With Leaving Cert exams on the horizon there are many students around the country relieved to see the end is in sight. All those months of study and coursework are finally drawing to a close and the Leaving Cert will soon become a memory rather than a deadline. With less than two weeks to go until the exams begin here are 10 final tips for the last leg of studying.
Last-Minute Leaving Cert Tips
1. Be Familiar with the Exam Timetable
Have a copy of the exam timetable pinned to a wall or the fridge at home and highlight all the exams that you will be sitting. Some days you will have more than one exam. Know the start times to ensure that you don’t miss an exam or arrive late. Knowing the order of the exams will also play a crucial role in organising and prioritising your study in the final days.
2. Familiarise yourself with exam papers
It is imperative that you know the layout of the exam before you sit the exam. For every exam you should know how long the exam session is and the layout of the paper. Know the marking system. Some sections are going to be weighted more heavily with marks and therefore deserve more time. Most papers offer students choice so know how many questions you are required to answer.
3. Find out about calculator and log table permissions
Know in advance what exams you are permitted to use your calculator and log tables. You will need to have your own calculator but the log tables are provided in your exam centre. In your Maths exam you will be issued with log tables but some other exams permit use of log tables on request – so know what subjects allow this.
4. Time Management
So many students’ complaints about exams revolve around time, ‘there wasn’t enough time’ ‘I didn’t get the paper finished.’ Some of the Leaving Cert exams have been extended to over four hours! How much time do you need?! The Leaving Cert exams are probably the longest exams you will ever sit. It is the same time allocation for every student so get your time management under control.
“When you have your schedule worked out, then study it. This may be
the most valuable piece of study you do the day before the exam.”
Before sitting an exam it is a good idea to work out how much time you can afford to allocate to each section. Consider weighting of marks for each section so more heavily weighted sections get more time. When you have your time schedule worked out, then study it. This may be the most valuable piece of study you do the day before the exam. When you arrive into the exam centre write down the time schedule in your answer booklet so you can refer to it during the exam and stick to it. Even if you don’t get the question finished - move on. The few extra marks you garner in finishing a question are worth sacrificing to pick up many more marks going for a new question.
Bring a watch and place it on your table. Every exam centre must have a clock but don’t rely on this. There may be a glare on the clock; be safe and bring your own watch.
5. Be Strategic
Allocating time to each question (as outlined above) is your first exam strategy. Your next is deciding what order to answer the questions in. You do not have to answer the questions in chronological order. I suggest you read the exam paper in its entirety. Pick the questions that you will answer and then begin with your strongest section. Starting where you have the most knowledge will give you confidence and get you off to a flying start. Leave your least knowledgeable sections to last. Make sure that you get all the questions with heavy weighted marks done early on in the exam if possible.
“Starting where you have the most knowledge will give you
confidence and get you off to a flying start.”
Some students answer above the requirement i.e. the paper asks you to attempt four out of six questions and the student answers five. This approach is risky. The exams are not designed for students to have extra time to attempt extra questions. You should ensure that you spend enough time on the questions to provide detailed answers. Therefore it is hard to know how students could attempt extra questions. It’s probably best to answer the required questions and if you have extra time than try to develop your answers further.
6. Prepare Necessary Equipment
Here is a list of the essentials you might like to bring with you to the exam.
- Comfortable writing pen: Perhaps bring two different type of pens to alternate during the exams as your hand will tire writing with the one pen.
- Coloured pens/markers: Good for highlighting keywords on the exam paper
- Pencil and colouring pencils: Good to have for sketching required in some exams e.g. biology and geography.
- Scientific Calculator: Check that your calculator is accepted by the S.E.C (click here for list of permitted calculators and calculator rules). Check the batteries.
- Tissues: Especially important if you suffer with hayfever. When sitting exams we have our heads down and this aggravates colds or hayfever.
- Water: Sipping water will keep you hydrated and therefore keep concentration levels up. Sipping water can also help to steady nerves. No need to drink too much, you don’t want to waste precious time going to the bathroom, a 500ml bottle is more than enough.
- Snack: It can be a good idea to bring something small into the exam centre to eat during the exam or just before you begin the exam. A banana or a cereal bar is perfect. If you’re going to eat during the exam then avoid any rustling papers or crunchy apples that might disturb the other candidates.
- Watch: As mentioned above place your watch on the table to keep a close eye on time.
7. Night Before First Exam
“As hard as it may seem, it is a good idea to give yourself a
break on the day before your first exam.”
Many students can be nervous and anxious the day before the exams start. Once the exams begin these nerves tend to calm down significantly and students get into the swing of it. If you are stressed out and overly anxious you will find it very difficult to sleep. Being well rested will give you the energy you need to maintain the stamina needed to get through the Leaving Cert and perform well. As hard as it may seem, it is a good idea to give yourself a break on the day before your first exam. Take the pressure off and focus on relaxing your body. Quit studying in the early evening, around 5pm and take the night off. Do something that will help you to wind down so you can relax and sleep better. Go for an evening walk, kick a ball around for an hour, go for a cycle; a physical activity will help you to unwind, get some fresh air and relax the night before the exams begin.
8. The Morning of the Exams
Give yourself plenty of time to get ready and get to your exam centre. Some students get up at the crack of dawn to cram in an extra study session – but will this really make a difference? You have been studying these subjects for two years, you either know the material or not, the morning of the exam is better served getting plenty of rest.
Eat a big breakfast. Doing exams can really knock the wind out of you so it’s a good idea to eat a big breakfast to give you energy for the exams. Be punctual; arrive to your exam centre with plenty of spare time. Being late will get your flustered and take you longer to settle your nerves.
Students are required to present about 30 mins before the beginning of the first exam as they are required to sign a register. 30 minutes can feel like a long time for hanging around. Some students seek support in the company of their friends during this time but for others this can heighten anxiety and a walk in the fresh air alone or with a sole companion may be more beneficial. (Students only need to present 5 to 10 minutes early for all other exams.)
9. Stay Confident
You have been studying for these exams for two years. You have acquired a lot of knowledge during that time. Be confident that you have put the hours in and that you will be able to do yourself justice during these exams. Develop a positive attitude to the exams. Think of the exams as an opportunity for you to shine and prove to the examiner just how much you know about these subjects. Thinking positively will give you the confidence you need to perform in the exams and keep going.
10. Remember the Leaving Cert is not the be all and end all
At the moment you are in the Leaving Cert bubble. You are all consumed by the Leaving Cert and placing much greater emphasis on it than it actually deserves. Yes the Leaving Cert exams are important but they do not determine your future. If things do not go to plan for you during the exams, take solace in knowing there are many routes to careers and a lot more options out there for you. Believe it or not, soon these exams will be behind you and they will become a distant memory. In a few months time, you will look back with the wisdom of experience and wonder what all the fuss was about!
A Note on LC Results Day and Points Calculation
Remember that Leaving Certificate Results Day can come with a rollercoaster of emotions. It can be a very exciting day to see the culmination of all the hard work put in, but it can be overwhelming, too. Sometimes nerves get the better of us and totting up points can start to look like rocket science. A great way to prevent any unnecessary stress is to use a Points Calculator. We have one which will help you calculate your points score in no time! Access the Points Calculator HERE.
The CareersPortal Team