They hear it from their parents, guardians, teachers, lecturers – focus, focus, focus…! I am of course referring to students and what people who care about them say at a time of challenge i.e. examinations, assessments, interview, presentation. So what should students focus on in this time of year when they are preparing for examinations and / or preparing to transition into a new year or indeed a new educational institution? Read more

It is probably the worst and most challenging of all the components of education, the part that requires enthusiasm, discipline and organisation skills. Yet so many people whether they may second level, third level or mature students, can find it very difficult to study and when they do study, most do not do it properly, or as the title says they don’t study effectively and efficiently.

Dedicated, focused study is required for most people who want to be the best they can be and achieve the highest points /marks / grades possible. Whether you study throughout the academic year, during non-academic periods or are one of those people who tries to cram it all in before the examinations begin, a study plan is recommended, indeed vital. It will get focused, get you organised and get you what you want.

Design and develop a study plan around your actual school days / class times by drawing a table on an A4 page (landscape). Divide the table into seven rows and start with one narrow column on the left. Write the seven days of the week in this column. Now start with Monday am and write on top of the second column a 45 minute start and finish time period e.g. 7.30-8.15 and then insert an ‘X’ where this time and Monday meet on the table. This becomes your first study time period. All our study periods are 45 minutes duration after which we take a 15 minute break. If you wish to do a second study period on Monday am, write in 8.30-915 and insert another ‘X’ where this time period and Monday meet on the table.

After school, food and some rest, we need to study for the ‘pm’. First of all, you have to work around any extra-curricular activities or activities that you do after school across the seven days. Put these into your plan first by inserting the start time and finish time (these times are the times you leave your home and return again). With these inserted, start Monday’s study plan, 45 minute study periods and 15 minute breaks. What time of the night should you stop studying? Well, doing 3-5 45 minute periods with 15 minute breaks adds up to 3-5 hours per evening.

Once Monday’s available time for study is planned and put into your table, move on to Tuesday, then Wednesday, Thursday and Friday inserting ‘X’s that designate study. You will be surprised how this plan will become a very important document and how you will do your best to adhere to it. Make the plan workable and fair without putting overdue pressure on you. It has to eventually lead to you actually enjoying study. Plan to study and study to the plan.

Saturday and Sunday should not go by without some study being carried out as well. Consider 2-3 45 minute sessions each of the days. It is best to do this during the morning. You will feel the better for it, knowing that you have used some of your morning to benefit you academically.

You should now have a table in front of you with days of the week on the left hand column and time periods on the top row with ‘X’s everywhere. You now put this onto a WORD document, print it and put it over your study desk.

Between 15-20 hours study per week is now achievable, with most of this time used for homework until you have covered all the curriculum, when you will then transition into study.

Remember, this study plan is not forever, it is only for a few months over a few years and then you are done…!

When it comes to further education, we in Ireland have so much to choose from. As a nation we love to learn, develop and expand our knowledge; we are an inquisitive nation, hence the numerous educational institutions in our cities and towns, indeed the world that offer so many types of course options / designs for students completing their Leaving Certificate:

  • University
  • Institute of Technology
  • Post Leaving Certificate
  • Mature Student
  • EU options

English is our speaking language, which makes learning easier, giving us more options when it comes to choosing a course outside of Ireland (an option that some people fail to consider).

Students facing the prospect of what to study as part of their further education next September need to consider all of the above options. These options are decided upon the students expected points from the Leaving Certificate.

Let us explore the five areas:

1. University

To secure a place in a University requires you to choose Level 8 courses (Honours Degree). You will be given 10 to choose in the Central Applications Form (CAO). www.qualifax.ie has all the information of these courses with the previous three year point requirements detailed.

2. Institute of Technologies

The Institute of Technologies also offer Level 8 courses, though Level 6 / Level 7 (Higher Certificate / Ordinary Degree) are their main offerings. These educational institutions also provide and offer more practical courses, where point requirements can be usually lower than a University. Again everything is shared in www.qualifax.ie.

3. Post Leaving Certificate

Post Leaving Certificate Courses (also known as PLC’s) offer Level 5 and Level 6 courses and are there to help students consider a different route to their ideal career, should they not achieve the required points for University or the Institute of Technology’s. Again www.qualifax.ie lists all the colleges offering these PLC courses and the many courses that one can choose from. Based on the marks achieved in PLC’s, students can enter Institute of Technology’s to pursue their Third Level Education dreams, where places are allocated.

4. Mature Student

A Mature Student is identified as someone who is 23 years young or over, where they can pursue further education in Universities and Institute of Technology’s. They may for whatever reason not have been able to pursue further education immediately after completing the Leaving Certificate and now have an opportunity to educate themselves in their chosen career and make it a reality. All courses offer a certain number of places for mature students.

5. EU Options

Courses in Europe are now becoming more popular as many are thought through the medium of English. There are over 700 courses offered to students all taught through the English language that students from Ireland can choose from. A lot of these courses have no or low fees associated with them. Check out a website called www.eunicas.ie who can help students consider all the options here.

Central to all of the above is your points i.e. how many points will I achieve in my Leaving Certificate. Calculate your worst and your best and take the average based on past exams and tests. This figure is never too far away from the actual.

Work hard, do your best…and the choice can be yours…!

Many students find the task of studying daunting, difficult and challenging. They spend many hours during the day and / or evenings (and weekends) attending classes, whether they be students or mature students in Second Level, Third Level or Life-long Learning. Why is it that finding the enthusiasm and discipline to study can be so hard?

  • We feel we know what we have heard or read
  • It is fresh in our mind
  • We have other more important things to be doing
  • We will study as it gets closer to the examinations
  • We don’t feel like it
  • We are waiting for the inspiration and the need to study
  • We don’t want to study
  • We will ‘wing it’ on the day of the exams
  • We will put in nights of focused / last minute study just before the exams

Many students don’t know how to study. They have never been thought how to read / listen to new information after they have just read or heard it and then how to revise it a few months / year later prior to being assessed on it. Themselves, their parents / guardians believe they are doing it correctly and properly, whatever way they are doing it. As long as we / they are locked away in a room, we are studying.

The way of studying for many people is reading over and over again the learning from that day or the previous day. They study in unsuitable places where there is noise, distraction and interference. They think music playing or a TV on in the background is OK. They think there mobile telephone must always be beside them in case they miss something or they need to contact a class mate to ask them a question or for help is a must. They fail to realize that a study period is just themselves on their own without distraction or interruption for a certain period of time.

Much of a student’s time after the learning exercise is taken up with homework. Again this time for doing and completing homework prior to the next class requires dedicated focus, time and discipline. Homework is intended to complete the learning from the class and to further instill it in the mind, it is not intended to be a frustrating or repetitive chore that is designed to test the student’s patience. There is a reason for it, which is to help the student start the study process and prepare the student for the relevant exam.

So, how does a student complete their homework and study a midst all the other more important things they have to do in their lives?

  • Choose a suitable location, place to study that encourages a safe, conducive learning environment
  • Set and organize a desk / filing / storage system with everything in its place and a place for everything
  • Design a timetable that encompasses homework time and study time in the right proportion (75 : 25 early in the year leading to 25 : 75 towards examination time to 0 : 100 before / during examination time
  • Put this timetable on print placing it over your desk
  • Design a way of note-taking and summarising information for easy review near examination time
  • As a start do homework / study for 45 minutes and then take a 15 minute break over a period of 3-4 hours

Be disciplined and enthusiastic, and remember that without enthusiasm, discipline will not always make you do something…