Joe’s Jotter: The Challenge of Choosing Subjects for 3rd & 4th Year Students

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

Third Level Considerations

Students: If you have a third level course or career in mind, have a quick look at its content online and see are there any minimum entry requirements to gain access to it. It is important to note that no matter what points you achieve; you will not be allowed onto a course unless you achieve its minimum entry requirement (if it has one). This may guide you to choose a particular subject. In the case of compulsory exam subjects like Maths, you will be studying these anyway so there is no choice to make there. However, if there is a requirement on your desired course to score a certain grade in a foreign language or other subject, you will need to opt for this subject when decision day arrives.

In relation to specific college requirements, it is useful to know that the NUI colleges (UCD, UCG, UCC, Maynooth etc) require a pass in a third language for many of their courses. However there are now exceptions to this: UCD has dropped this requirement for Engineering and Ag Science, and Maynooth has removed it for Business, Accounting, Finance and Law. Trinity, UL, DCU and the IT’s do not have this third language requirement, except for those studying a language course.

There are also ‘Subject requirements’ on courses. For example, to study Primary teaching, you need a H4 in Irish, Engineering courses may require honours Maths and sometimes a science subject, Medicine can require two science subjects (one being chemistry) and Nursing may also require a Science subject. The savvy student will do some research on qualifax.ie or careersportal.ie to get a handle on exact requirements of potential courses.

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

The best advice I can give about choosing subjects is to select ones that keep your options open. You can best do this by choosing one foreign language and ensuring that at least two of the other three subjects picked are ones you have some sort of interest in or flair for. Remember you will be spending a lot of time studying your chosen subjects over the next two years and the nightmare scenario would be dreading going to that class each day.

Subject Statistics

While reflecting on subject choice, I did an analysis of Leaving Certificate results (Table 1) from August 2018. From the point of view of choosing subjects, the percentage of students scoring a H4 or above (A H4 being between 60% and 70% on a higher-level paper) has thrown back a very interesting breakdown.

 

Table 1: The percentage of students that scored a H4 or above per given subject 2018*
Subject Percentage of Students achieving

a H4 or Above

Music 89%
Technology 72%
Engineering 70%
Irish 70%
Design and Communication Graphics (DCG) 70%
Home Economics (S&S) 68%
Accounting 63%
Biology 61%
Chemistry 61%
Maths 60%
Politics and Society 59%
Physics 59%

*Source: www.examinations.ie

What I find interesting here is that the top half of the table (the first six subjects) are those that have a practical, project or oral element to them. Whereas the bottom half (the second six subjects) have solely a summative final exam. As is clear from the table, there is quite a big disparity in the results between the top and bottom half of this table, leading me to wonder is there an imbalance in the system towards subjects that are currently including some form of continuous assessment. This trend has broadly continued into 2020 and 2021. Eventually all subjects will have continuous assessment, but this is not the case as we speak.

From this table and for these subjects, it is true to say that, statistically, a student would be better off leaning towards the type of subjects where some element of assessment is performed before the final exam. Some may say that I only analysed twelve subjects: but it’s an interesting viewpoint none the less. From these statistics, I certainly think that it is yet another consideration students’ need to examine when choosing subjects, one I wouldn’t have contemplated previously.

All in all, when it comes to subject choice, students should think a little about their futures, talk to teachers, look at courses they may have an Interest in and discuss with their peers gone ahead how it all worked out for them. Take your time and choose well. It may be wiser to choose subjects you have an interest in, as oppose to ones you feel you must choose in order to get into a certain career later. It’s a balancing act.

The Eight ACE ‘Do’s’ for choosing Subjects

  • Choose subjects you will enjoy studying
  • Discuss it with as many people as you can. Teachers/Parents/Friends etc
  • Try and keep your options open as much as possible
  • Choose subjects you have some kind of a flair for
  • Research each subject’s content on https://www.curriculumonline.ie/
  • Choose subjects linked to a possible future career you are considering
  • Write down the Pro’s/Con’s on paper if you are trying to select between two
  • Students should make the final decision (not friends, teachers, or parents)

Enthusiasm for any subject will foster a desire to learn more about it. Studying these subjects won’t even feel like learning. Wishing you luck with your decisions. Joe.

To view last weeks feature on the ‘Importance of Breakfast for Students’ click here.

*****

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 2021

Joe’s Jotter: The Challenge of Choosing Subjects for 3rd & 4th Year Students

Joe’s Jotter: The Challenge of Choosing Subjects for 3rd & 4th Year Students
Joe’s Jotter: The Challenge of Choosing Subjects for 3rd & 4th Year Students

Joe’s Jotter: The Importance of Breakfast for Students

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 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 career, I didn’t eat anything in the morning until my first small break at work (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. Basically, what was happening was my blood sugar levels had dropped too low and my concentration was poor during my first two hours teaching, and I knew it.

Morning Habits

As a teacher, I am familiar with students’ poor eating habits in the morning. It seems that sometimes students don’t feel like food or their stomach is unsettled early in the morning. Having eaten late the previous night, their stomach may be telling them 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, the 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. 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 just three weeks and see.

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. Here are my:

My Top Six 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).
  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 a good start to any busy day. Joe

To view last weeks feature on ‘Tips on Preparing for any Maths Exam’, click here.

*****

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 2021

Joe’s Jotter: The Importance of Breakfast for Students

Joe’s Jotter: The Importance of Breakfast for Students
Joe’s Jotter: The Importance of Breakfast for Students

Joe’s Jotter: Tips for Students Preparing for Maths Exams

Hello Students.

At this stage of the year, many of you are starting to think about your mock examinations in Maths. No matter what happens in the mocks, try not to be too hard on yourself as you still have plenty of time to improve in the subject. Please keep in mind that you have had little exposure to exam style questions, have not completed the full course and will not have attempted that length of any exam paper up to now. Go into the mocks and just genuinely try your best in all subjects. Use it as a way of getting used to the time available for each question. i.e. In Maths, always divide by two; you have twenty five minutes at most to complete a fifty mark question. Every subject has its own ‘time scheme’.

For those of you who may have Dyslexia or a learning difficulty, I would like you to view your exams as a challenge, not a threat. Thousands of students gone before you have achieved their wildest dreams so aim high and keep believing in yourself. Whether you are sitting the Junior Cycle or Leaving Cert, I would advise you to put a plan in place now so that you can revise efficiently and prepare properly. Start by listing out all the sub-topics you need to do for subject like Maths and tick them off as you get them covered. ‘Covering’ them means re-writing examples your Teacher may have given you in class and also trying an exam question on the given topic from a recent past paper. Testing yourself on short and long exam questions is the only way you will know if you truly understand it.

Twelve Top Tips to ACE any Maths Exam

Here are my top twelve tips to ACE any Maths exam – both in preparation along the way and facing the paper on the day.

  1. Do out a lifestyle (study) timetable to start next week. Make sure each weekly timetable contains variety, different ways of learning and plenty of breaks/rewards on it. Adjust it each week. Allocate thirty minutes to each topic revision slot. Give Maths extra time slots if it’s a subject you find difficult.
  2. Buy a small hardback and enter all the keynotes, new information learned and formulae’s that are not in your log tables into it. Divide it into the main topics on your Maths course so that you can easily find what you want when you need it.
  3. Make a note of all new words you learn in class each day. If you don’t fully understand the meaning of them, ask your teacher or google them. Write down (in your own words) their meaning into your hardback.
  4. Practice as many past exam questions as you can to get used to the wording, layout, style and marking scheme of them. Start with the easier ones you know.
  5. “Homework is the best form of study”. Approach all Maths homework as you would tackle an exam paper question. Complete it with pride, showing all steps.
  6. Practice questions at home. Time yourself on each question to familiarise yourself with ‘exam hall pressure’. Stick to the timing for each question. For Junior Cycle Maths, the time for each full question is written on the paper. It is extremely important to stick to the time for each question, as there may be a question you know well at the end of your exam and you won’t even get to it.
  7. Get a “Study Buddy” that will complete past exam questions for you and with you. You can meet up/e-mail and share your Information. This tactic can be used in all subjects.
  8. On the day of the exam, read the wordy questions three or four times and then re-read them again line by line. Underline key words with a red or green pen.
  9. Prepare for all exams the night before by checking you have all the materials you need. Always, double check any exam timetable for the next day.
  10. Don’t be afraid to express yourself in simple English if you don’t have the Maths for it. Remember that the State Exams Commission (SEC) encourages creativity and different ways of answering Maths questions.
  11. Buy yourself a detailed Exam Paper Solutions Book. Use it to double check against the attempts you are making. It will also help you to get started on more challenging ‘wordy’ exam questions. This is one of the biggest issues faced by Maths students right now. Practice and perseverance really help here.
  12. Start preparation today.

Lastly, the language of Maths is extremely important especially since the advent of Project Maths in 2008. The SEC now place more of an emphasis on students knowing and understanding what things mean instead of just been able to do numerical calculations. There are more words than ever on our Junior and Leaving Cert Maths exam papers, and it is crucial that you start familiarising yourself with them. Start now by recording the key words that have appeared on exam papers over the last six years.

Not being familiar with key words could mean not even being able to start a question. This would be an awful shame given the amount of time you have spent building up your core Maths skills. You need to be aware that different words have a different meaning on the paper depending on the subject. For example, the word “Evaluate” in Maths is quite different to what it means in an English exam. I believe that knowing the key words and phrases is now a key component of “ACE-ing” any Maths exam paper. Use this as your starting point now, no matter what year you are in. Joe.

To view last weeks feature article on ‘How to Prepare for Your Less Favourite Subject’, click here.

*****

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 2021

Joe’s Jotter: Tips for Students Preparing for Maths Exams

Joe’s Jotter: Tips for Students Preparing for Maths Exams
Joe’s Jotter: Tips for Students Preparing for Maths Exams

Joe’s Jotter: How to Prepare for your less Favourite Subject

Junior and Leaving Certs,

As you prepare for your upcoming mock exams, teachers and parents totally understand that even though you are making great strides, you still have plenty of fears. From talking to students, I find it’s not the full set of exams that cause concern; it is usually only one or two subjects. Naturally everyone has their own talents and subjects they prefer. Personally, I was better at the Sciences than the languages, but I persevered and got the grades I wanted in the languages I chose. Sometimes subjects you are not looking forward to are the ones that have you on guard and you end up doing better in; A paper on the day can go well in an exam you were dreading. I regularly hear welcome surprise coming from students on results day, with comments such as “I didn’t expect that result in xxxxx”. The moral of the story here is that too much concern about a subject could end in false worry and be draining you of energy; energy you need for studying and getting your head right.

Not crazy about this subject

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

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

Prioritise Subjects

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

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

Train as you will play

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

Use small (A5/A6) hardback notebooks

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

*****

More details about Joe’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 2021

Joe’s Jotter: How to Prepare for your less Favourite Subject

Joe’s Jotter: How to Prepare for your less Favourite Subject
Joe’s Jotter: How to Prepare for your less Favourite Subject

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

The Routine of a Daily Lifestyle (Study) Timetable

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

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

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

A Sample ACE Lifestyle (Study) Timetable*

*Based on the Standard School Week.

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

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

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

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

*****

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

W: acesolutionbooks.com

FB: facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/

#:    #JoesJotter

*****

© Joe McCormack 2020

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

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

Joe’s Jotter: Five Keys to Holiday Motivation

As we enter our Christmas holidays, we will all enjoy a well deserved break. However, don’t leave it until the day before school to open the school bag again. Depending on what year you are in, you will know yourself how many hours revision you need to put in over this period. Read the below list of pointers and Implement them today to improve your productivity over the festive season.

