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Study Skills for Leaving /Junior Cert

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Many Leaving and Junior cert students as well as third level students are preparing for their June exams and need some tips in order to get a good revision plan on the go. Mary O Donnell is here to guide us through an active revision plan which parents can get involved in too. She will also give some tips on how to manage time effectively for studying.

Mary O Donnell, a career guidance counsellor and a contributor for over twenty years to the Irish Independent on the topic of colleges, courses and careers.  Her "Going to College" column appears weekly in the Irish Independent throughout the year, and daily in January and August.
She is also, author of "Getting into College", a best selling text on college entry procedures including the Points system.

Mary will talk about the pressures of studying for the Leaving/Junior cert. She will give pointers to parents on how they can help and give tips on how to get active in revising and managing time wisely whilst studying:

What Parents can do:
. It's your job to make your child's environment comfortable, so make sure they have a quiet area to study with no distractions from noise or siblings.
. Establish a routine at home and don't ask them to carry out household chores at this time. Try and have meals at a set time and cook food your child likes
. Avoid major household upsets, such as having people to stay, or getting in painters and decorators.
. Studying for the Leaving Certificate is a full-time activity, and students have no time for other part-time jobs as they prepare for the exam.
. Be supportive and realistic in their expectation of how much your sons and daughters can do
. Make it clear that exams are not the be all and end all.
. Familiarise yourselves with the range of opportunities that are available to any student these days, no matter how they do in their Leaving Certificate
.  Make arrangements for a grind in a particular subject that is causing difficulty and take advantage of study groups and workshops offered at school.

Revision Plan:
The key to remembering stuff is to get active!
Each of the following active learning techniques can help you retain more information, while also making study time at least a little more interesting. Active revision is much more enjoyable than sitting staring at lines of text on a page. Firstly:
Keep pen and paper to hand when reading. Instead of just mindlessly reading through the text, use what is called the SQ3R method of reading:  SQ stands for Survey (the paper or text), (ask yourself) Questions,

The three R's stand for:
(1) Read the text with care
(2) Close the book and Recall what you have read,
(3) Review the topic again

Study Cards:
Create a file of study cards with headings for each subject. Keep the information brief and to the point under each heading: leave the finer details for your notes. Use the headings as prompts to see if you can remember the points under each heading. Study cards are nice and portable. You can keep them with you and then take them out anywhere. They will help you structure the relevant knowledge for each topic without having to constantly wade through too much information which is invaluable

Answer previous exam papers:
When you are revising a topic, work out answers to a number of possible questions on the topic so that you get good value for your effort.
Use exam papers from previous years.  Learn to read through exam papers carefully. Make sure you actually focus on the question. Candidates often lose marks by not answering the question they are asked. So learn to stick to the point when answering a question. Answer the question, the whole question and nothing but the question!

Involve Your Family:
One of the best ways to learn a subject is to teach it. If you didn't know your subject before you set out to teach it, you will certainly know it a lot better after you have attempted to explain it to somebody. Whenever you can find half an hour, attempt to teach a subject to family members. Encourage them to ask questions. If they ask a question that you don't know the answer to straight away, note it down, then come back and tell them their answer later. Parents This is a great way for you to get involved too.

Manage your Time:
Practice doing a question in the kind of time it takes in an exam.
Use a clock when you are studying. Examinations take place in a limited amount of time. Managing that time is a vital skill. It is essential that you learn to finish as many questions as are necessary in the time available. Develop the skill of writing quickly. There is a physical dimension to this, as hand and wrist muscles actually build up with writing practice.

Tips for the night before exam and after it:

The night before and day of the exam:
. Be encouraging - let your child know you think he/she will do well on the exam.
. Avoid difficult family issues before the exam to prevent unnecessary anxiety.
. Make sure your child gets plenty of sleep the night prior. On exam day, have him/her wake up early, eat a nutritious breakfast and wear comfortable clothing.
After the exam:
. Commend your child for doing his/her best on the exam.
. Talk about what was learned on the exam and how to improve performance the next time.
. When you receive results, don't compare performance with siblings or friends. Congratulate high scores and improvements
Strategies on using time:

1. Develop blocks of study time
45 minute sessions work best. Or find out how long it takes for you to become restless?
Some learners need more frequent breaks for a variety of reasons.
More difficult material may also require more frequent breaks

2. Develop alternative study places free from distractions
Where you choose to study is vital to your time management. Distractions can cut your study time in half! One of the best places to study is the library or if you're looking for a place where you and some of classmates can go to study, all you have to do is find an empty classroom. Classrooms have everything you need: blackboards, projectors, seats and desks, and no distractions. If you choose to study alone at home, make sure there are no distractions, like the television or the radio.

3. Prioritize assignments
When studying, get in the habit of beginning with the most difficult subject or task.

4. Take regular breaks
Use this time to go walking, exercising or a quick call to a friend, taking these breaks will help you study with a fresh head when you resume and therefore making more efficient use of your study time.

5. Develop the skill of writing quickly.
There is a physical dimension to this, as hand and wrist muscles actually build up with writing practice.

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