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It's the Final Countdown: Leaving Cert Edition

Leaving cert exam tips
3 min

I’m just going to put it out there - I loved Leaving Cert year and, not to sound completely nerdy, I even liked the three weeks of exams. It was sunny, my mother expressed her pre-exam worry by over-feeding me, it was great! Out of it all my main two Leaving Cert memories are: 

  • Forgetting the word for ‘thousand’ in my German oral... it’s ‘tausend’ and thankfully I still got a good grade.
  • Our English Paper 2 got moved to a Saturday because a supervisor in Louth accidentally handed it out instead of Paper 1. Panic set in and threats were flying if Elizabeth Bishop wasn’t on the new paper.

But this isn’t about my Leaving Cert nostalgia, it’s about preparing you for the days ahead!

No doubt by now you’ve gone through every exam paper imaginable, some were probably around before you were born. Your study notes resemble a rainbow and your walls are covered in post-its. The guessing game is on for what topics will appear on Wednesday and what poets will appear on Thursday. To get you through the next few days, and make sure you’re as prepared as possible, I have a few tips for the next few days:

Get organised

Writing and concentrating solidly for 3 hours in an exam environment is hard so make sure you have everything you need well in advance. 

Buy a fresh set of pens: it takes less pressure to write with a new pen and your hand will feel less cramped. You also avoid the risk of running out of ink mid-way through a subject that involves a lot of writing. In addition to that, organise your pencil case the night before so you have everything you need, especially for the maths papers - you don’t want to be stuck without your rulers, compass or calculator! 

Buy bottles of water and packets of sweets:

I was always armed with a fresh bottle of water and a packet of fruit pastilles for my exams. A packet of sweets is great for a little sugar boost when you’re stuck on a problem or feel your energy fading and water can help freshen you up and make you more alert. 

Have short pre-exam notes: don’t try and read extensive notes before you go into your exam, have short notes with key dates / topics / formulae that you can just scan over to jog your memory. 

Be kind to yourself 

Don’t push yourself. If you feel like nothing is sticking when you’re studying then stop. Go for a walk, watch a tv show, read something that isn’t school related, and then go back to your study. You have to keep your energy and momentum going for 3 weeks so don’t burn out trying to do too much. Most importantly - don’t stay up all night trying to cram. This is the worst thing you can do. Make sure to get a solid 7 - 8 hours sleep the night before your exam so you’re fresh and energised. If you need to revise more then get up an hour or two earlier but make sure you get a full night’s sleep.

Timing is crucial 

You’ve practiced this in your mocks, but make sure you know how long to spend on each question / section and allow yourself plenty of time for reviewing your paper. When you get your paper read through it and identify your strongest questions. Do these first as you’ll feel confident moving onto the harder ones and will probably get them done well within your allotted time. Make sure to clearly mark everything in your booklet so your corrector isn’t struggling to match your answers to questions.

According to a recent article by the Irish Times, 37% of girls, and 22% of guys, lose sleep due to worry in the lead up the Leaving Cert. If you’re still feeling stressed then check out our recent article on how to beat exam stress. Best of luck with your first week!