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4 Ways To Handle leaving cert and junior cert Pressure

Leaving cert and junior cert exam time is hard for every student. No matter how grand or small your aspirations, test season is the culmination of every small assessment you've had across your years of education, and your first (and last!) chance to prove how well you know all your stuff. It's normal to be a little stressed by the prospect. But unfortunately, just being aware of that doesn't eliminate the damaging effect stress has on your concentration and recall.

It's crucial for your performance on exam day that you stay calm. That way, you can pay full attention to the task at hand rather than wondering what will happen afterwards. To help you do this, here are four of our top tips to help you handle exam pressure.

Tip #1: Get organised!

Most of the pressure students feel around leaving cert and junior cert exam time is more to do with all the preparation required than what result they'll get. The idea of dedicating months of their lives to studying for one chance at any given subject in a marathon week of testing is daunting. But the stress of this can be mitigated by proper organisation.

Homework planners and study schedules are obvious solutions to this, but it's equally important that students have an easily referenced collection of notes when revision time comes. Colour-coded flashcards work well for this, or even just having different folders for different subjects if you have a lot of printed notes that need sorting.

Students should also break their study schedule down on a micro-level to decide how they'll spend the minutes of each study session. Dividing the time correctly between reading and practice questions is crucial to effective study, and the ratio of time needed for each will vary depending on the subject. For example, subjects like Maths and Accounting will require more time with practice questions and less on reading than subjects like Biology or Home Economics. Being aware of these differences and working within them is key to feeling prepared for your exams.

Tip #2: Break your goals into smaller, achievable targets.

It's no wonder students feel pressured when they think the final exam grade is all they're working towards. Pressure increases the more difficult and distant a goal is from where we are now. Because of this, a good way to diminish that pressure is to break your large goals into steps you can accomplish over a shorter time-frame.

For example, if your goal is "get an A1 in Maths in the leaving cert", you could break that down into "Be able to confidently answer all past exam questions from 2013-2020." As that's still a pretty big goal, you can break it down again, reframing it as "Gain a strong understanding of the core concepts of the Maths syllabus." By breaking that down further and further again, you'll eventually find a goal small enough that you can achieve it on a daily/weekly basis. In doing so, you’ll inch closer and closer to that overall goal that was so daunting in the first place.

Tip #3: Get help with subjects you struggle with.

There's no shame in getting outside help with a subject you're finding especially difficult. Tutors are more affordable than ever, and Classhub's services can connect you to one who perfectly fits your needs. But if money's an issue, most class teachers have no problem giving a student additional help outside of class if they've got the time for it. At any rate, teachers love seeing students taking responsibility for their education, so never be afraid to ask! You'll progress faster in any subject when you've got a good guide.

Tip #4: Tend to your physical needs and ensure a good work/life balance.

But before you start building your tower of knowledge through dedicated living cert or junior cert revision and study, it's important to ensure you've got a stable foundation first. When it comes to learning, that foundation means having good physical and mental health.

It's very easy to be consumed by thoughts of your exams - it's even easier to slip into unhealthy, obsessive study habits. But even schoolwork must be taken in moderation if you want to succeed. It's just as important that you eat right, sleep well, and stay active if you want to do well in your exams. Your brain's a part of your body, too. It has to be taken care of the same way the rest of you does.

On the emotional side, it's well-known that stress, frustration and isolation cause memory problems and damage concentration levels. We work at our best when we're happy and in good health - so take some time to see friends when you're burnt out on schoolwork. Your body and mind will thank you for it, and so will your grades.

If you're currently struggling with the pressure of upcoming exams, following the above tips should help you cope a little better with them. But if you're still finding it difficult to manage, make sure you confide in someone you trust and seek help from your teachers and classmates where possible. You're not in this alone - help is there if you ask for it. In the meantime, just keep working your hardest. You’ll do great!

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