It’s the middle of April and I’m spending my Sunday afternoon with my head stuck in a stack of inorganic Chemistry notes. My current situation is not too different to that of last April, minus the hideous uniform and looming Orals of course. Stress is a natural part of studying, whether it’s in school, college or further along in your career. The Leaving Cert. for me was an incredibly stressful, confusing and daunting time and looking back on it a year later, there are certain things I wish I had known, that may have eased my stress and worry in some way. As the dreaded Orals and practicals are about to hit, I thought it may be useful for me to share with you some of my post-Leaving Cert. thoughts, on reflection of the experience as a whole. Here are 7 things I wish I had known this time last year.
1. Your LC points will mean f*ck all in September
They may be the ‘be all and end all’ right now but I promise you, once you’ve gotten your place in college nobody will care about what you got points-wise. Something I realised after doing my LC was that so many people were concentrated on getting high points, not because they needed them for their course, but to simply outdo their friends (or enemies). Simply focus on what YOU need to achieve for your course and forget about what everyone else is doing. It’s also incredibly important to remember that the points allocated to a course in no way defines its difficulty. It’s all down to demand for the course and how many places are within it. Your LC points will never define you, it’s what you do with them that counts.
2. Cramming is almost always a terrible idea
I’m going to sound like a teacher saying this but honestly, cramming is never the best option. Leaving a huge volume of work until the last minute and trying to cram it all in during times of immense stress is only putting harmful, unnecessary pressure on yourself. I hold my hand up and say I’ve been guilty of cramming in the past but it got me nowhere. Whether you’re the coolest cucumber in the field or someone (like me) who’s prone to stress anyway, the Leaving Cert. is no walk in the park and attempting to ram an entire Physics course into your brain in one weekend is only asking for trouble. If you’re finding yourself running out of time and feel yourself sinking, my advice would be to focus on the most important (and popular) topics that come up and really soak in that knowledge. Doing previous exam papers is also a great help, it was my savior in Biology last year.
3. It’s impossible to be 100% prepared for orals
Orals in my opinion are the most stressful part of the LC because you’re put under so much stress in such a short space of time. It’s a ‘make or break’ situation and trying to showcase 2 or 3 years of knowledge in 10 minutes is impossible. A lot of people over analyze the oral exams and try to learn off every topic that could possibly be asked. Speaking from experience, this is a waste of time. Examiners will try to test you, especially if they think you’re a capable student so they’ll pluck topics from outside the box, ones you’d probably never expect to get. My advice here is to focus on perfecting your grammar and understanding of the language. If you can understand what they’re asking you, that’s half the problem solved.
Making sure your vocabulary knowledge is extensive is also a great advantage. In my opinion, having that understanding is far better than learning off reams of information you don’t really understand, that will probably confuse you a great deal, to only find it was a complete waste of time. Lastly, when it comes to Sraith Pictuir or Bilder Geschichte in German, don’t make the mistake I did by leaving out a few in the hopes that luck will be on your side. For Irish, I learned a good 15/20 word for word, 4 reasonably well but left one that I could never really get a handle on the grammar. You guessed it, that one story came up for me on the day. It’s just not worth the risk when it comes to orals, the pressure on the day will leave even the best bullsh*tter lost for words, and leave you looking as lost as poor Jimmy above.
4. Teachers actually do care (well, some anyway)
In the midst of exam stress, the last thing you need is teachers pestering you but honestly, most of them do want you to achieve your goals. I was quite lucky with the teachers I had, there were only one or two that I was glad to see the back of. Make the most of their guidance while you have it because even though there are brilliant support systems once you hit college, you’ll never quite have that same relationship that you had with a teacher you admired or looked up to. If it’s the case that you have a shockingly bad teacher that only seems to want to bring you down (I know those feels too), just try to focus on the fact you’ll never have to see them again in a few months time. Imagining them being pelted with rotten apples also works as a great stress relief, just saying 😉
5. Your friends’ actions should have zero impact on yours
Peer pressure can be even more influential during the LC. You see your friends are studying longer hours, getting more content covered and you begin to compare yourself which is never good. It’s so important to remember that everyone learns and works differently, and the way one person does their study shouldn’t effect how you do yours. The only person who really knows you is YOU, that’s why I never bought into the usual ‘study techniques’ and mindmaps that everyone else was so keen on. I figured out a study plan that suited me and sure, I wandered off track once or 5 times, but that’s normal. Nobody can study perfectly so give yourself a break, you deserve it.
6. Parents just want what’s best for you (even if they have a funny way of showing it at times)
There were so many occasions during the LC where I clashed with my parents due to stress and difference in opinions. At the time, I found it hard to see where they were coming from but looking back, I can see they just wanted what’s best for me. In saying that, I think a lot of parents don’t fully understand how stressful and daunting the LC can be for students so being open with them can be of great benefit to you. Share your feelings, whether they be of stress, worry, uncertainty, it’s always better to take that weight off your mind.
7. It really is worth it in the end
It may not seem like it now but when you look back on your LC a year on, just like I am, you’ll 100% see that the stress and hard work was worth it. You’re about to close a hugely influential chapter of your life, only to open an even bigger and brighter one. Hang on tight, it’s going to be an eventful ride, but one well worth enduring.
All the luck in the world for the last few months to come,