The Leaving Cert is getting closer and closer. Every June, students all over Ireland sit the Leaving Certificate Exams. It’s not the most exciting part of your time in school, but hopefully these Leaving Cert study tips will make it easier.
1. Don’t put off studying until last minute.
The last year of secondary school is a busy one for students. You have a lot on your mind like deciding what you’re going to do after you’re finished with secondary school and figuring out how you’re going to keep in touch with your friends if you go your separate ways.
University is a big change from secondary school and it’s normal to be worried about it, but stay focussed and keep your eyes on the prize.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is procrastinating and leaving the bulk of your revising until last minute. According to a 2012 UCLA study of secondary school students, those who got adequate sleep and did not sacrifice bedtime for studying, fared better on their exams and overall health.
Pacing yourself is much better when preparing for exams. Set aside a little time each day to study and think about what activities can wait until after Leaving Cert.
2. Work hard, but also work smart.
Take a look at the exam timetable and see what exams are scheduled first and use that to plan how you’re going to study. For example, the English exam is always first, so you’re going to have less time to study for that, than say Physics or German. That said, don’t neglect those subjects and wait until the end.
Look at the exams you’re sitting and plan accordingly. Think about what subjects you’ve been struggling with the most and prioritise those.
Another thing to consider when you’re studying is how you’re studying. Focus on past exam papers when you revise because those will be a model for what might come up on the exam. However, don’t assume you know what’s going to be on there for sure. It’s good to have the knowledge, but it’s better to know how to apply it to the test.
3. Set aside time to relax.
Think of the Leaving Cert as a marathon, not a 100 metre dash.
It is important to study and do well, but at the same time, you can’t study constantly because at some point, your brain will tell you it’s time to rest because it has already done all it could for the day.
Don’t give up your hobbies, since they’re a good way to de-stress. Make sure you get outside and exercise, draw, paint, play music, dance, whatever you enjoy. It’s good to do this in short bursts. Watch an episode or two of your favourite show, but don’t binge watch an entire season.
Do reward yourself because it will help you stay motivated and you deserve it.
4. Take care of yourself and be prepared.
It’s important to have a nice nutritious breakfast or lunch before your exam. A sugar or caffeine rush might sound really tempting, but it might hurt you in the end. Sitting an exam on an empty stomach isn’t nice and it can distract and derail you. You are not allowed to bring food or coffee or an energy drink to the exam centre.
Also, before you go to your exam, go to the bathroom. You don’t want to waste precious time because you badly need to go.
One more important thing to do before the exam is to check that you have everything you need: pens, pencils, erasers, sharpeners, rulers, calculators, etc. Be responsible and organised. If you don’t have what you need, you might be stuck and it’s not the invigilator’s job to help you find an extra pencil.
It’s also nice to have some water so you can stay hydrated and a watch because you may not be able to see the clock very well from where you’re sitting. Just make sure your watch doesn’t beep in the middle of the exam.
5. When it comes to results, keep things in perspective.
Hopefully you got the points needed to get into your first choice course, if so, congratulations! If you didn’t, it’s not the end of the world and you can still achieve your goals.
There are two rounds of offers, so you might end up getting a better offer in the next round, but if you don’t, there are other options. You don’t necessarily have to sit the Leaving Cert again, unless you want to.
Universities are not the be-all end-all of postsecondary education and at times, a programme at an IT or college might be more suitable and relevant. ITs offer level 8 and level 9 degrees.
If you still want to get a level 8 degree, there are a few possibilities. One option is to get a level 7 and then transfer to a level 8.
Post Leaving Cert courses (PLC) are another option. These are usually level 5 or level 6. You can think of it as a stepping stone. PLC courses help students gain vocational and technological skills for the workforce or to continue onto an undergraduate degree. This usually consists of textbook learning, hands-on learning, and work placement.
A certain number of spots in a course are reserved for those who do well in PLC courses. These courses are also a good option for those who are unsure about what they want to study. However, it’s usually easier to just do the full degree from the start.
Ireland is different from other countries like the United States because if you have enough relevant work experience, you may be able to get into a course and it won’t matter what you got on the Leaving Cert.
Whichever option you go with, remember that on your CV, a transfer student or someone who repeats the Leaving Cert will still have the same qualification as someone who got into the course in first year through the CAO.
Your postsecondary education is what you make of it. Don’t worry too much about university rankings, think about the course and make sure to take advantage of all opportunities that your course has to offer. Apply for internships and get involved in clubs and societies.
The Leaving Cert is difficult, but not impossible. Many students have done this before you and succeeded and so can you. Work hard, but also work smart. Good luck!