Rolling Around Again

tearing hair outAs we approach the end of April, the Leaving Cert 2013 approaches. I can imagine many of you are currently hiding in a corner of your bedroom, books firmly locked away, with a blanket over your head and a torch, thinking “oh my God no, this isn’t happening.” Well maybe you’re not that dramatic, but either way, you’re probably feeling quite nervous now about the whole thing. I know how you feel. This time last year I was completely terrified because it seemed that there was so much I hadn’t studied, and there was so little time to study it.

Have no fear, Leaving Certs. Remember that everything you’ve done up until this point will count in the exam. Even the homework you did last night could help on the day. Even going into school yesterday could help your grade. You never know how it’ll pan out. So if you haven’t done any studying yet, and are now terrified of failure, or you’ve done a lot but feel that there’s so much more to do, then take a deep breath. Remember it’s only an exam, and is not that important. Here are some tips for the last few weeks of studying.

  1. Forget the internet: Probably not great advice, coming from somebody who blogs, but it really will help you a lot. While it’s important for you to feel connected to your friends and family at the moment, you need to remember that going on the internet when you should be studying will only make things harder in the long run. When I did my exams, I got my parents to hide my laptop charger so I couldn’t use it. It worked pretty well. While I still procrastinated, inevitably, it stopped me spending hours perusing the depths of Facebook and Twitter.
  2. Use your notes: If you’re still spending time sifting through massive text books then it’s time to give it a rest. Text books are great, of course, but the truth is that they give way too much information on the key areas, and even more on areas that don’t matter at all. Now might be the time to invest in Less Stress More Success or Revise Wise books. Use these to make key notes, which you can keep in folders. Reading over these key notes every day or two between now and the exams will help you tremendously. Also, take out your copies and read through the notes your teachers gave you. Your teachers may be annoying the hell out of you right now, but they do have degrees in their areas (most of them, at least). Trust their notes, as they probably know what they’re talking about.
  3. Limit late nights and alcohol: While you’re probably used to getting the weekend and going a little bit wild, as they say, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to limit this a little bit coming up to the exams. Alcohol makes you feel lethargic, and a hangover will only encourage you to spend all day lying in bed and eating chocolate and crying about your impending doom. Late nights too will just make you sleep in all day and not get anything important done. When you’re spending Saturday evenings in bed while your friends are out partying, just think of the elusive college parties you’ll go to next September when you do well in your exams.
  4. Have a study space: You may have been avoiding having a set place where you study every day all year, but now is the time to sort this out. Having a set study space will really help you to get your head in order. You can stick notes up all over the walls and sit at a desk chanting Irish phrases into the night if you have to. Remember that an organised space equals an organised head… I sound like my mother…
  5. Relax: Don’t study really late into the night. It won’t help anybody, and will just leave you feeling exhausted and annoyed because you not only don’t have any sleep, you also don’t have any personal time. Put a time limit on when you’re going to finish studying and stick to it, even if it’s going really well. Try to finish by ten, but definitely by eleven. Give yourself some time to unwind before going to sleep or you’ll just have some demented dream about a copybook flying at your head from above.

Best of luck with the exams, Leaving Certs of 2013, and best of luck with the studying.

PS: If there are any Leaving Cert students of this year who would like to write a guest blog about their experiences, leave a comment with your email address and I’ll get back to you. You’d be surprised, but writing about the exams and your studying process can actually help get your head in order and think critically about your study methods.



Thitwo-roads-diverged1s blog originally appeared at

Choices creep up on you at the most inconsiderate times. You’ll often be sleeping, when they’ll grasp you and tear you from your slumber; or perhaps you’re at work, tapping your pen off the desk, questioning what you’re all about. But either way, choices will haunt you at some point in your life.

Choices are completely terrifying for being precisely what they are. They involve the conscious decision to eliminate various paths in life. They involve choosing one path, when, let’s be honest, you have no idea whatsoever which path is the right one.

Choices have terrified me in this selfish little way of theirs. They alert you to your impending doom at some point. It’s nagging – this nagging little creature tugging at a fragile part of your mind. And you know, in that moment, that you are going to give up so much. You are going to follow a path. How do you ever know which one to choose?

