Exam season is finally upon us. With all the hard work and preparations done, it’s time to put the knowledge and learning to the test. We know there may be a lot of emotion in homes at the moment, whether you are a student waiting to start the first exam with anticipation or a parent emotionally supporting your child through the process.

The most important thing for students to do now is stay calm, trust the work that has been done and believe in your ability. Remember, if things don’t go to plan, there are several alternative pathways including post-Leaving Cert courses and apprenticeship courses.

getting prepared

At this stage, with the exams starting on 5 June, ensure you have everything you need to stay focused on the paper in front of you.

Guidance counsellor Sinéad Delany has this advice on what to do in the last few days before the exams.

“I would start with two main things,” she says. “The first is knowing your timetable – have it printed off and highlight your exams. Do this so you know if you have two exams in one day or if you have a day off in between – this will help plan your study and your rest. It’s also a good idea to put a copy on the fridge so everyone in the family knows when you start and when you finish.

“The second thing is knowing the layout of each paper and the marking scheme. It is essential to practice the exam papers as the same questions come up, over and over again. A lot of students can notice those patterns and it can be a way to relieve stress as they look at the exam papers and know how they’re asked. Also listen to the advice of your subject teacher.”

During the exam

On the day of the exam, it is about trusting yourself and what you know.

To help with the pre-exam nerves, ensure all the equipment you need is laid out the night before. If there is a certain pen you like writing with, go and buy a few of them.

“Every exam centre will have a clock on the wall but some students like to bring in a watch to keep a closer eye on the time but remember, smart watches are not allowed,” says Sinéad.

“It is important to have a time management plan in place for each exam.

“If the exam is three hours, make sure you read through the paper entirely, starting with your strongest area to give you confidence. Know the marks for each question and section and spend more time on those worth more marks.”

“It’s important to remember to keep an eye on the time,” adds Sinéad.

“Move on to the next question if you get stuck. It is important to attempt everything, even if you can’t remember certain points – write down as much as you do know as you won’t get any marks for leaving it blank.

“Your exam number is important so make sure you have it close to hand. If you forget it, don’t worry, there will be someone in school that has it but by knowing it can avoid unnecessary stress. Ensure your number is on each exam paper you hand up.

“If students are running late to the exam centre, they will be able to get in up to 30 minutes after the exam has started but again, try your best to be organised and on time so you are as calm as possible.

After the exam

Be kind to yourself after the exam. “If an exam doesn’t go to plan, try to forget about it and refocus on the ones ahead of you,” says Sinéad.

“Avoid going back over how you answered each question or what you could have done differently. Take a bit of time off to relax and go for a walk or chill out before going back to study for your next exam. It is a long two weeks and you don’t want to burn yourself out at the beginning.”

Looking ahead

“It is important for students to remember that the Leaving Cert is not everything,” says Sinéad. “Of course, it is very important when you are in sixth year but if things don’t work out, there are always routes and other options. It might not be the way you want to do things but there’s always options and other ways of doing things.”

Sinéad Delany is a guidance counsellor with over 15 years’ experience.

With the CAO ‘Change of Mind’ closing on 1 July, it is important to look over your application to make sure everything is filled in correctly. Sinéad emphasises its important not to panic and change your course choices based on how you think an exam went.

“Ensure you have filled in the second list of level seven and level six courses as sometimes students neglect that section. You don’t know how your results will go so it is important to have a variety of courses and points on your application that interest you.”

It’s also important to look into PLC courses, says Sinéad.

“If you haven’t applied to your local college and they are still accepting applications, get one in now. When the results come out, it will be harder to apply so get organised now.”

Parents can provide support and reassurance. \iStock

For parents

If you have a child doing exams, all you can do is provide support and reassurance, while forgiving the mood swings.

“Have their favourite dinner ready after their exams and plenty of snacks in the house. Ask your child how they are but don’t give them a lecture, it’s a stressful time for them. They will be anxious so expect that they will be a little bit on edge and snappy – that is normal,” says Sinéad.

“Have an interest in the subject so you’re aware of what’s going on and how they’re feeling but keep the conversation light.

“Encourage them not to be staying up late cramming at all hours, as being alert and rested during the exams are important,"adds Sinéad.

It is important to note that there will be staff on-site at school if students or parents have any questions or concerns.

In short

• The State Examinations Commission has advised that it intends to issue the Leaving Certificate 2024 results on Friday, 23 August

• The existing assessment adjustments for the Leaving Certificate which apply for students in 2024 will continue to apply in 2025

• In total, 136,300 candidates are registered to take the certificate examinations this year

• In 2023, CAO points went down for 60% of courses, including medicine and nursing

• So far on this year’s CAO, there was a 21% decline in students selecting agriculture as their first preference.

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