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.

Advice to Leaving Certs of 2013

I know what you’re thinking. I’ve been there. Many before you have been there. You’re already worrying tirelessly about the Leaving Cert. Your nails have been chewed down so far that they hurt, and rescue remedy has become your only true friend.

Lol, JK! The truth is that right now, the Leaving Cert does seem like something so far away that it can’t even be seen yet. It’s understandable that you’d feel that way. You do have nine months, and it seems like a very long time. So I’m going to give you some advice on how to face this Leaving Cert head on, whilst keeping your sanity and your happiness intact.

  1. Study now! – This is probably going to be the most unpopular piece of advice for a Leaving Cert student, so in advance, I’m sorry. And I also know that about 85% of you won’t heed this advice. Still, you should take heed of it. When I did my Leaving Cert last year, I made a terrible error. For the first term I didn’t really do that much work, believing that it could wait. I did do a bit of studying, I kept up with the workload, but I wasn’t doing nearly enough. I regretted it a lot when, after Christmas, I was plunged into several weeks of sickening cramming for the infamous Mocks/Pres. It took the Mocks for me to realise that the Leaving Cert wasn’t that far away at all, it was just around the corner. I don’t want to stress you out, but the truth is that nine months isn’t a very long time. Start the work now, and by the second term you’ll be well on top of things. You’ll have a lot of the course covered, and you won’t have to go through the panic your heedless friends will go through.
  2. Study Timetable – I know, yet again, unpopular advice. But it really is incredibly helpful. Looking back on my Leaving Cert year, I don’t know how I would have gotten by sometimes without a study timetable. The best thing to do is write out all your subjects, decide on the amount of hours you’re doing a week, and divide up those hours between your subjects. You don’t have to divide the hours up evenly. It’s probably a good idea to give some extra hours to the subjects that you struggle with, but it’s also important to give extra time to the subjects that you really love and want to do really well in.
  3. Research college courses: A very important one for the first term in particular, because in the second and third terms, you just won’t have the time to do the research. Get all the information you can on the area you’re interested in and colleges that have courses in that area. Then read up about it on the internet, in the prospectus. Go to open days too, and that’ll give you a great idea of whether or not it’s the right choice for you. Don’t feel stressed if you have no idea what course to do, you’re in the same boat as nearly every single other Leaving Cert student. How the hell could you know what you want to do if you’ve never done it before? If you can, try contacting somebody in the profession you’re interested in and ask for advice, or if you can find the time, try and get work experience. If you’re still at a loss, take out a pen and paper, and write down all the things you like and the things that interest you. If you find that you’ve written down something like the function of the human mind, then Psychology could interest you. Or if you’ve written down I love to read perhaps English Literature is the course for you. Don’t listen to anybody who tells you not to do a course because there are no jobs in that area. The recession will not last forever. By the time you graduate, the situation will surely have improved greatly, and even if it hasn’t, you’ll probably be happier unemployed with a qualification you loved getting than being employed in an area you hate.
  4. Stop with the internet and the television: Yet more unpopular advice, and I am really sorry to have to give it. The chances are that this year, your internet and television habits will suffer. You’re better off looking at it now. Do you come in from school and spend three hours in front of the telly and then another two on Facebook? That’s going to have to change if you want a good Leaving Cert. Look at what you watch on television – is any of it available at a later hour, or online? If so, you’ll do better to watch it that way. The worst thing you can do while studying is take an hour break to watch Grey’s Anatomy. The chances are you won’t go back and finish studying afterwards. For the internet, you could ask your parents to disconnect the modem and hide the plug somewhere, or even more drastically, take the battery out of your laptop and get someone to hide it for you. At least then the temptation is gone!
  5. Don’t over-do it – Despite everything, keep yourself grounded. At the end of the day, the Leaving Cert is only an exam. It may be important, but it’s really not as important as people make it out to be either. Yes, it’s important you try your best, but if you find that you’re studying at two o’clock in the morning then you need to re-evaluate the importance of this whole thing. Sleep and relaxation are just as important as keeping on top of the workload.
  6. Relax – Set some time aside at the end of your evening studying just to chill out, watch television, hang out with your family or friends – something, anything other than studying. Going for a walk at the end of a long study session can do you the world of good and leave you feeling refreshed and happy again. Get a lot of sleep, too. You will get tired, because studying is exhausting. Don’t let yourself get sick from not getting enough rest.

So that is my advice. Leaving Cert students of 2013, I salute you, and wish you the very best of luck for your Leaving Cert and for the future.

Three Weeks To Go…

Hi students – first I’d like to apologize for my long absence. I felt that through the summer months there was little, if no point in blogging about the Leaving Cert. If you are anything like me, then you wanted to forget those two repulsive words until the 15th of August.

