It’s that time of year again for students across the country when the Junior Cert and Leaving Cert exam season kicks off. This is a very stressful time for students as they prepare to sit some of the most important exams they’ll ever do. Talk of the Leaving Cert in particular still strikes fear into every Irish person. The team at Fagan’s are here to support all local students who are sitting their exams. Call into the shop where we have everything you need to get you through the next few weeks. We’ve come up with some hints and tips to help you through this stressful time. Check them out!
Have all your stationery prepared in advance
Check out our exam checklist to make sure you have everything you need in advance of exam season kicking off. Being fully stocked up with all the supplies you’ll need leaves you feeling more confident knowing that you haven’t forgotten anything important.
Make shorter notes on flashcards with bullet points for easy revision
It’s very hard to remember an essay full of facts and figures. To make studying easier make flashcards with bullet points or acronyms to help you quickly revise before the exam.
Mark off exams as you complete them
On a wall or board at home stick up post-it note for each exam you will be sitting. Each day when you come home take down the post-it note for that days exam(s). This will give you a visual display of the progress you are making. It is a brilliant motivational tool!
Get some fresh air everyday
Exercise is an amazing stress-buster tool. Make sure to get at least 30 minutes or exercise and fresh air everyday. This could be a quick walk in the morning, between exams or in the evening time. It helps to keep your mind clear, to keep your body healthy and most importantly to relax. If you have a dog take it out for a walk every evening during exam season.
Get a good sleep every night
Sleep is your secret weapon to performing well in your exams. It’s recommended that you should get up to 8 hours of sleep every night. Make sleep a priority for yourself. Ensure that you get to bed at a reasonable hour so that you can feel refreshed and alert for the day ahead.
Take a look at past papers
Familiarise yourself with the layout of the exam paper. Get a clear idea of the marking scheme so you can prioritise which sections are the most important to spend time on, in order to get the highest possible marks. Don’t let your first look at the paper be on the day of the exam.
Get your exam papers in-store.
Eat breakfast everyday
Many people skip breakfast but there’s a reason why it’s referred to as the most important meal of the day. Eating a nutritious and filling breakfast each morning ensures that you have adequate energy supply to concentrate for the duration of your exam. Trying to sit an exam on an empty stomach is a recipe for disaster. Fuel your body and mind so you can perform to the best of your ability.
The same way as breakfast is the most important meal of the day it is also important to bring some healthy snacks with you to your exams so you can keep your body and mind fueled at all times. Make sure to eat snacks that are nutritious rather than eating junk food. You are what you eat!
Drink plenty of water
Keeping hydrated keeps your brain sharp and fully focussed. As tempted as you may be to drink fizzy drinks and energy drinks, it is better to drink water. Water won’t give you the sudden sugar and energy rush an energy drink would, instead it increases your brain power, prevents headaches and dehydration and puts you in a better mood. H20 is part of your recipe for success!
Get to the exam hall on time
It is so important to get to the exam hall at least 15 minutes before the exam starts. This gives you a chance to get yourself organised and to have a chat with your friends beforehand. Turning up to be ‘just on time’ is not a good idea, it will knock off your concentration and leave you in a negative headspace. Having time on your hands before the exam starts allows you to give your brain a rest beforehand and also to destress and relax. Use this time to do some breathing exercises to calm yourself so you’ll enter the exam hall in a much better mindframe.
Read through your paper first
When you arrive into the exam hall make sure to read through the whole paper before you begin. It’ll give you an idea of what sections you need to focus on most and give your most time to. This also gives you an opportunity to scribble down any important facts or acronyms you use to remember these facts on the section they relate to. Doing this straight away gives you the confidence to know you can tackle that question head on.
Plan your time for the exam
Make sure you know how much time to devote to each section of the paper. Having a clear timeframe in your head ensures you won’t be trying to answer an important question with only 5 minutes to go. Time management is really important! It is also advisable to wear a watch for the duration of your exams so you can easily check on your progress.
Prioritise the most important sections first
Always prioritise the most important sections first, highlight them in different colours according to their importance. Sections that carry the highest marks are the parts that will be most important to your overall scoring. Ensure that you answer these sections first and devote the necessary time to them. Multiple-choice questions alone won’t get you an A.