  1. Reward yourself:

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

  1. Stay connected:

It is important to keep up communication with your friends and family at revision time. Let them know how you are feeling especially if you are anxious about a particular subject. You will feel so much better about a problem if you ‘chat’ about it to someone. It can be easy to get cut off from the outside world when you are highly focused, so try not to let this happen. Balance is the optimal situation here.

  1. Use your family:

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

Get your parents involved and tap into knowledge and practical advice they may have on subjects they enjoyed in school. Get them to examine you on topics, they don’t need to be experts on course sections as they can refer to Information from your book in front of them. All you need is their willingness to ask you loads of questions.

  1. Stick to your plan:

Whatever plan you have for the next three weeks, try and stick to it as best you can. Working in retail every hour over Christmas won’t get you any extra points. As I always say, ‘you can work for the rest of your life’ (including college). Try and balance time wisely if you do happen to have a job.

On a given day, if you plan for nine a.m. as the start time for revision, get up before then, have breakfast, get ready and commence at that exact time. The students that do well are those who apply this self-disciplined approach and it guarantees that you are getting maximum efficiency out of your time. A high level of satisfaction will come when you get your exam results; knowing you gave it your all.

  1. Try and maintain some routine:

Getting to bed at a reasonable time and getting plenty of sleep will allow you to stick to your goals and plans. This also applies to holiday periods. We all loose our routine over the holidays and that’s ok too. However, try and get back into better habits when the new year turns as January 6th approaches. This will allow your body to be somewhat adjusted when you return to early school mornings. Over your holidays, enjoy yourself but keep doing the basics: eat plenty of fruit and veg, drink plenty of water and get loads of sleep. Rest and replenish and get ready for the battles ahead.

To view last weeks entry on ‘Brilliant Advice from Former Students’, click here. Tune in to next week’s blog where I will give you full details on Part two of ‘How to revise more effectively from home’. Joe

*****

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

W: acesolutionbooks.com

FB: facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/

#:    #JoesJotter

*****

© Joe McCormack 2020

Joe’s Jotter: Five Keys to Holiday Motivation

Joe’s Jotter: Five Keys to Holiday Motivation
Joe’s Jotter: Five Keys to Holiday Motivation

Joe’s Jotter: Brilliant Exam Advice from Former Students

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

I have listened carefully and recorded information from students who have been through both the Junior and Leaving Cert exams over many years. I also surveyed sixty existing sixth years for their first-hand experience, asking them to think back to how they were feeling and their approach to the Junior Cycle exams; what they did right, what they could have done better, big mistakes and importantly what they learned. I asked these students to provide some study guidance for current fifth and sixth years. The advice below is useful to all Secondary School students but particularly pertinent to those doing exams in 2021.

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

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

To read last weeks extremely popular feature on ‘How to ACE your Christmas Exams’, click here.

*****

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: Brilliant Exam Advice from Former Students

Joe’s Jotter: Brilliant Exam Advice from Former Students
Joe’s Jotter: Brilliant Exam Advice from Former Students

Joe’s Jotter: How to ACE your Christmas Exams

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 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. There is a full chapter dedicated to this in my ACE Study Guide book. 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 that week. Keep some catch-up blocks free each weekend in case plans change. It is better to have a plan that may need tweaking than no plan at all.

  1. Consolidate.

I would advise you, at this point, to consolidate the main topics you have studied 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. After Christmas, you can take on more of the course with a new timetable in preparation for the summer exams.

  1. Summarise.

Start writing out summaries in your own words, whether this is using notes from your teacher or Information from your textbook. I am a firm believer in having your own set of notes that you can read and understand easily. As with any exam, you do not want to be trawling through pages of notes as deadline day looms. Bullet points, postits, pocket notebooks and flash cards are great companions for these summaries. Put these good habits in place now.

  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 your scores for subjects around the middle as opposed to having very high and very low percentages across a mix of subjects. 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 the 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.

  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 making sure they have stocked up the nutritional and warm homely winter foods to get you through to the last Christmas exam.

In summary, 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. Joe

To read last weeks feature on the factors to take into account in relation to remaining at higher level in subjects, click here.

*****

More details about Joe’s ACE Tuition Classes (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: How to ACE your Christmas Exams

Joe’s Jotter: How to ACE your Christmas Exams
Joe’s Jotter: How to ACE your Christmas Exams

Joe’s Jotter – Is it wise to remain at higher level Maths?

Much more students over the last few years have taken on Leaving Cert higher Maths. Even though the bonus points are very enticing, you need to be careful you are fully aware of what you are taking on. Having done Junior Cycle Higher Maths and achieved a good score in it, you should by all means give Leaving Higher your best shot. You need to believe you are as capable as anyone despite what may or may not have happened inside the Junior Cycle class. You may have totally clicked or not with your Junior Cycle Teacher, but you are where you are now. There is little benefit in lamenting the past. This extended feature will help those who are unsure whether to take the risk and possibly be unsuccessful the subject. It is also to reassure those who are in there fighting the good fight day after day, taking the odd blow to their confidence. Each year, deciding levels is a tricky issue for students and involves many considerations. It is made even more complex in Maths with the bonus points in play.

I Can Take on this Challenge?

Firstly, there is a misconception out there that if you fail Maths in your Leaving Cert, you fail the full Leaving Cert. This isn’t true at all. The two worst things that can happen if you are unsuccessful in Maths is that you will have that low grade on your CV for the rest of your life. Also, if a certain grade in Maths is a requirement for a specific third level course, you will not be offered that course no matter how many points you get. That’s as bad as it gets.

I think having a good Interest in Maths is a great starting point in taking on the higher level. Do you secretly enjoy the challenge of those long practical questions in double classes? or do you dread the thoughts of Maths homework each night. Enthusiasm for the subject will go a long way to achieving your desired goal in it.  I really feel students know in their heart what level Maths they should be doing. If you feel in your gut that you are lost in class or if it is taking too much time away from other subjects; then reflect and talk it through now. If your anxiety about the subject is getting too high and your grades are dropping, it may be time to move. Definitely, if you have struggled to grasp much of the basic Algebra in fifth year, it may be a sign it is too difficult for you.

I always feel that students scoring above thirty percent (approximately) in Class, Christmas and Mock examinations should be able to raise their game to get over the line in the state exams. Students scoring consistently below thirty need to look into their heart and start conversations with their teachers, parents and indeed themselves. It is important not to remain in the class for the sole reason that your parents want you to do honours. Only you know the content of the Maths course you are studying and how it is going for you. Many students and even some Teachers place too much emphasis on the spring Mock result. I disagree with this premise and prefer to look at the bigger picture. From a percentage assessment point of view, I feel you need to look at a combination of exams sat (even fifth year ones) and indeed your Junior Cycle grade.

I’m not Intending to outline a template for who should remain or drop down as there are a lot of factors that need to be considered. I am simply encouraging you to reflect and balance the argument for yourselves. I have taught a substantial number of students who I considered borderline higher/ordinary level Maths. Many of them remained at higher and actually ended up outperforming those I perceived as rock solid higher level candidates. Maybe these borderline students felt like they needed to work harder and hence prepared better. There is a lesson in this analysis. American Basketball player Kevin Durant once said,  ‘Hard work always beats Talent when Talent doesn’t work hard enough’. Your teacher won’t put you too far wrong, as by the middle of sixth year, they know your strengths, weaknesses and the limits of your capabilities, assuming they have taught you since the start of fifth year.

Timing is also an issue. If you do need to drop down to Ordinary level, I wouldn’t leave it any later than Easter. This gives you some time over the Easter holidays and when you return for the final term to increase your familiarity with the ordinary level standard and the format of the exam Paper. Dropping down on the day of the exam is totally unadvised and should not be considered.

