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Joe’s Jotter: How to Construct your Revision more Efficiently

[7 Minute Listen!]

Spending a short amount of quality time with someone is better than spending hours paying very little attention to them at all. Revising for an exam is similar. You must hit revision in small intense bursts where you give it your 100% attention. The following are three useful efficiencies that will help you construct good study sessions.

Rotate your Place of Study

It is good practice to rotate where you study. The main reason for this is that if you start to get bored or listless there, you’ll associate boredom with learning. Try other places such as the kitchen table, the park, the back garden, the library or just a different room; anywhere you want to really. Try revising certain topics in unusual locations. An example of this could be to learn English drama quotes on your lawn in the sun. When you need to remember these quotes in the exam hall, you can visualise yourself being back there, recalling the day you learned them and hopefully triggering your mind to recall that information. Experiment to see if music or TV helps you concentrate. Some subjects will be more suited to this than others. I believe some Maths topics do not require one hundred percent attention, an example being adding words or formula’s to your hardback notebook. This however may be associated with my aptitude for the subject. You may be able to listen to some low level music in subjects you are more tuned into. This varies from person to person obviously and won’t work for every subject.

Leaving Material Out

Come the next few weeks, as regular as a clock ticks, the rumour mill kicks into action. Comments like “Oh, this is coming up this year”, “I heard this is expected to come up”, “There’s no way that will be on the paper” or even ‘I’m leaving that out’ are common both online and offline. Please be aware that if a topic is listed on the syllabus for your subject, it can appear on the paper, even if it came up last year. Your teacher will source you a copy of the syllabus document if you wish to view it, or alternatively you can download it online. The syllabus document will tell you exactly what can be examined in the subject and is useful when you are collating the full sub-topic list for each subject.

In relation to exam preparation, I know you all will try cutting corners; you will predict, throw topics away and ignore information. I would not recommend leaving out big chunks of the course. The State Exams Commission, who set the exam papers each year, state that they do not want any element of predictability in them. In general my advice is to cover your bases well.

Continue to whittle down and reduce the volume of your keynotes. I am convinced that summarising information helps assimilate it better and leaves one with a more concise set of notes. Keep re-writing summaries into something manageable that you can read and understand. As exams approach, be careful who you listen to. Teachers with many years’ experience (whether that’s your subject teacher or someone you know well) won’t put you far wrong. Having seen many exam papers, I think you can certainly place a good level of trust in them. The newspaper revision supplements, written by experienced professionals, can be a useful revision aid also.

Implement a Solid Study Plan Now

Now that you are aware and have listed out all the topics on a sheet (per subject), it is time to make a robust yet practical study plan that you can follow. Here are twenty practical study tips you can start using today:

  • Divide your study time into small sessions
  • Take a break of five or ten minutes after every session
  • Revise during hours when you feel productive
  • Each student has their own method of studying. So figure yours out and use it
  • Divide study times as per topics and effort needed. Difficult topics = More time
  • Underlining the key points for each topic is a great habit to start now
  • Make a practical study plan you can follow. A plan that is not doable is a big NO
  • Short notes should be just that – short and concise. This makes revision easier later
  • Use abbreviations and note down the key points only. No waffle or padding
  • Do not skip a topic because it seems difficult. Revise it a few times to let it sink in
  • Use revision breaks for something productive such as music, art, or sports activities
  • Always set a target score you are aiming towards in each subject
  • Take tests regularly. Your test scores are a regular reminder of your target score
  • Maintain test records so that you know which subtopics you need to work on
  • Sleep 7-8 hours. Losing sleep will affect your ability to concentrate and retain
  • Stay as healthy as you possibly can. Exercise
  • You cannot change the amount of revision you did yesterday. Start today
  • Be kind to yourself. Use positive self-talk each day
  • Reflect on the amount of revision you did today, instead of what you didn’t do
  • If today’s study plan didn’t go well, revisit it and tweak tomorrows one

and remember..

“It is never too late to step into your own greatness”

Joe McCormack

To view last weeks feature article on ‘How Writing Summaries and Self Testing is Worthwhile’, click here.

*****

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

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

*****

© Joe McCormack 2021

Joe’s Jotter: How Summaries and Self-Testing will Prove Worthwhile

As students adjust to the reality that they must now try to find the best ways to study at home that suit them, the two main pieces of advice I have for you this week are timely. These are the benefits of re-writing your own key notes and testing yourself at home.

Just reading through your textbook is not an effective form of revision; we need to be clear on this. I strongly believe you need to actively engage with a piece of text, and this involves making some notes at the side, underlining in red or green, highlighting or maybe even just making markings on the page to signify whats Important. Successful students constantly summarise notes into something manageable and run little tests at home to monitor their progress. I will now detail the reasons why I believe having your own summaries and self-testing will improve grades. I also will discuss the importance of adding variety in your revision. This is definitely more in focus now due to the current ‘home constraints’.

Re-write your own key notes

Re-writing your notes is a study method that has been tried and tested over many years and I feel it is one of the best. To recall information later, it is vital that you make good notes and highlight core Information, both in class and during home revision. Re-writing these initial notes later copper fastens what you think are they key elements of what you have flagged. Doing this is a really good way of getting facts to ‘stick’ and will help you learn faster. Rewriting notes in your own words is a short cut to understanding material on your course; as writing something down forces one to think more about the subject matter, thereby increasing retention of that information.

The key to doing well in exams is adaptability and being able to think critically about topics in the exam hall. If you can adjust to change, cope with the unseen poem or unusual Maths diagram, the examiner will view you as standing apart from the rest. Your key notes should reflect you viewing a topic from all angles; finding holes in it, praising it, picking out the main points from it, seeing where it links with other topics and most importantly, evaluating its usefulness. An insightful set of key notes have delivered excellent grades for my students over many years.

How to Self-Test

We are never sure we understand something until we are properly tested on it. Am I correct? You don’t need to wait for class tests or mock exams to see how you are progressing in each subject; you can examine yourself at home. You can start off by testing yourself on one full exam question, ensuring you follow the time allowed. Eventually you can build up to sitting a full past exam paper under the time pressure of a real exam.

There is no substitute for doing past exam questions within an allocated time. The students who do one exam question a day (no matter how small it is) are very tuned in to whats required once exam day arrives. At this point, ask your class teacher to give you some extra class tests or unusual past exam questions so that you can try them under these conditions.

During exam revision times, it can be difficult to find a friend or family member to quiz you, which is why you may need to do it yourself. Learn how to test yourself and do it in as many ways that you can. These include setting questions, answering revision questions at the end of each chapter in your textbook or practising do-able past exam questions.

Quizzes are a brilliant way of making sure that all the information you need for your exams has been completely covered. Ask your friend to write you a quiz; they may think of an angle on a topic that you won’t. Re-do last years’ class tests that your teacher set for you. Your parents can help too by examining you on material you need to remember i.e. facts or bullet points. My own mother was extremely good at this; helping me improve in subjects I wasn’t amazing at, namely History and Irish.

Use Variety in your Revision

Ongoing creation of revision cards in your subject will greatly enhance your learning. This type of revision is now very popular with students. Make revision posters, laminate them, and stick them in the shower, the bathroom, the kitchen; everywhere. When writing revision cards, split the card in two and write short phrases on one side and its explanation in your own words on the other. Colour code your quotes, dates, names, and theories. Keep the colours consistent so that you will recognise them easily. Developing your own colour coding system for topics will help you recall information quicker. Find out what works for you and repeat the trick. Every year, I see former leaving certs passing on notes to their friends. This has some obvious advantages, but there is no substitute for writing your own set of notes. Writing a summary of existing information switches your brain into content analysis mode and you will remember much more of the notes you write, compared to reading and trying to understand someone else’s.

Surround yourself with positive people in exam year. Without sounding harsh, sometimes you are better off without ‘friends’ that let you down. To quote the author Hans F. Hanson:

“People inspire you, or they drain you – pick them wisely”.

Friends who are always in good form can really give you a lift. If your friends or boyfriend/girlfriend aren’t supportive of your work and aren’t giving you room to prepare properly for your exams, it may be a warning sign of where the relationship is going down the line. The opposite can also be true. In this regard, every day is a school day. Joe

To view last weeks feature on ‘The ACE Guide to Exam Prep from Home (Part 3)’,  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 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 try it tomorrow. Time will fly, with each revision block being only thirty minutes. As you begin to see progress, your motivation will grow. An alternative approach to developing a timetable would be to create a task list. Each night you could write down a list of ten to twelve challenges you would like to achieve in various subjects the next day. Tick them off then as you get them completed. If you currently feel you are swamped with work and worry, this is your ‘get out of jail’ card. It is so important to set targets, otherwise timetables and lists are just ‘drive by’ and ‘hopeful’ preparations that you will never be answerable to. We all need targets to help us achieve things and it is also a fact that we are more likely to reach them if they are written down.

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

Write out a List of Motivations in Your Journal

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

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

The Many and Best Ways to Learn

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

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

Sample Graphic Organisers*

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

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

*****

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: Core Methodologies for Revising Maths at Home

In light of the current health threat and for the first time in a long while, students (and indeed their Parents) need to examine more closely the daily routine to ensure effective learning is happening as much as possible. Maths is a subject that tends to take up more time than others and hence 3rd and 6th years should use these circumstances to consolidate what they know and spend time on past exam questions and the use of language in it.

