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60,000 Junior cycle students will face their first paper next Wednesday (English) and the exams run until June 21.
It is a stressful time for some, so here, top guidance counsellor Beatrice Dooley offers tips and advice to guide them through their first State tests.
Familiarise yourself with the exam timetable, make sure you know the day and time each exam starts and ends. There will be some variations in this between different subjects and levels. Two words: “exam papers”. Practise writing out answers to exam questions, time yourself.
Ensure you answer all parts of each question. Work out what your strongest answers will be, once in the exam start with these; it will settle any nerves and make you feel more confident. Check out the exam hall ahead of time, do you know which exam centre you are in and where you are sitting Make sure you bring a copy of your examination number with you and check at the end of each exam that you wrote your exam number on all answer booklets and individual pages that you are handing up.
The Good News
You know the drill; you sat the Mocks and survived, well done! You will earn a significant cohort of marks for practicals, aurals, assessment tasks and for project work that you have already submitted. This takes significant pressure off you in the written exam. The Junior Certificate is a practice run for the Leaving Certificate. Use it as a learning experience – in the unlikely event that you make mistakes (a valuable stage of learning) you will get it right next time. Have you ever watched a toddler learning to walk?
How many times do they fall down before they get it right? Do they give up? no, they get right back up and try again. Give yourself permission to mess up and learn from the experience.
My teachers won’t let me do Higher Level in this subject in 5th year if I don’t get an A.” Not true, your teachers have observed your progress over the past three years, if you don’t get your dream grade in the Junior Certificate they will take into account your exam grades to date. I will go blank and freak out in the exam.” We all go blank every now and again. Sometimes because we are over tired or nervous, or because we don’t know where to start. It is OK, you can “self soothe” even in the exam.
How to self-sooth
Take a minute to relax, take deep breaths if appropriate, if not focus on sensations. What can you see, hear, smell, feel, taste around? Bring your attention back to the now. Take your attention out of your head. Athletes use this to get their head back in the game if they are starting to lose or panic when under pressure. Still worried? You can always talk to your school’s Guidance Counsellor – you will be surprised how much more positive you will feel after you talk the fears and worries out of your system.
Beatrice Dooley is vice president of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors.