Survey outlines the mental and physical toll of the Leaving Cert

Survey outlines the mental and physical toll of the Leaving Cert
Studyclix.ie co-founder Luke Saunders.

Ireland’s exam system is taking a punishing toll on school students, according to a Studyclix survey released today.

The survey of more than 3,500 second-level students found that more than half of Leaving Cert students have suffered a physical or mental health issue as a result of the exam cycle.

A majority have suffered from either anxiety, weight gain, weight loss, insomnia and depression.

Up to 75% of second-level students reported feeling a lot or an extreme amount of stress with 57% of 6th Year students saying they developed a mental or physical health issue as a result of exam pressure.

For most students, anxiety is the chief issue (71%) while weight gain (47%); insomnia (35%); depression (28%) and weight loss (15%) have impacted negatively on young peoples’ health.

The findings are contained in the 2019 Studyclix.ie Annual Student Sentiment Survey which is based on responses to a range of questions answered last week by more than 3,500 second-level students from across Ireland. (*).

Much of the concern is caused by the sheer number of exams, with students wanting more continuous assessment (37%), smaller subject choice (31%) and exams spread further apart (20%) to reduce the pressure they feel.

Up to 69% of students believe that the Leaving Certificate points system will not help them to follow their desired study or career path. When asked if the Leaving Cert fairly assessed their intelligence, 80% of students said ‘No’.

Elsewhere, up to 62% of students surveyed say the cost of rent will affect their choice of university.

The survey which questioned 2,690 Sixth Year students about the Leaving Cert only, found that Dublin universities are in danger of being deprived of rural students, with the cost of living increasingly squeezing out potential college students from educational life in the capital.

Second-level science teacher and Studyclix.ie co-founder Luke Saunders said the findings demonstrated why it was time to reduce the number of subjects needed for CAO points and lighten the exam timetable.

Studyclix.ie co-founder Luke Saunders.
Studyclix.ie co-founder Luke Saunders.

However, he also believes students need to spend less time on devices such as smartphones as he believes it is contributing to the stress.

He said: “I was shocked to see that more than half of students said they had developed a mental or physical condition in 6th year. We started Studyclix with the aim of simply offering study material, but over the years we have seen a need to offer more and more advice and support for students on how to cope with what for many will be the most stressful year of their lives. We recently launched a Studyclix podcast which deals with issues like exam anxiety and how to prepare physically and mentally for the exams.

“I think there are several practical steps we can take that would ease the pressure on students.

"Firstly, I think the exam timetable could be modified to spread out the more popular subject's exams over a longer period. For example, the Irish paper falls on the same day as Maths and Biology meaning that the majority of students will spend up to five hours per day doing exams.

"I also think a simple change would be to lower the number of subjects counted for CAO points calculations from six to five meaning that students would be able to take one less subject leaving more space in the timetable for the likes of physical education, career guidance and health and well-being classes.”

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