The Final Countdown has begun to the commencement of the State Certificate Examinations 2010 – Junior Certificate, Leaving Certificate, and Leaving Certificate Applied. The examination hall is the final stage of your two/three years of studying. Good preparation will mean that you are going into the exams well prepared and well equipped to give your best performance on the day.
Time until exams begin:
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What should you be doing?
* Make an exam plan and revision timetable
* Check the exam format for each subject again
* List possible questions based on suggestions from your teachers or past papers
* Write a one-page summary of key points for each major topic in each subject
* Look after yourself — take regular breaks, gentle exercise, eat well and sleep!
* A certain level of stress is healthy and helps you perform, but ask for support when you need it
At this stage, good planning is essential.
Approach your revision in an organised, systematic way. You will cover more ground, and you will feel you are making progress. You will feel more in control, especially if you are able to tick off topics that you have covered as you cover them. This in turn increases your confidence and encourages you to keep working, and so helps you to keep your motivation and effort high. Use the system of rewards for revision topics covered to keep your enthusiasm high.
- Past exam papers
Exam papers are excellent preparation because they give you a template (a working example) of what you can expect. Use them to see the kinds of questions that are likely to set, how to approach structuring your answers, and how to time yourself when answering questions.
Course or topic summaries
- Write out a summary for each course or topic.
Keep it to A4 size if you can. This is time and effort very well spent, as it will show you the main areas you know, and more importantly, those you need to know, and which you need to work on.
- Notes Copies
Use your past notes and summaries to go over main points. Skim texts, always looking to draw information out rather than stuff it into your brain. Exams are about retrieving information quickly and efficiently from your brain. Aim to train yourself to improve at this.
- Outline answers
Prepare basic or “skeleton” answers. Use summarising techniques here, and by condensing learning you will be able to access it more easily in a real situation. Practise writing under exam type conditions, even if you only write out the outline of what you would cover. This will get you used to writing under pressure.
- Practice the exam format
Make sure you know, and that you are comfortable with, the layout of the papers. Each subject will have different sections, choices of questions, compulsory questions, and questions that attract different marks. This information is provided at the beginning of the past exam papers/books which you buy in the bookshop. Use these as a guide for the exam structure and outline: they’re excellent.
It is natural to be afraid of the unknown. Knowing what is ahead of you in an examination takes away much of the fear.Have the exam format well thought out beforehand. Know how best to use time during the exam: how to plan your answers, and how to answer the question you have been asked.
Exams are about what you understand more than what you remember. It is your chance to show just how well you can cope with a stressful situation and still give your best performance. It is not just what you know but how you use it that counts on the day.
A certain level of stress is healthy. It gears you up for the “big performance”. Ensure you keep your stress levels healthy so that they work for you rather than against you on the day.
Arrive at the examination hall a few minutes early. Do not bring a stock of books. You can bring a few notes/flash cards to glance over as a last-minute measure.
Have bottled water, but avoid chewy (noisy) sweets and chewing gum. Some people find it useful to have chocolate in your pencil case. It is ok to eat during an exam (just don’t have a picnic) – you will get your self in trouble if you disturb other exam candidates. It is helpful to have something quick to eat in the short break before your Aural exam (tape).
When you are handed your paper, attend to the routine details first. Fill in all the examination paper details correctly. Steady yourself.
Read the question carefully. Read it again. Read it thoroughly. Circle the verbs. Check exactly what you are being asked to do, not what you want to do.
Never panic, even if at first the question seems alien. It will be linked with something you have covered in your coursework. It is your job to find the link.
Choose your questions and stick to your choice. The reason for this is that your brain will continue to work on other questions while you plan the first one. Resist temptation to switch to another question, particularly if you have already started one. This is only a panic response. Ignore it and continue.
Plan your answer before you start. If points or ideas for your other choice question come up, you can write them on a separate page. Never, ever rush into writing – planning is time well spent.
Do your best question first. This will get the “flow” going and give you confidence. Once you have completed your first (best) question, it might be useful to plan your other questions. If you are pressed for time later on, you will not have to rush your thinking: your plan will be there for you.
Check weighting. Spend the time on questions that will bring you higher marks, not on questions that have fewer marks. Managing your time in an exam is crucial to getting you the best advantage.
Pacing and timing (rather than speed) in an exam are very important. Have a clear idea of how you will use your time – even before you start. Good preparation is the key.
Show the starting point and the various stages in any calculation so that the examiner can follow what you are doing. This way, even if you make a small mathematical slip and end up with the wrong answer, you can still score almost full marks (only one mark is deducted for an arithmetical slip). If you do not show the starting point and the various stages, and end up with a wrong answer, you score no points.
Avoid going for what appears to be an easy option, for example, choosing the “B” or more personal/creative option in the comprehension section of the English paper. Any creative or personal response needs to be as well planned and organised as the more formal type questions.
You have 2 – 3 weeks of examinations. Do not burn out half-way through. Preserve your energies. Keep your best for the examination hall.
Write clearly. NO post mortems. They will only fill you with dread or complacency. Neither is useful. Reward yourself afterwards .
Study past marking schemes. It is crucially important that you know what each subject examiner is looking for, always remembering to answer what you’re asked and to think before you ink. At this stage, you are fine tuning what you already know with a little cramming on the side. A quick glance over Chief Examiners Reports are also helpful – these give you an insight into where students fell down in previous years, be wise and don’t let the same one’s happen to you. www.examinations.ie
New for 2010 – Due to the leaking of last year’s HL LC English Paper 2, this year exam question papers will be handed to exam candidates FRONT PAGE FACE UP, where before they were face down. The intention here is to give you time to check the subject before the exam begins. Don’t turn the page, until told to do so. http://bit.ly/bkLhCr
Prepare for your next exam. Good luck. You have worked hard to deserve it!
Time until exams end aka. COMPLETE FREEDOM (when exams offically end):
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Finally, Best of Luck from the ISSU Team