From this point of view, I would recommend that all exam students start a ‘Maths hardback’. Fill this hardback with new words, formulae’s not present in the log tables and keynotes. Divide the hardback into fifteen-page sub-topic sections. Secondly, being at home full time is a good opportunity to test yourself against the clock on full or partial past exam questions. Set these as your two main targets prior to returning to school.

Algebra is the Language of Maths

In Junior and Leaving Cert Maths, you need a good solid Algebra foundation to build on in order to excel in topics like Geometry, Trigonometry, Functions and Graphs and Probability. I estimate that Algebra is linked to at least twenty five percent of Maths exam papers at all levels now. Take time to understand the rules of Algebra especially those linked to expressions, functions, and graphs. I, one hundred percent think that Algebra is the most important topic in Maths. The words and phrases that appear on the course and in your past exam papers are equally as critical. The State Exams Commission (SEC) now place more emphasis on students knowing and understanding what things mean in Maths, than just being able to do numerical calculations.

There is more ‘English’ than ever on Maths exam papers, and it is crucial that you start familiarising yourself with these words. If you are not familiar with the words and phrases that appear on the paper, you may not even be able to get a question started. This would be an awful shame given the amount of time you have spent learning mathematical concepts on your course. If you have dyslexia, I understand that dealing with words in Maths is doubly difficult. You need to be aware that different words have a different meaning, depending on the subject you are studying. For example, the word ‘Evaluate’ in Maths is very different to its meaning in the subject English.

In my book ‘How to ACE the Leaving Certificate’ for all subjects, there is a full chapter advising how you can improve your Maths. In  the book, I present and explain one hundred sample key words and phrases to kick start your understanding of the language of Maths. This list is suitable for both Junior and Senior Cycle students, remembering that some of the more difficult words would not appear on a Junior Cycle paper. I would strongly encourage you to add to this list, investigating the exact meaning of words you come across. You will learn loads through your own investigations, thereby learning by doing.

I advise that every time you encounter a new Maths word or formula that you write down what it means to you in an A5/A6 hardback. This idea can be applied to all subjects and these hardbacks can be carried with you (literally) all the way up to sixth year. Using simple explanations that you understand in your hardbacks will help you recall what the words mean later. Being familiar with the words that appear on a Maths exam paper has now become a key component of success in the subject.

Test yourself at home in Maths

The more ‘exam smart’ you are, the better you will perform on exam day. I have seen the best students do their homework to perfection and really know their stuff but ultimately not reach their potential In Maths come June. Every year loads of super students misjudge the timing on the paper. It is imperative that you stick exactly to the allocated time for each question. In Leaving Cert Maths, you have twenty-five minutes to do a fifty marker (always divide the amount of marks by two to get the time).

You should now start timing yourself on past exam questions at home. At Leaving Cert level, part a’s and b’s of Section A are a good place to start. Attempt questions that look familiar first, maybe even consulting your book/notes from time to time. It’s all learning. Once completed, check your workings out against a good exam paper solutions book. If you have struggled to make reasonable inroads into answering, I suggest you re-write the steps of the full solution on a page, really thinking about why each step is important as you write it. Every few weeks, tackle some longer questions and write out the steps (in English) how you would solve it. This verifies the order of steps and method in your head.

There are many advantages to creating your own ‘home test environment’. You should constantly test yourself on material revised. During these mini home tests, I would use a stopwatch to ensure you are ‘sticking to time’ for each individual question part. This is vital across all subjects, but especially in Maths. In creating this little bit of time pressure, you are replicating the exam hall environment. Train as you propose to play is the idea here.

I am currently conducting Online Maths classes (via the comfort of your own home) for 3rd and 6th year students. For 3rd or 6th years who are not sitting a Mock examination in Maths this year or for those of you who want a Professional opinion on where you are at in the subject right now, check out the ‘ACE Maths Assessments’ section of my website below to see how it could suit your current needs. Get in touch with me If I can help you in any way. Stay healthy during these uncertain times. Joe

To view last weeks feature on ‘My Top Forty Benefits of doing Transition Year’, 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: My Top Forty 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 contemplation. It may also get you thinking about your future options if you are currently in 1st or 2nd year.

  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. Joe

To read last weeks feature article on ‘The Challenge of Choosing Subjects for Senior Cycle’, 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

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 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: 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: 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: The ACE Guide to Exam Preparation from Home (Part 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