Top tips to avoid exam stress: As thousands of students prepare to embark on exams, local educational experts share their tips for success

Nick Rabbitts


Nick Rabbitts

“I’M going to forget everything on the day of the exam!”. “I’m going to fail” “If I don’t get an A, it will be a disaster”.

“I’M going to forget everything on the day of the exam!”. “I’m going to fail” “If I don’t get an A, it will be a disaster”.

These comments and more are set to echo around groups of students across the next month, and thousands prepare to tackle the Leaving Certificate and the Junior Certificate.

Schools have broken up, graduation ceremonies have taken place, and now comes the most pressurised time of the year for most students as they take the tests which will determine their future.

And with an uncertain economic environment, coupled with a likely rise in fees next year, doing well in the Leaving Certificate this year has taken on an extra level of importance.

But teachers and counsellors are urging students not to panic - and keep in mind the bigger picture.

Michael Gleeson, a guidance counsellor at Ard Scoil Ris recommends that although students are no longer in school, they should still follow their academic timetable.

“Students need to have a good study plan. This needs to consist of studying for about two hours, taking a break, going back and doing another two hours,” he explained.

But he said in order to ensure effective revision, students must begin with the subject they enjoy the best first.

He also offered some tips for effective revision:

1. Be selective of the material you will study

2. Read the material you have selected

3. Underline, or write out the key points of what you have read

4. Close the book and write a summary of what you have learnt

5. Take exercise while studying

6. Eat healthy foods

7. Get sleep

Labour city councillor Orla McLoughlin, who works as a schools coordinator expanded: “I would recommend the whole process of covering things over with your hands and memorising them. It is basic stuff, but if you can go back to that, then ask people to test you and question you, it can work.”

Cllr McLoughlin also recommended collaborating with friends in the run up to exams - but not too much.

“Meet up with another person at the end of the week just to test you, and bounce ideas off one another,” she also recommended.

Mr Gleeson acknowledged the stress students go through - arguably reaching a peak in the final minutes before entering the exam room.

He advised students to have a timetable on their fridge to ensure they don’t miss their exams.

“You should arrive in time for your exam, but not too early, because anxiety can be contagious. I would say have a timetable on your fridge. Mark in your morning and afternoon exams. It can happen that with the excitement and nerves, students do not turn up,” he added.

Leaving certificate graduates in the past were once guaranteed a route into employment.

Sadly this has not been the case in the last few years, and Mr Gleeson says this can mean students from poorer backgrounds are not as motivated as they might have been.

“Many of them would, in the past, have had the opportunity of going into the trades. They would have had better access to routes of higher education. But all of these are now equally competitive, because of the fact there are more unemployed people going back to college,” he explained.

Brian O’Donoghue, the deputy principal at St Munchin’s College in Corbally said that when his students graduated the other evening, there was a mix of feelings.

“There is that moment of elation when this chapter of their lives closes, but the reality dawns within 24 hours there are big exams looming,” he said.

Ahead of exams, his school are offering students the chance to book appointments with the teachers to go through subjects in better depth. Classes will run according to the school’s regular timetable, he added.

With the blistering heat Limerick has been enjoying in recent days, enthusiasm for students to hit the books is no doubt difficult.

Cllr McLoughlin has this advice: “Think about the rest of your life. Summers come and go - there will be another one next year, and you can have fun with your friends when you have finished your exams. If you are serious, and want to succeed, you have to commit time to study. At the end of the day it is one or two years out of your whole life. As long as you put in the effort, you have nothing to worry about, and no-one will judge you on that,” she said.