable to. We all need targets to help us achieve things. 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 from your full sub-topic list for the subject. 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. Information about setting up a full ‘Lifestyle Study Timetable’ is detailed in my textbook ‘How to ACE the Leaving Certificate’ for all subjects.

Write out a List of Motivations in Your Journal

Another tip to improve motivation is to write out a list of medium and long term 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 on revision and keep going when days get tough. 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 ‘distraction list’ will remind you of what you really should be putting your mind to at any 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…and it could even be fun. Give yourself plenty of breaks as a reward for your hard work.

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 a few repeatable methods that work for you, but you 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 ones to this list matching your personality. Pick out four or five of the below approaches and give them a try today.

  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 dates and 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 this content every five days.
  18. Research topics on the Internet to give yourself extra pieces 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 read last weeks article on ‘The Core Skills required to Revise Maths Better”, 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

*****

 

 

 

 

*****

Photo: @ZhangChaosheng

Joe’s Jotter: The Many Benefits of doing Transition Year

“I had heard transition year is a doss, but you do more practical work, like projects. You are a lot more tired than in Junior Cycle because you are doing so much. You don’t realise it until you look back.”

Former Transition Year Student

Transition year (TY) is a unique one year programme that links Junior and Senior Cycle together. It is now completed by the majority of students who finish secondary school in Ireland, with seventy five percent of schools offering it. Each school is given the flexibility to design their own TY programme within a broad set of parameters. Some schools view it as an additional academic year of senior cycle; but most schools design it to allow students express themselves and develop and explore new talents.

Will Transition Year benefit me?

The question that all 3rd year students and parents struggle with at this time of year is: ‘Will TY be beneficial to me?’  I feel there are a number of factors determining the success of Transition year for a given student. These include how well the school structures it, the enthusiasm the student has for the programme and how much they buy into it, and the level of variety in the programme, to name but a few.

There is no doubt that if a student does immerse themselves in TY, they can benefit greatly both from a social and developmental point of view. As is evident from the quote above from this former TY, students are engaged in a range of different activities compared to the more academic Junior Cycle. As a teacher, it is easy to spot the 6th year students who have completed TY, as opposed to those who went straight into 5th year. Aside from the obvious fact that students look a year older, they are much more confident in themselves and are a few more steps down the road to maturity than their counterparts. In my experience, this is especially pertinent to boys.

My Top Forty Benefits of doing Transition Year

Listed below are my top forty benefits (in no particular order) that a student may gain by opting for TY. Hopefully it will allow you to make an informed decision if you are a parent or a 3rd year in the process of deciding to opt for it or not. 1st and 2nd Years can also have a read of these to get them thinking about their options post Junior Cycle.

  1.  It is an opportunity to mature especially if you are younger than your classmates
  2. You get a taste of working in everyday jobs in Industry and services
  3. You are given more licence to show and develop your individual personality
  4. Your confidence around meeting and dealing with people will improve greatly
  5. You may get to experience a trip to another country
  6. You may get to sample activities you wouldn’t normally e.g. sports, music, or drama
  7. You will be involved in outdoor experiences beneficial to fitness and mental health
  8. The friends you make in TY often turn into lasting relationships
  9. You will be allowed time to reflect and think about possible future careers
  10. You will get an opportunity to research courses and third level options
  11. You will get more of an opportunity to work in a team during activities
  12. You will feel part of a group, which may have not been the case at Junior Cycle
  13. Having an Identity (being a TY) will increase and enhance your personal self-worth
  14. You will learn to think more independently and listen to instructions better
  15. You may discover new talents and skills through engagement in new activities
  16. It should inspire you to take on more responsibility in Senior Cycle
  17. It will give you time to select the subjects that suit you for Senior Cycle
  18. You will get an opportunity to express yourself more with an expanded curriculum
  19. You may get an option to sample new subjects. e.g. Home Ec or Woodwork etc
  20. You may get a chance to visit places of cultural significance e.g. Museums or Gallery’s
  21. You may get opportunities to accomplish certs. e.g. Gaisce, Driving, ICT or First Aid
  22. You will learn research skills and how to approach employers for work experience
  23. You will get a chance to create, enhance and develop the quality of your CV
  24. You may get to experience debating, which will help your public speaking confidence
  25. You may be lucky enough that your school is involved in a TY exchange programme
  26. There won’t be as much academic pressure on you during this year
  27. You will have more time to join school groups e.g. student council, sports council etc
  28. You will be more mature and a year older heading into senior cycle
  29. More experiential learning during the year will mean more hands on and more fun
  30. You may attend workshops or talks e.g. Drugs, Alcohol or Community groups
  31. You may do a career matching or aptitude test to discover potential career paths
  32. Students may be involved in setting up mini companies (great for teamwork)
  33. Teachers will be more open to exploring what you are personally Interested in
  34. Students may get opportunities to enter local enterprise competitions
  35. You will still work on academic subjects and can continue to develop your knowledge
  36. You can investigate what type of learner you are (useful going into Senior Cycle)
  37. You will leave TY with a whole new set of skills and experiences to kick start your CV
  38. At the end of TY, you will be more mature and ready to make better future decisions
  39. TY’s often tell me that it was their most enjoyable and rewarding year in Secondary
  40. The fun, the bonding, the laughs, and the treasured relationships.