So I just thought I’d pop in and spoil your whole summer by reminding you that it’s three weeks today until the Leaving Cert results are out. Yep – there it is. I’ve shit all over your summer, and for that I’m sorry. But hey, at least now you know, so you can start to have anxiety dreams about it.

So how has everyone’s summer holidays been going? Personally I’m bored out of my mind, and desperately want to have my mind occupied with something again. Not that I’m wishing I was doing the LC again, just that… maybe I could have something to do with my days other than read women’s magazines and facebook statuses.

Anyway, you kids make sure not to stress too much about this “exam” lark. You don’t have to think about the results until they arrive, if you want. I would love not to think about them, but I can’t not think about it. If you’re like me, then spend the next three weeks rocking back and forth in a dark room in a corner crying and eating chocolate. Good day. 🙂

14 Days Left: Leaving School

14 days… I feel sick. Utterly ill. Gross. The stress is mounting like there’s no tomorrow, and the days are whizzing by in a cruel fashion.

But we have other things to worry about, don’t we? For at least a day or two, we can put the Leaving Cert on hold and focus on finishing classes. It’s emotional and bizarre at the same time. Or is it just me who thinks this? How could this have happened? I remember my first day of first year. It never seemed like I would reach the end of it all in such a short space of time. Yet, here we are. Tomorrow is the last day I will spend with my entire year group in school.

I can imagine that a lot of you have mixed feelings. There’s the absolute euphoria to start with. That feeling of… Wow. I’m nearly an adult – practically a grown up. Soon I’ll be going to college, moving on with my life. And then there’s the “I’m not ready for all of this…” that I think most people have a little bit of at this time of year. Leaving school isn’t all fun and games. It means an ending, but also a new beginning. It means the Leaving Cert is officially on the doorstep. In a few months, people across the country will put on a brave face as they walk into a room in a college with nobody they know. And they’ll think back to secondary school, just a few months ago, and wish they were back there.

The whole thing is bizarre really. We all have to make sure we don’t forget about our studying, while also enjoying ourselves with our year group for the last time until the Debs. So everyone…

Have a nice grad mass. Enjoy whatever celebrations your class are doing. Don’t take this time for granted. You’ll always remember it. It’s a bigger deal than you can ever imagine.

And thank your teachers! The good ones, I mean. If you got on with them, just say thanks. It doesn’t hurt, and nobody can call you a teacher’s pet, as your done now anyway. Anyway, it’s time I studied. Good luck folks.

15 Days Left: Procrastination

15 days… Yuck. Absolutely yuck. What the hell? Why? And most importantly, how? I blame the Government for this catastrophe! Well, OK, I don’t. But the time is rapidly whittling away, and it’s getting more daunting by the day to face those books. Here are some ways to avoid procrastination:

  1. Hide/Turn Off/Break Your Computer: Alright – maybe avoid the latter. But seriously, you should probably do something with your computer. Ask somebody to hide your laptop charger, or unplug it and ask someone to hide the plug. I’m going to get my sister to hide my laptop charger once I’m done writing this, because… well, the internet is the most distracting thing ever. In fact, if the internet had been invented in Hamlet’s time, he would never have killed Claudius. And I mean never.
  2. Turn off the Television: I know! It’s painful. It is for me too. While it seems so much more appealing to lie on the sofa like a vegetable watching re-runs of Friends all day, you really can’t do that at this time of year. 15 days! Hello! This is a more difficult one to solve, but you should tell your parents or brothers and sisters to simply not allow you to watch it. Let them use violence if they have to.
  3. Throw Your Mobile Phone Out the Window: Do it. Not only is it liberating, it will also rid you of the temptation to quickly check your Facebook, or find out who texted you. You don’thaveto throw it out the window, but you can at least just put it somewhere out of reach, and check it every half an hour.
  4. Turn off Katy Perry/Rihanna: Unfortunately this kind of music isn’t really good at encouraging studying. Especially if it’s on the radio, it’s going to distract you listening to DJ’s rambling about this competition and that celebrity. So I’m afraid… you should turn it off. Try listening to something that’s more like background music, something that doesn’t require a lot of attention.

And at the end of another blog post, I wish you all the best of luck with avoiding procrastination. Now it’s time I studied!


Graham Norton’s Mum Said It All

I just read a nice article about Graham Norton making a return visit to his old secondary school, Bandon Grammar School in Cork. While he was there, he recounted his old Leaving Cert nerves. It’s nice to know that even celebrities like him were once in the same boat as us eejits are in now. In the article, it’s revealed that his mother (who sounds like an ingenious woman, I think she should become a guest blogger here!) gave him some great advice:

“Graham you can only do your best. Do it.”

Graham’s mother said it all. That’s all you can do at the end of the day. There will of course be a few people who get about nineteen A1’s – and that’s great for them. They did their best. Everyone’sbestmeans something different.

So you’ve got two weeks left to study. So do your best. Do as much study as you can, and you will surely do your best. Enjoy the studying!