Aileen Lee.


How to be smart about studying during Easter break

The two-week Easter break is time to gain ground ahead of June’s State exams, but not to the point of burnout, says Aileen Lee.

How to be smart about studying during Easter break

The two-week Easter break is time to gain ground ahead of June’s State exams, but not to the point of burnout, says Aileen Lee.

FOR the parents of students sitting the Junior or Leaving Certificates, the two-week Easter break carries the pressure of what can realistically be achieved study-wise.

During the break, students can get ahead with their study and get into a better mind-frame for their State exams in June, but only so much can be done in two weeks.

We asked three experts in education for tips on how students can maximise their time and productivity.

Pacing yourself for the marathon:

Beatrice Dooley (below) is president of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors (IGC), which represents 1,330 practitioners in second-level schools, third-level colleges, and other settings.

At Easter, it is important that students take a few days off to get a new perspective, she says.

Later, during the State exams in June, students should pace themselves for what is a marathon of several weeks.

Dooley also advises parents on how they can help their children study. She says: “Ensure your son/daughter has good nutrition.

They will need to support their immune system through this stressful time. Adequate sleep is necessary to be on their A-game and to retain their learning.

“Exercise, or movement of some kind, is essential: sport, dancing, yoga, stretching, walking the dog. Encourage them to do something they enjoy that gets them well and truly out of their heads, even if only for 20 minutes daily.”

Motivation is key:

Former Galway GAA star Seán Armstrong is a teacher of Junior Cert maths and economics.

He is also a contributor to iRevise, Ireland’s largest online education platform. It provides tools such as revision notes, mock papers, mutiple choice questions, the breakdown of papers, and online aurals.

Seán Armstrong
Seán Armstrong

Armstrong is aware of how difficult it can be for students to motivate themselves to study while they are on their holidays.

To parents, Armstrong suggests that you “encourage your child to do well for his or her own sake, rather than for money, or to please you. Vision boards are a great idea: you can make these using images related to a certain CAO course or a college they would really like to attend. They can then hang this in their place of study, to act as a reminder as to why they are studying.”

On how to approach studying, Armstrong says: “A good plan is key to good study. Try and study in 40-minute blocks, with 15-minute breaks, with each block having a short-term goal. Study smart, not hard.

In each subject, it’s very important to identify your weaknesses. Your mock results will act as a good indicator. These are the areas that we don’t like, but that will offer the greatest area of improvement. Try and get the least-liked areas studied first; it won’t be productive in the long run to leave them on the long finger.

And create a good study routine. He says:

“Try and get into a habit of getting up early and getting the majority of study done before lunch. Leaving it till later in the day will only cause anxiety, as it will play on your mind up until you do start studying and, by then, the task can often seem to be a mammoth one.”

To parents, Armstrong says: “Encourage your child to stick to the same time every day. It will soon become routine for them to settle into study at this time. Ensure they have an adequate study area, that is clutter-free, where they will not be disturbed.

“It is all too easy for teenagers to spend time on games consoles, listening to music, social networking, or watching TV. While it is important for them to have some down time, they need to develop good study habits,” Armstrong says.

The importance of positive thinking:

Assistant principal Enda O’Doherty also works as a motivational speaker and is the founder of Study Skills Ireland, a vehicle through which he gives seminars to students and parents on the skills required to study smart and study well.

Enda O’Doherty
Enda O’Doherty

He says: “I’m very big on mental strength and mental positivity. If you view the Leaving Cert and school as an opportunity, if you view it as something that will shape your life and allow you to go in any direction, have any job, have any career that you want, you’re now seeing it in a different light, you’re now affected by it differently. If you’re seeing it as drudgery, torture, negative, you’re going to feel that way about it.”

O’Doherty says that it’s important that students plan to succeed from the outset: “Money and time: we need to view them in the same way. The really successful students realise that time is finite, particularly this time of year. You have to think: what’s the best possible way I can ration it out and use it?”

O’Doherty suggests dividing the Easter break study plan into smaller chunks.

Rather than mapping out the two weeks, which can feel insurmountable, plan for two or three days at a time, thereby ensuring its completion becomes achievable.

Like Armstrong, he recommends starting with your weaker areas or subjects. He says: “There is a tendency to do what I call comfort study, where you study the chapter you like for the teacher you like, with the book that you like, and you don’t make progress.

“A really practical thing that people can do at the start of the holidays would be to make what I call a hit list, so if you were to list the top-20 topics in each subject you’re doing, what are the absolute bankers, what are the most likely things to come up? They’re the things you need to do at the start.”

O’Doherty also suggests that students draw up their exam plan, with a breakdown of how each of their exams will run in June.

He says familiarise yourself with how many marks are going for each question on the paper.

The simple maths of working out the priority questions with which to start will also help the student to map out how much time they should take for each answer.

Finally, O’Doherty cautions against students pushing themselves too hard in the Easter break.

He says: “You don’t want to arrive back after Easter exhausted. There’s no point.

If you arrive back at school super-stressed, it’s the same as not studying: your productivity goes through the floor.

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