Last Minute Tips As Students Prepare For The State Exams

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Career Guidance Counsellor and freelance writer, Billy Ryle, has some last minute tips for students as they prepare for the Leaving Cert and Junior Cert exams…

The waiting is almost over for about 120,000 exam candidates – about 4,000 from Kerry – as the State Exams get underway on Wednesday next, June 7.

This is an historic year as a new grading system and a new CAO common points system will be used in the Leaving Cert exam for the first time.

The old ABCD-style grades, 14 each at higher and ordinary level, have been abolished in favour of eight H (Higher) and eight O (Ordinary) grades.

Continued below…



Candidates should approach the state exams confidently because they are extremely well prepared after two years of consistent study.

The national results achieved each year in the state exams are also very impressive. In addition, places in further and higher education courses, apprenticeships and traineeships will be very plentiful this year in a buoyant economy.


The heavy study is done, so the priority is to be mentally and physically alert for the exams. Your best asset going into an exam is a clear and alert mind.

Your mental and physical energy needs to be at a high level over the next few weeks. On the evening before each paper, spend an hour or so looking over your notes, so that the important concepts and ideas are fresh in your mind.

Heavy study sessions on the eve of an exam are not advisable as you’ll feel exhausted the following morning.

Instead, take a few hours of light leisure, relax in a warm bath or shower and get a good night’s sleep. Eat well during the exams when you’ll need high reserves of energy.

Answering Strategy

Give serious thought to your answering strategy and adopt a planned approach to answering the question papers.

Write your answers between the margins and work your way down the page in a neat and orderly manner.

Write clearly and legibly. Keep your answers well spread out for easy reading. There will be a copious supply of supplementary answer books available in the exam centre so don’t worry about running out of answer paper.


Number each question and sub-question clearly in the left-hand margin. Don’t split questions by answering a part of a question on one page and then the other part further on.

If you are unable to completely answer a question leave a page blank to which you can return later. In fact, it’s a good idea to leave about a half page blank at the end of each question.

This will allow you to add more information to a question if you wish to do so later in the exam. Use diagrams, sketches and illustrations if they enhance your answer. Use decent size diagrams, which are quicker to draw and allow greater inclusion of detail.


A well-presented script makes a favourable impression on the corrector but the core of any exam is the quality of your answering.

The content of your answer must be relevant to the question asked. Address the topics on the question paper.

Read each question very carefully before deciding which ones to answer. You may prefer to tackle a good question first to settle you down.

Before answering a question list the key points around which you will build your answer. Be concise, accurate and relevant. Don’t be long-winded or wordy. Waffle and repetition will not impress the corrector.


Be familiar in advance with the format of each paper. Know how the paper is presented. What topics are examined?

How many questions must be answered? What styles of question can you expect on any exam paper? Know what choice is available on the paper.

Is one or more question compulsory or is there an unrestricted choice available to you? Be particularly careful about a paper, which is subdivided into subsections. Without prior knowledge of such a paper you could easily fail to address the relevant number of questions.


In order to do well in the exam you must present your answers within the time allowed. Go into the exam determined to attempt the required number of questions.

Be aware of the marking scheme for each paper and work out in advance the approximate time you can afford to spend on each question

First Glance

Spend about five minutes reading the entire exam paper when its handed to you. This preliminary scrutiny of all the questions allows you to settle down and gather your thoughts.

Keep to your pre-prepared answering plan and start with a question you can answer well. When you have finished each question, reread it to ensure you haven’t left out any part. If you finish a paper before the allotted time has elapsed, do not leave the exam centre.

Read back over your answers for omissions and to check your numbering and presentation.

No Post-mortem

Once an exam is over, spend as little time as possible on a post-mortem. The matter is now out of your hands. Focus on the next subject and when the entire exam is over, forget about it and enjoy the summer.

Leaving Certificate Exam results will be issued on Wednesday 16th August and CAO First Round Offers will be available on Monday, 21st August. Good luck to all candidates doing the State Exams.

Exam Checklist

• Your most important asset going into an exam is a clear and alert mind

• Heavy study sessions on the eve of an exam are not a good idea

• Eat well during the exams when you’ll need high reserves of energy

• Regular aerobic exercise during the exam period induces a feeling of well being

• A planned approach to answering leads to success

• A well-presented script makes a favourable impression

• Number your questions clearly and write neatly and legibly

• Leave some blank space at the end of each question in case you wish to revisit it

• Read the entire paper before deciding which questions you will answer

• Keep your answers concise, accurate and relevant

• Be familiar, well in advance, with the logistics of each exam paper

• Be careful with a paper which is subdivided into subsections

• Handle a recent past paper for familiarity with its physical appearance and colour

• The time spent on a question must be in proportion to the marks for the question

• Proper allocation of time will enable you to attempt the required number of questions

• Reread the question when you have answered it to ensure you haven’t left out a part

• Do not leave the exam centre before the end of the exam

• Once an exam is over, spend as little time as possible on a post-mortem

Good luck to everybody doing the State Exams!

The Leaving Cert (LC) exam takes place from Wed., 7th June to Fri., 23rd June, The Leaving Cert Applied (LCA) exam is from Wed., 7th June to Thurs., 15th June.

The Junior Cert exam takes place from Wed., 7th June to Wed, 21st June. Exam timetables are available on 

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