Dear Leaving Certs – a guide


It’s that time in your life that you have been dreading. You’re about to enter what feels like the most gruesome weeks of your educational journey. You’re about to be thrown into the unknown and the temptation of calling quits and walking away from responsibilities sounds oh so very tempting. You’re probably trying to cramp everything at this stage and searching the web in a desperate attempt to find a Leaving Cert *miracle*. You’re also probably fed up of being told by college-goers (who think they know it all) that it only gets worse from here on out but you genuinely could NOT care less because it’s irrelevant right now.

If you can relate, then you’ve come to the right place. Here’s a few tips I put together as a guide for the next few weeks…

  1. Prepare your pencil-case the night before. Keep in mind that some (not all) exam invigilators may not allow a pencil-case into the exam centre unless it was see-through. If you don’t have a clear pencil case, a poly pocket is acceptable or else just carry your pens and calculators in your hands. Make sure you have a black/blue and red pen. Avoid using any other colours! Steer away from Tipex, you don’t have time for it, cross out mistakes.  Note that if you cross out something that is actually correct, the examiner can still award you marks.
  2. Plan which questions you’re going to attempt BEFORE the exam. If possible, decide which questions you’d like to focus on. On the day, skim through the paper to make sure you can actually answer your preferred questions and adjust accordingly.
  3. ALWAYS start with the question you’re most comfortable with. This applies to any exam you sit, even in college. Starting with a question you’re comfortable with allows you to calm down. Also, if you do well in those questions, there’s a slight chance that you’re setting up a ticking exercise for the examiner 😉
  4. Keep hydrated. I never used to bring water to exams until I went to college. Some of your exams can be three hours long and the tiredness can so easily kick in. Keeping hydrated keeps up your energy levels, but sometimes your body will need food, so bring in healthy snacks into your exam (make sure they aren’t too noisy). AVOID ENERGY DRINKS, you don’t want to crash in the midst of a three-hour exam!
  5. After an exam, do not engage too much with peers. In college, the first thing I find myself saying to people after an exam is “don’t tell me what you wrote”. As tempting as it is to find out whether you were on the right track, post-mortem are completely unnecessary. You can’t go back to change anything and if your answers don’t match your “genius” friend’s, you’ll end up dwelling too much on something you no longer have control over!
  6. You didn’t do as bad as you thought! It’s inevitable to finish your Leaving Cert without feeling like you really messed up on an exam. It happens to the best of us. Having sat two Leaving Certs, I’ve reviewed some of my papers both years. I often found examiners giving me extra marks I did not even earn, so you probably did better than expected!
  7. Treat yourself and love yourself. It’s such a difficult time of year, you’re trying to balance exams and study with your non-existent social life and chores at home. At times it might feel like a chore just getting out of bed or having a shower. If you find yourself struggling to this extent, it’s time you drop everything and do something nice for yourself. Exams can wait, especially when you’re not doing anything anyway!
  8. Don’t neglect your dietThe last thing you’d think about is watching your food intake when you’re just trying to get by but it’s so important to be eating nutrient-dense foods to keep your brain function on point! Bananas, oily fish, almonds are some of the brain-foods that you should consider consuming!
  9. There’s other ways to get into the course of your dreams. The Leaving Cert is generally the fastest and quickest route to your desired course. And as we all know, the point system is unfair but we have to deal with it. If you’re really passionate about a course, look into other options if you don’t feel like you can meet the entry requirement. A PLC is one of the popular options you can opt for. Some colleges allow you to transfer after a year of study. So, if you get into your desired college and prove yourself in first year, you may be allowed to transfer to your new course the following year!
  10. Don’t isolate yourself. There’s no point in locking yourself up for the three weeks, cramming and wiping your tears away with notes. Spend some time with your family or friends to help clear your mind. They’ve probably been through the same thing, so don’t ever think you’re alone.

Finally, remember, it’s not going to be a walk in the park but soon it’ll be history. Your peers may seem like they have it all together, but they probably feel just as bad as you do. Support one another and look after yourselves.

That’s it from me and best of luck!


(P.S. remind your nanny to light a candle for you 😉 )



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