If this is the route you are heading in September 2022, good luck with Transition Year. Joe

To view last week’s feature article on ‘Choosing Subjects for 5th Year’, 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: Why Secondary School Students Should Eat Breakfast

Students, you have heard your parents and other adults say many times that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” and that indeed is a hard fact. A decent breakfast will give you the energy to start each morning, help balance your weight and allow you to complete the tasks and challenges you face every day more efficiently. Breakfast is equally as important for children as it is for adults and a healthy one is a vital part of our health and wellbeing. The importance of breakfast as the first meal of the day has been scientifically proven; so in fact your parents are actually correct.

Imagine food is the fuel for your daily activity. During exams and indeed school time, your body will demand good quality clean fuel and regular refuelling in order to nourish itself and maximise your concentration, starting first thing in the morning. I’ve had my own experience in relation to eating breakfast. In my early teaching career, I didn’t eat anything in the morning until my first small break (eleven o’clock). During the early morning, I found myself regularly on edge and low in energy. I noticed that just before this break, my body was actually craving food and my focus had diminished. Basically, what was happening was my blood sugar levels had dropped too low and my concentration was poor during my first two hours teaching each day and I knew it.

Good Morning Habits

As an experienced teacher, I am familiar with students’ poor morning eating habits. Many students don’t feel like food, or their stomach is unsettled early in the morning. Students who eat late at night may be getting messages from their stomach that their body is still living off those energy stores. That’s OK. But students: ‘Please just eat something’, no matter how small, to kick-start your system again. If you think about it logically, your body has not fuelled up for eight to ten hours during the night, so denying it any longer makes no sense at all, especially from a blood sugar and energy point of view.

There are hundreds of good breakfast options that aren’t that time consuming to prepare. These include Smoothies containing fruit, plain yoghurt or chopped fruit with whole grain cereals and milk. A mixture like crushed nuts, a small dollop of organic honey and plain yoghurt can be quickly made and eaten. Homemade granola bars are great for when you’re on the go and better than the sugar-packed store-bought ones. Get your Parents to make you a batch or have a go yourself for the craic.

Personally, I would recommend the following foods for breakfast: Oats, Muesli, Grapefruit, Watermelon, Greek yoghurt, Smoothies, Wholemeal bread, Scrambled eggs, Bananas, Low sugar cereal, Actimel, Low sugar orange juice and Low sugar multivitamin juice. If there are healthy wholesome foods you find hard to consume for breakfast, put other foods on top so that their unpalatable taste is masked. An example of this is to put bananas, fruit, yoghurt, or honey on your porridge (cooked oats). I have found that my performance, energy, and concentration has improved greatly in school during the day now that I have introduced porridge into my diet. I recommend you try it for yourselves.

Your Role as Parents

Parents, if your child skips breakfast before school, they are more likely to be tired throughout the day and will have reduced concentration levels. Preparing and encouraging them to consume a breakfast that is packed full of fibre, carbohydrates, grains, and protein will help boost concentration levels, improve memory, and will stop complaints of hunger as the morning progresses. If breakfast is a busy time of day in your house, then feeding your children what they need quickly might be a daunting experience, but it doesn’t have to be. By stocking up on all the ingredients you need beforehand, you can deliver quick healthy breakfasts that they will enjoy. By preparing breakfast the night before, or getting them to prepare their own, you can cut wasted time in the morning. Avoiding the ‘Coco Pops’ style breakfast cereal is certainly one that’s recommended.

Six Compelling Reasons to Eat Breakfast

 

  1. The Gap: Breakfast is the first meal you eat after sleeping through the night. You may not feel it, but your body is actually craving food and needs refuelling.
  2. Fighting Sickness: Skipping breakfast weakens your immune system and may increase your chances of becoming ill quicker as a result.
  3. Concentration Levels: A correlation between concentration and our ability to perform tasks has been proven through research. Food is known to enhance concentration.
  4. Serotonin Boost: Eating breakfast boosts levels of serotonin (a mood enhancer chemical that helps you feel better and maintain stability throughout the day).
  5. Increased Variety: Breakfast foods like whole grain cereals, eggs and porridge contain plenty of vitamins, minerals, and fibre, and add great variety to your diet.
  6. Good Start: A scheduled healthy breakfast will help your body run like a well-oiled machine all day. It is the best start to any busy day and heaven knows we need that now in 2022. Joe.

