Home Writing Tutors Last-minute exam tips from the experts – The Irish Times

Last-minute exam tips from the experts – The Irish Times


With just a few weeks to go until the Leaving Cert exams, how can students best use the remaining time? And how can they avoid being overwhelmed with the stress of the exams? We asked some top teachers for their last-minute tips and techniques.

– Advice from Julian Girdham, English teacher at St Columba’s College (JulianGirdham.com)

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Paper 1 (Language):
You have a choice of six tasks. Read all three comprehensions: be certain you can answer all three questions if you choose to do one of these. If there is one tricky question, do not attempt that option. If you want to do the B composition instead, again make sure you understand exactly what you have to do. If there is a word you’re not sure of, do not choose that essay option. Cover all the elements of the question (set them out as bullet points to make that clear – there are often three).

The main composition is now worth 36 per cent of the entire grade: take your time, write carefully, read through it at the end and improve it.

Paper 2 (Literature):
If doing Othello as the single text, there is a limited number of questions that can be asked compared to other Shakespeare tragedies. You will always write about Othello and Iago, whatever the question. One theme would be good to prepare in advance: the influence of race, so prepare a body of relevant quotations on that.

Paper 1 :
Topical composition themes that students should focus on include the challenges that young people face today, the influence of technology on young people’s lives, the impact of the pandemic on society, the value of school and education, and the role of women in sport and society more generally.

I do not expect a title relating to the war in Ukraine to appear, but it might be useful to prepare a paragraph or two about both it and the refugee crisis which could blend in with a broader title such as “na dúshláin atá amach romhainn” ie the challenges we face.

For the cluastuiscint, make sure to focus on the dialects that you struggle with. In particular, the Donegal dialect has a lot of “ú” sounds which are actually words ending in “adh” or “amh”. Revise numbers, Irish place names and common job titles in advance.

Paper 2:
Once again you can choose to focus on either the prose or poetry this year. In the case of the prose, you should always make reference to the core text in your answers, so have a minimum of 3-4 quotations learned off by heart. Same applies for the additional text, ie quotations are essential.

Advice from Eamonn Toland, TheMathsTutor.ie

Paper 1:
Since 2021, LC maths now gives you a choice of questions. You need to do 4 out of 6 questions in section A, and 2 out of 4 in section B. Section A is now worth more than section B. You need to allocate your time in proportion to the marks available. Have a clear and simple time-allocation strategy, and try to stick reasonably closely to this in the exam. For more details, see page 7 and 8 in our free exam-technique guide at www.themathstutor.ie/booklet/

It’s not possible to predict which specific topics will come up, but calculus is one topic that can feature heavily in paper 1, so it should be given plenty of attention when revising.

Paper 2:
If you find your timings were a little off in Paper 1, try to learn from that. Perhaps you got a little bit bogged down in one or two questions. If so, be a bit more aware and strict in executing your timing plan.

Overall, and this applies to both papers, make sure you are completely clear about exam structure, mark allocation and time management, which have all changed in 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Prepare your exam kit, including your geometry set, and know when to use pencil or pen in the maths exam.

Along with English, Leaving Cert Geography is one of those exams where students need to be particularly careful about their timings. With short questions and up to six essays to be written in 2 hours 50 mins it is very common for students to be scrambling at the end of the exam to get all the questions finished. A good tip I give to my students is to write a timing plan with actual times on the front of their exam paper.

Single Relevant Point:
Students should also be familiar with the concept of a SRP, Single Relevant Point which is how the corrector will be marking your paper. A typical essay type long question will be worth 30 marks at higher level meaning that the student is required to write at least fifteen relevant individual points to gain full marks.

In light of the disrupted nature of the school year as a result of Covid-19, the instructions on several papers will differ this year than on exams released prior to 2020. It is really important that students familiarise themselves with these updated instructions. In this year’s higher geography exam, students are only required to answer three long questions with a maximum of two being done from any one section.

Read your questions carefully and underline key words in the questions. Read each section

If the question is in French, answer in French. If the question is in English, answer in English.

As with every year, the French paper is impossible to predict. However, it is based around young people and how they perceive the world around them. I suggest that students focus on themes rather than on individual topics to learn. The top five themes to zone in on are: education, environment, health/sport, social issues/equality and the economy.

These tend to come up the most frequently. Consider the following: 20 years of the euro, conflict, Cop-26 (climate change), Covid-19, poverty, migration, the pressure of exams, e-scooters, the importance of languages and equality.

You should have plenty of time to complete the Leaving Cert Biology exam. From my experience of teaching this subject over the past 10 years, it is rare to find a student running out of time. This means you should take your time and make sure you are answering every part of each question. If you finish early, I always recommend trying one additional question. The examiner will give you the marks for your best four questions from section A, best one from section B and best three from section C.

Be precise and specific in the words you use in your answers, particularly when asked to define a biological term. I always advise students to practice exam questions and then check their answers against the official marking schemes to make sure they are using wording sufficient to get full marks.

Don’t forget to go over the experiments! Section B requires you to answer only one question which will be based on one or several of the experiments. This section is easy marks for students who take the time to go over the experiments that they have worked through.

Minding your mental health:

“A lot of students didn’t get to sit their Junior Cert because of the pandemic. If you’re a student, it’s really important that you let shame or stigma get in the way of talking through their feelings. You really just want to be heard.

For parents and guardians, be gentle and non-judgmental. Try to avoid jumping in to “fix” the problem – instead, listen and problem-solve with them, rather than for them.

This may involve talking through a few different options, or perhaps talking through a time that you were stressed and how you coped. Stress is part of the exam process, as is learning to manage it.

Sleep well, eat well, talk to and connect with other people and move or get some exercise – those are the pillars of wellbeing.

With exams around the corner, it can be hard to do these, but even a small incremental change can help, like trying to get to sleep even 15 minutes earlier, or taking short breaks just to move or go for a walk. Remember that you will do better and retain more information if you take time for self-care.”

– Advice from Luke Saunders, teacher and co-founder of study website Studyclix.ie.

“I advise all students to take some time to familiarise themselves with the updated instructions that they can expect on each paper this year.

A link to the official document outlining the adjustments can be found online (gov.ie/leavingcert) or on the Studyclix.ie blog.

Instead of constantly revising your own notes or revision materials, now is the time to actually test whether there are gaps in your knowledge or skills.

Working one topic at a time, I suggest students spend time practising past questions and then reviewing the marking scheme to see how they would have done.

The mocks probably seem like a distant memory at this stage but I always encourage students to look back over their mocks in the lead-up to the main exams.

Try to identify any mistakes you made such as running out of time on a certain paper and be sure to avoid repeating them in the real exams.”

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