I remember this time last year, being torn in the shortening nights as my thoughts ran away with all of my potential futures. I was at school, rapidly approaching my final exams which would, in many respects, determine which road would be travelled. There was this haunting awareness in me, one particular night, that something I was not ready for was going to hit me. It could hurt me; potentially, it could polish the final cobblestone in my path. But then again, it could also see my whole road repossessed for failure to pay back the loan.

I had to choose a college course. Simple enough – it involved walking blindly into a university where I would study a course I really had no idea whether I would like or not.

As you can imagine, I was confused. I could choose to follow my gut instinct – to study English and History – or my logic, which told me to study Journalism. Undoubtedly both would leave me jobless in a country that has left me and my generation behind – yet I still had to make that choice. I had to just go for one; just decide which one was less stupid, really.

At the end of the day, every choice falls down to the simple question of what you place more trust in: your gut instinct or your logic. Both are undoubtedly important, but ironically, in this too, you must make a choice, and decide which you will mute, and which you will hear.

Try not to fear choices. Remain content that you can never follow more than one path in life. Keep remembering your reasons for loving your choice; remember that even if it was a bad choice, it is still important for your life journey, and your personal human experience.  Robert Frost spoke of The Road Not Taken. He, like most people, wondered what a different future he could have had by making a different decision. It is impossible not to wonder about the other road; however you need to always remember that your road was right for you at that moment in time, and you should always be glad that you took it for that reason alone.

Exam Blips

Now that the Leaving Cert is over, I’m sure we can all look back on the massive, thundering blunders we made and smile. Well, maybe you can’t just yet, but soon I’m sure…

It’s incredible really how when people are under pressure, their humorous side seems to come right on out. Some of these I found particularly funny. Amongst these exam blunders, many have now become famous. My particular favourite is the student who circled x in response to being asked to find x.

So (providing it’s not too raw) I’d like to hear some of your personal exam blunders. Did you do them by accident, and only realise after leaving the exam hall, or did you have a semi-mental breakdown during the exam, laugh to yourself and say “Ah, what the heck. Taking the piss sounds like fun”.

My own experience of an exam blunder was in Junior Cert actually. I had always hated science, and had little interest in the area. After a night of cramming, I sat the Higher Level paper. I was asked to show how some substance could be made through a diagram – and not having a clue at all what it was, I laughed silently to myself as I drew a person holding up a can with the substance written on it. I still got a C. God knows how…

So give me your own stories in the comments. After all, we need a laugh in this nasty in-between period.

Anxiety Dreams – Am I Alone?

I don’t think I can be the only poor unfortunate soul in the country who has spent the time since the exams ended thinking non-stop about the exams. Unfortunately, this seems to last into the night, and a lot of tossing and turning has plagued my sleeping hours – occasionally my mind drops a nice bombshell like “Oh my God… I failed French…” or “I did such a terrible Leaving Cert!” My mind has basically been tormenting me ever since.

So this leads me to believe that I can’t be alone. It’s a stressful time for all students taking state exams in the country. So what have you dreamed about? Give me an idea in the comments. Maybe we can all laugh about it, and diffuse the tension! Or maybe we can all cry about it and spend the day discussing our failures and insecurities. Either way, I’m sure it will be simply delightful.

So I’ll start the ball rolling. My funniest dream was that I forgot to sit Maths Paper 2. I went into my school to see if anything could be done about it, and I was told that if I wanted I could sit the 2013 Maths exam, as long as I didn’t tell anyone what was on it. I agreed readily, but I didn’t have a clue how to do anything on the paper.

One of my scarier ones was that I was locked in school, waiting for the night to end so I could sit my religion exam. There were a handful of us in the assembly area as a storm raged outside… And then I remembered, when morning came, that I don’t do Religion. I can’t even begin to convey the irritation I felt as I woke up.