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

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

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

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Joe’s Jotter: ACE’ing your Christmas Exams 2021

First, Second and Fifth years; you will be commencing your Christmas exams soon. In the case of Second and Fifth years, it is another step towards your State exams and of course you want to put on a good show for work done over the last few months. Consequently, your preparation needs to start now for these exams. If you have very little revision done up to now, it’s not too late to salvage a decent percentage in order to set you up for the second term. It is never too late to start revising. Here are ‘Six of the best’ tips to ready yourself for the upcoming challenges:

  1. Set up a ‘Lifestyle Study Timetable’.

You need to put some kind of a plan in place for the next few weeks and I believe the ‘Lifestyle Study Timetable’ fits that bill. In summary, draw out a weekly timetable containing thirty minute study blocks each tagged with a five minute break after each one. Each block will contain a topic from one of your subjects. Prior to entering topics required to be revised; enter your school times and all the leisure activities or events you will be involved in and need to commit to that week. Keep some catch-up blocks free each weekend in case plans change during the week. It is better to have a plan in place that needs tweaking than no plan at all. Be ambitious but realistic with your plan ensuring it is short term. This will allow you to improve and adjust the next renewal of it. Full details of how to construct the ‘Lifestyle timetable’ is contained in my two hundred page ACE Study Guide textbook.

  1. Consolidate.

I would advise you, at this point, to consolidate the main topics you have studied with your teachers since September. Prepare no new material while also being realistic what you can get covered in a couple of weeks. Your teacher should be able to give you a broad outline of the main topics for consideration for this exam.

  1. Summarise.

Start writing out summaries of the core topics in your own words, whether this is using notes from your teacher or Information from your textbook. Mind maps, bullet points, pocket hardbacks, posits and flash cards are all useful for this. I am a firm believer in students having their own set of notes that can be read and understood easily. As with any exam, you do not want to be trawling through pages of notes as deadline day looms. Start putting these good habits in place now and you can build on them in January.

  1. Tend to all Subjects.

It is important not to neglect the subjects that aren’t your favourite or that you may not excel in. The first piece of homework you tackle every evening should be from these subjects and they should also get more time (blocks) on your ‘Lifestyle Study Timetable’. You are better off to have the majority of percentage scores for subjects around the class average, as opposed to having very high and very low percentages across a mix of subjects. Give each subject the respect it deserves, and balance time spent on them as best you can. Focus on your weaknesses, as it is likely your talents in the other subjects will balance overall grades out. This also applies within subjects. Getting very low scores in certain subjects can really drain confidence and leave you wondering “Where do I go from here”?

  1. Listing and Ticking.

List out the set of topics (subject by subject) you plan to cover for these exams onto an A3/A4 sheet. Put an ‘S’ beside a given topic when summarised and then tick it off when you feel confident you could answer a potential exam question on it. Having these lists on your wall will provide an added incentive to get more done. Ticking off each list and watching the workload shrink will help you feel so much better about how your revision is progressing. ‘To do’ lists are another variation of this. I use these in my business every day and find them excellent. Ticking off tasks done at the end of each day gives me great satisfaction. Try it and see yourself!

  1. Build Yourself Up.

Eating well is important as your body is more inclined to break down with colds, flu’s, and bugs at this time of year. It will be really difficult to do any constructive preparation if you develop that niggling cold or sore throat. In my opinion the best foods to enhance your system at this time of year are porridge, lemon/orange juice, hot soups, curries, stews, hot roast dinners, mugs of hot drinks and of course loads of water, to name but a few. Sugary cereals or Energy/Fizzy drinks will never improve your health or help illness resistance. Get your parents on board here by making sure they have stocked up the nutritional and warm homely winter foods to get you through to the last Christmas exam.

Finally, put a good solid effort into your revision over the next few weeks and you can relax then and enjoy Christmas with your family and friends. Your endeavours will be worth it when you see your grades being posted out in January. Take pride in your work at school, just as your parents take so much pride in everything you do. Good luck. Joe

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

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

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

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Joe’s Jotter: WRITE it out to RIGHT it out

With a lot of schools switching to iPad’s 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. It is a super Idea to work with a study buddy or group, where you can swap essays and notes. Upon swapping these notes with your friend, always rewrite them into knowledge you understand. This is my ACE tip for being able to recall this Information later.

Why You Should Handwrite Your Own Notes

From listening to students, I think many of them still like to hold a hard copy book in their hand. Even as an ICT teacher myself, I believe that the old-fashioned way of taking notes by hand is best for the following reasons:

  • 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.
  • 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 up handwritten notes quicker with bubbles, arrows etc. and while doing this, you are learning what the connections and linkages are in the teachers’ content.
  • Above all, writing your own notes engages your mind and prompts new ideas and thoughts. It enables your brain to switch to ‘background learning’ mode while you prepare and enhance your notes.

I am a big believer in summarising your own notes yourself. By all means you can work in a group or with a ‘study buddy’ and indeed I would recommend this.  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 through your individual writing style, that only you really understand. In my experience, there is a much higher chance of Information sticking this way. Try it and see! Good luck, Joe

To view last weeks blog on ‘The Many Ways After School Study Can Benefit Your Child’, click here.

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

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

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