Factors That Will Guide Level Choice

I would advise you to think about and discuss the below factors in detail with your parents and teachers before attempting to change levels in any subject. Along with mock performance, here are other factors to consider when making decisions regarding level changes:

  • Your teacher’s opinion.
  • Your ‘potential’ points change.
  • Your Junior Cycle performance.
  • Your attendance in class thus far.
  • How much you enjoy studying the subject.
  • Results in previous Christmas and summer tests.
  • How much of the course you have done thus far.
  • Your own gut feeling and attitude towards the subject.
  • Results in all your class tests since the beginning of fifth year.
  • The amount of effort you are putting into the subject balanced against other subjects.
  • Minimum requirements for college (e.g. do you need a H7 in Maths for a course?).

Before making your final decision, take out a piece of paper and write down the pros and cons of remaining at higher level and dropping down.  On the back of the sheet, write a few paragraphs on how you are actually feeling about it right now. What is your gut saying to you? Keeping the above list in mind, the answer you are searching for should appear somewhere within these pages. Use it to answer your own doubts and plough on from there. Joe.

To view last weeks blog feature on ‘Two Clever Revision Hacks for Success’, click here.

*****

More details about Joe’s ACE Tuition Classes (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 – Is it wise to remain at higher level Maths?

Joe’s Jotter – Is it wise to remain at higher level Maths?
Joe’s Jotter – Is it wise to remain at higher level Maths?

Joe’s Jotter: Two Clever Revision Hacks for Success

As Christmas exams draw closer, here are two under used hacks that might just give you the edge as you try to get the most out of your revision time:

  1. Record yourself

With so many portable digital devices to play content on now, recording audio is a great option being availed of by many students. This is an excellent revision hack if you have long commutes or spend a lot of time in the car. Playing back notes you have recorded is a very successful method of retaining information. I have recorded questions and answers for job interviews previously, where I called out a possible interview question and then proceeded to answer it as best I could. Recording information on various subjects has been helpful during my career, when different jobs and challenges emerged. The great thing about recorded audio is that it will always be at your fingertips and is easily accessed from multiple devices. You can also barter this material with your study buddy i.e. swap it for other audio content or even for a great set of handwritten notes.

Bullet points, facts, list and key points have the perfect attributes for being recorded to your phone and played again and again. Remember, you will need to repeat any learning process regularly to achieve success. Having a portable learning tool like your phone or a small hardback in your pocket is great to keep you tuned in when opportunities to catch up arise.

  1. Rotate your learning

I feel it is important to rotate the type of learning you do in order to keep the brain fresh and Interested. When you sit down at the start of the week to plan your Lifestyle (Study) Timetable, be sure to rotate your learning in each study block. This rotation tricks the brain into going longer. You should even rotate your place of study. For example, by studying a specific sub-topic in the garden, it will make it easier to recall what you revised there, since you have created an association with this part of your home. Rotating your learning could also involve going down the road to your grandparents or your local library to write some essays or update your hardback. I would recommend initiatives like this to maintain freshness in your preparation, ensuring each revision session gets the attention it deserves. A change is as good as a rest.

Rotating your learning means using multiple ways to take in and understand material and notes. There are so many ways you can acquire Information these days; examples of these include: reading, taking notes, writing summaries, listening to podcasts, recording something you have learned into your phone, playing back lists through your headphones, searching the Internet, reading out loud, getting someone to examine you, watching educational YouTube videos, watching educational tv programmes, watching ted talks, creating flashcards, summary hardbacks, using postits, sticking key notes up on your wall, underlining, highlighting or discussing a sub-topic with your friends or in a study group etc. These are just some of the options available to you, which you could and should be using. Select and practice a number of these in order to try and find out what works for you. After that, rinse and repeat. Joe

To read last weeks ACE feature on ‘The Importance of handwriting your own notes’, click here.

*****

More details about Joe’s ACE Tuition Classes (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: Two Clever Revision Hacks for Success

Joe’s Jotter: Two Clever Revision Hacks for Success
Joe’s Jotter: Two Clever Revision Hacks for Success