So y’all, tell me about your dreams. I really do hope that I’m not alone after this post! Good day 🙂


“Summer?!?!” I hear you ask. Yes, to us Leaving Cert survivors, it’s something we never thought we would see again. Through the exam period, it certainly felt like we had died and the Leaving Cert was our eternal punishment. But no, apparently not. By now, the vast majority of students are finished, with the last few exams wrapping up tomorrow. Unfortunately, the weather isn’t on our side (curse you cool temperate oceanic climate!) but there are many things you can do with your time off until the fateful day of the 15th of August.

  1. Have anxiety dreams: Well this one isn’t very fun. And nightmares might be a better term. Since I finished my exams a week ago, I’ve dreamed many things: That the exams were actually just the mocks and I still had to do the Leaving, that I got a B1 in English (a horror story that I fear may come true), and that I forgot to go in for the Maths Paper 2. If you too are having anxiety dreams… Then I wish you a long and fulfilled summer full of torture.
  2. Get a job: OK, easier said than done… Well maybe it’s almost impossible. But if you don’t try to get a job, one thing’s for sure: you won’t get one. So get out and about and give it a go. It’ll be handy to have some spare cash if you’re starting college this coming year.
  3. Jigsaws! Have you seen the weather? Have you heard of sterotypes? Well doing jigsaws is a complete stereotype, but an enjoyable one at that. Go on, give it a go. It’ll be a bit of craic!
  4. Monopoly! Even better! There’s nothing like keeping the old brain ticking over with financial crap… OK, I’m not providing a convincing argument. Let’s move on.
  5. Watch TV: I bet you haven’t done this properly in a while. Now it’s time to catch up on Eastenders, Coronation Street, iCarly, Bear in the Big Blue House and the Teletubbies! Well – I don’t know what you’re into, but I’m sure you can’t wait to catch up on your favourite shows.
  6. Think A LOT about the Leaving Cert: It’s not something you want to do, it’s just something that’s going to happen. You’ll probably find yourself randomely saying aloud “I wonder what I got in Irish…” etc. occasionally. I’d love to say “forget about it for the summer!” but in my experience, that’s much easier said than done.

Other than all of these utterly useless points, please enjoy the next few months. To those of you who finish tomorrow, good luck with your remaining exams. Now seems like a good time to use the old Irish reliable phrase: You’ll be grand. I always love saying that. It requires no justification and it’s totally empty and meaningless. Good day, students.


Art History and Appreciation

I’m sure I wasn’t the only Art student who felt slightly bitter going into the exam centre today to do a two and a half hour written exam in Art. You’d swear we didn’t already do a six hour poster exam, a two and a half hour still life drawing exam and an hour life drawing exam. But we had to get over that, and go and write three essays about Irish Art, European Art and Appreciation of Art.

Overall, it’s clear that elements of the paper were quite challenging. I chose question 2 of the Irish Art section about the Sun Disc and the Fibula. It seemed like an easy question, and perhaps it was just me, but I found the phrasing of the question to be quite poor. There were a few other difficult questions, particularly Question 6, which lists seven artists and asks you to talk about two works by them. Despite so many artists being listed, to my disappointment there was no sign of my beloved Jack B Yeats. Oh woe! Woe is me!

Section 2, European Art was managable. I’m sure many students were delighted to see Caravaggio and Leonardo da Vinci appearing on the paper. I personally died slightly of happiness about Question 13 on Claude Monet and Auguste Renoir, two of my personal favourites. It also allowed room to talk about Edouard Manet or any other Impressionists in the second part of the question.

The Appreciation of Art was quite difficult, in my ever so humble opinion. The vast majority of students were no doubt prepared for the Gallery question, which is usually quite simple – talk about a gallery you visited – but of course, there was a twist on the question. We were asked were galleries central to the appreciation of art because so many works of Art are now available on the internet. We were supposed to take into account a Gallery Visit of our own. It wasn’t a bad question, but I fear many students would have been thrown by it. I certainly was, and there was a bit of bluffing going on.

Luckily, I’m done my exams now. I know. Bizarre, isn’t it? I am now finished the Leaving Cert! Everyone leave comments and tell me your plans for the summer. My first plan is to catch up on the sleep I’ve missed. Good day, pupils. 🙂