Try your best - marks are awarded for all effort
Even if you feel like you just can’t answer a mandatory question, give it a try. Whether this be in maths or english, know that marks are awarded for any effort or workings that you write down in your answer book. Everyone has come across an impossible question they thought they couldn’t answer but by writing down some sort of answer for it they ended up getting some marks still even though the overall answer may not have been right. Give it your best shot!
Answer your best question first - it'll give you confidence
If there is a certain topic you love and if it comes up as a question make sure to answer this first. By getting this answered first it will give you confidence in your ability and make answering the rest of the paper easier. Even if you come across a difficult question later you’ll still know that you have one question answered that is perfect.
Re-read your answer booklet
Once you’ve finished your exam don’t just up and leave straight away. Re-read your answer booklet thoroughly at least once. Look out for areas you can expand on and for any spelling or grammar mistakes. If there is illegible text then try to make it more legible. Re-reading your answer booklet could mean the difference between getting a lower or higher grade. Invest any spare time you have in re-reading your answers. It will definitely be time well spent.
Don't worry about what anyone else is doing
If your friends are writing faster than you are or leaving the exam early this doesn’t mean you should be doing the same thing. While you’re in your exam focus solely on yourself, block everyone else out of your mind. This is an important time for you and you shouldn’t waste it worrying about what everyone else is doing. Focus solely on yourself and the task at hand.
Try to write as legibly as possible
Trust me we all start out our exams writing in clear and beautiful handwriting but as the exam progresses and the hours and minutes tick away we all begin to start writing in chicken scratch which can be illegible for someone else to read. Remember that the exam corrector will be more inclined to give you extra marks if it is easier to read and understand the handwriting. Correctors don’t want to spend hours on end trying to figure out what you were trying to say. Make it as easy for them as possible to give you the maximum marks possible. Re-read and proofread your exam at the end if you have time to fix any handwriting that may be illegible.
Don't do a post mortem of the exam afterwards
Once you hand up your paper to the invigilator forget about the exam completely. What’s done is done. Doing a postmortem of the exam will only stress you out and have you doubting yourself. It is a waste of your time and concentration. Forget about the exam once it’s over, you can do nothing now so don’t worry about it.
Have breaks while studying
Remember no one can study from morning to night without taking breaks. Trying to study for prolonged periods is a recipe for disaster as it will drain your energy and leave your brain fried. Study for 30 minute intervals then take a 5 minute break. Use this time to grab a cup of tea, stretch your legs, have a chat, check social media or just to relax. It’s important to take these regular short breaks as it keeps your brain fresh and helps you to study smarter.
Take breaks to coincide with programmes that you like to watch
Just because you are sitting your exams doesn’t mean you have to lock yourself away from the world. It’s OK to take a break and watch your favourite programme as normal. It’s important to take these breaks, they are a perfect treat after working hard for a number of hours. Remember you don’t have to be studying every minute of the day, everyone needs a break.
Wind down at night time
Don’t study late at night. We’ve all done late night cramming sessions but they are not the most effective or successful study technique. Make sure to wind down in advance of bedtime. Give yourself at least 1 hour between closing the books and climbing into bed. This gives you a chance to calm your brain and prepare it for sleep. This is the perfect time to read a book, do some meditation or breathing exercises to help prepare your body for sleep.
Cut back on social media time
We are all prone to whiling away the hours on social media. It’s so easy to scroll away for long periods of time but during exam season this isn’t a productive use of your time and concentration. Actively aim to cut back on your social media time. Setting a limit on your phone can help you to keep on track. Once the exams are all over you can spend as much time on it as you want, guilt-free. When you get your results back and see how well you did, giving up social media for the few weeks will have been worth it.
If you find yourself panicking before or during an exam, sit back and give yourself a few minutes to relax and focus on your breathing. Take in a deep breath through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Focussing on your breaths will help you to calm down and get control again. You can always step out of the exam and repeat this exercise outside. Don’t worry though because it will pass!
Light a candle
Last but not least use the old Irish trick of getting your Granny or Mam to light a candle for you - it usually always works!
And remember the exams are not the be all and end all, there is life after exams too!
Good luck from all the team at Fagans!