For the majority of students in secondary schools in Ireland, Christmas exams are either underway or starting very soon – what a misnomer! As I write this, it’s not even December yet! But even so, here we are, besieged by carols in the shops, ads on the television and the radio, and even at school, Christmas comes early in all the wrong ways!

If you’re not in an exam year, the Christmas exams are a real moment to stop and see where you are in your studies. As a teacher, I find them useful because sometimes I come across a common area that students are having trouble with, and it means I can go back and revise it to make sure everyone is comfortable with that area of the curriculum. It also helps my students to work on their exam technique, and I always tell them that this is the best time to make silly mistakes in exams, like answering questions in Spanish when they should be in English, or misreading a question, or only giving one detail when it says give “full” details.

Whatever year you’re in, if you’re not happy with how the exams are going, or with the grade you think you’re going to get, pause and reflect, especially if you’re in an exam year. Have you put much work into that subject? Is it time to think about doing Ordinary or are you determined to stay at Honours? Whatever the case, what can you do now to make a higher grade a reality the next time you do an exam? Remember that you’re in it for the long haul – the Leaving Certificate is the final prize – but it’s nice to feel you’re on target at each of the markers along the way.

Consider doing 15 minutes extra on your worst subject twice a week. Pretty painlessly, you’ve just picked up a half hour chunk of time. I know students who do 20 minutes between when they arrive at school and when school starts. Believe it or not, no matter how groggy we feel, the majority of us do our best work in the mornings. Could you fit in 20 minutes before school, instead of hanging around the locker room telling everyone how “dead” you are because you haven’t studied!? Even if you only do that three mornings a week, that’s an hour extra of work. If you do it five mornings a week, you’re picking up an hour and forty minutes.

Finding and using small slots of time like that is a great way to add to your study timetable without feeling that you’re tied to your desk. Plus, you’ll start to feel more in control of your time and of your study timetable, and that’s a great feeling to have.

Best of luck to all of you during your Christmas exams! I hope they go really well, but remember, if they don’t, it’s only just December. There’s still time to turn things around.

More on that in a few weeks…

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