Studying for Junior & Leaving Cert Exams

Facing into exams? Read some tips on how to reduce stress.
Exam time is on its way. Why is the weather always beautiful when our poor students are doing the junior and leaving cert exams? They are stuck indoors hitting the books while the sun is shining outside. So how can they avoid feeling too overwhelmed and under pressure to focus and what can you do to help them? What can be done to relieve some of the stress? We have compiled our Top Tips to avoid stress and relieve some of the pressure on our teenagers undertaking important exams. Pass these tips on to anyone who is preparing for exams at the moment. 

General exam stress-busting tips:  

·         Believe in yourself!
Remind them that they are capable of passing the exam. They have studied the subject for many years and of course have the ability to do it.  After all those classes, they have learned so much that they are capable of getting through the exam.  

·         Don’t just worry – take action! 
If the student doesn’t understand some of their course material, getting stressed out won’t help. Instead, encourage them to take action by seeing their course tutor or asking class mates to help them to understand the problem.  

·         Talk to a friend 
Confiding in someone you trust and who will listen and be supportive is a great way of reducing stress and worry.  Encourage the student to talk to a friend, relative or parent to help to talk things through.  Often what seems like an overwhelming problem can be manageable when you talk it through with someone else. 

·         Don’t put yourself under too much pressure 
Encourage your son/daughter to aim to do their best and be assured that it is the effort they make and not the result that makes the difference.  Not getting a top grade does not mean failure and tell them that you will support them because of their effort rather than the results.  

Tips for the revision period:  

·         Time is of the essence! 
Starting a study routine early in the year will boost confidence and reduce any pre-exam stress by avoiding last minute cramming. Help your son/daughter to study regularly and to leave plenty of time to revise.  Revision will be easier if the ground work has been done and they have prepared well.  

·         Play is as important as work. 
It is vital that the student builds in time to have fun and relax in between study sessions. Help them to develop a timetable that will help them to plan and track and monitor their progress and also includes regular activities of relaxation and ‘play’.  

·         Take a break. 
Encourage your son/daughter to know when they need a break.  If they find that they are losing concentration, they should take a short break – go for a walk, talk to a friend or just listen to some music. When they resume study, they will feel refreshed and able to concentrate on revision again.  

·         Another cuppa? Don’t think so. 
Discourage drinking too much coffee, tea and fizzy drinks; the caffeine will make them feel ‘keyed-up’ and make thinking less clear.  Try some herbal teas, water or milk as an alternative, 

·         Eat some ‘superfoods’. 
Get them to eat healthily and regularly.  Their brain will benefit from the nutrients. Replace sweets and sugar with ‘superfoods’ such as berries, bananas, oily fish, nuts and broccoli. ‘Superfoods’ can help boost concentration, energy and mood.  

·         Exercise the body as well as the mind!
Regular moderate exercise such as a brisk walk, swim or session in the gym will boost energy, clear the mind and help reduce any feelings of stress.  

Tips for keeping calm during the exam: 

·         Try to avoid panic. 
It’s natural to feel some exam nerves prior to starting the exam and that can be a positive and motivating feeling. However, getting excessively nervous is counterproductive as it hinders the ability to think clearly.  Encourage your son/daughter to practice deep breathing.  The quickest and most effective way of eliminating feelings of stress and panic is to close your eyes and take several long, slow deep breaths. Breathing in this way calms your whole nervous system.  Encourage and help your son/daughter to master the art of deep breathing and use it when required.  

·         Blankety blank? 
Talk through what to do if your son/daughters mind goes blank.  Remember, the best thing for them to do is not to panic – it just makes it harder to recall information. Instead, focus on slow, deep breathing for about one minute. If they still can’t remember the information then they should move on to another question and return to this question later.  

·         No Post Mortems! 
Don’t spend time holding a ‘post mortem’ into completed exams and where they may have gone wrong. Often we are our own harshest critics. Encourage them instead to congratulate themselves for the answers they feel confident about, learn from the bits where they feel they could have done better, and then move on. 

The Help Me To Parent Team

Disappointed In Mock Results – Read a Kinesiologist’s Advice

This time of year as April comes to an end and the June exam deadline fast approaches many parents and students come to me stressed out and looking for help. The parents stress as they feel helpless, they feel they don’t quite understand what’s going on with their adolescent teenager or how to best help them through this intense time. The tension throughout the whole household can become palpable and is not good for anyone. Stress is the result. Stress then leads onto poor sleep, fatigue, tiredness, poor motivation, arguments, anxiety, panic attacks, reduced study & exam performance and lots more.  

Recently a leaving cert student came to me disappointed with his mock exam results as he felt he had put in extra effort and the teachers agreed…however the results did not reflect his work and he asked for help with his concentration. He was a quite hardworking student and found it difficult to ask for help in class when he did not understand something. To avoid looking stupid to his peers he said nothing and instead his own grades suffered badly as a result.  

He set aside time to study, did afterschool study, homework etc but yet he found it difficult to really concentrate what was in front of him when he went to study. This is a recurring theme I see with many students who come to me. They are highly intelligent, have the brains and ability to do the work, have all the notes, exam papers, help from teachers etc yet the one area they really fall down on is NOT KNOWING HOW TO STUDY CORRECTLY. This may come as a shock to you however many very capable students do not know how to plan and action their study time correctly to achieve maximum performance without all the stress. This is no fault of the students, parents or teachers…the curricular system does not lend itself easily for these students who need help with time management, stress relief, tips, proper dietary advice for healthy brain function, energy boosting exercises, self-belief building techniques, study planning tips and so on to get the help they need. Each of these areas needs attention in order for the student to do their best and reach their true potential. You There still have plenty of time to address each of these areas.. 

Too many students fall serious victim to the effects of the undue stress caused by some parents, teachers, peers and the media especially around the leaving certification exam. Yes it is a very important time of your life..yes you should absolutely set you mind to doing your best however keep things in balance. Life does go on after the exams. Think of the exams as a stepping stone, getting you from where you are now to where it is you want to go ..your next stepping stone. What you do next does not have to be a commitment for life. As you grow & mature other interests may come your way which you can then pursuit for your happiness. 

Commit for the final quarter of the term to give it your best shot. Set yourself one goal, one target and aim for it. Ensure you PLAN when you are going to study, when you are going to spend time with family and friends, what times of the day you are going to study etc 

Make sure you drink 1.5 to 2 litres of water daily. The brain needs water to function properly. Dehydration will cause you to fatigue easily, feel unmotivated, find it difficult to concentrate. Maintain good posture. Poor posture tightens the neck, shoulders, upper chest and upper back muscles. This is in turn reduces blood flow and supply to the brain, nerve endings and other vital organs, which if course affects memory, concentration, energy levels, sleep patterns… 

Cut out stimulants such as coffee, tea, alcohol bingeing, cigarettes, sugar etc as sugar, caffeine & nicotine deplete your body of vital nutrients needed for maximum brain function. Get regular light to moderate exercise weekly. Get to bed at regular times as sleep is crucial in restoring energy levels & brain function, Increase your fruit and vegetable intake for minerals, vitamins and antioxidants which all help to combat stress. Get plenty of good fats into your diet in the form of nuts, seeds, fish, fish oils, olive oil etc Best of luck! 

Gertrude Lawler Kinesiologist (DipAK) Food Technologist, practices in Clane. Enquiries or to obtain your FREE Stress Free Exam Preparation Guide call 086 3888535 Email:  or visit