How To Study For The Junior And Leaving Cert

iRevise contributor, Tom Nolan, a principal and teacher for over 36 years, delivers his top tips for studying effectively in the run-up to the Leaving and Junior Cert, the common mistakes to avoid, and how best to structure a study session.

Timing is Everything

Studying and timing go hand in hand, after all a big part of the Leaving and Junior Cert is answering questions clearly given in a set amount of time. Timing comes into play in many areas, there is how much time you should be spending on each subject, how much time you should spend studying altogether and how to structure your study. Time should be at the core of any study plan.

Leaving Cert students should be spending 3 hours a day studying and junior cert students should be building their study muscles with a 2-hour study slot. Tom Nolan says that students should cover every subject every second day.

If not, there is a tendency for students to stick to what they like, which often happens to be what they are good at. This allows those subjects that you struggle with or don’t like to fall through the cracks, ‘don’t sacrifice and don’t neglect’ some subjects in favour of others.

How should you spend your 45 minutes?

Do a quick bit of theory e.g. reading a synopsis or a summary and then practice, practice, practice. Students should really have their notes and synopsis ready at this stage, however, those who haven’t needn’t worry as one of the beauties of iRevise is that these can be found on the website. At this stage of the game, students shouldn’t be wading through books trying to make notes.

An element of flexibility is also good when setting out your plan. Tom recommends 45 minutes per subject – taking the form of a quick synopsis, then a practice exam question. There is most certainly scope to play with this rough structure, for example, if you’re fluent at Irish maybe give half of that time to another topic you have been struggling with.

What's the end goal? 

One of the most important things about time and study is not how much time you spent studying but what you learned’. Tom says it’s good for parents to ask their children at the end of the day ‘what do you know now that you didn’t know before today’. Doing this regularly allows the student to realise the end goal ‘knowledge acquisition’ and helps create a sense of pride at the end of a hard day’s work.

Most Common Mistakes

One of the biggest mistakes that Mr Nolan has noticed in his 36 years of being an educator is students not effectively using past papers as a study tool. Take math, for example, 80% of the paper will be straightforward procedures. The more difficult areas and nitty-gritty questions are to separate the ‘A’ students, so spend your time accordingly. Get the basics under your belt and the rest will follow.

In addition to this, students need to be kept alert and interested while studying. 'Active studying' includes questions, practice answers, and interactive videos. There is nothing more ineffective when it comes to studying than sitting and reading notes for 3 hours, your brain simply won’t retain it. 

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This article is a repost from an article published by RTE in January 2021. Read the full article here.

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