Study guide

1. Attitude and Motivation


  • Begin to develop a new attitude towards your subjects.
  • Forget about not liking them and tell yourself that you do like them.
  • Search each subject for its advantage and try to think how you might use them in the future. (Examples: Some time you may be on holidays in Spain- Spanish, or you may become self-employed some day- Business etc)
  • Talk to your friends about your subjects. What parts do they find interesting or difficult and maybe you can help each other out.
  • Do NOT focus on the negative aspects. By being negative towards a subject causes your mind to start blocking it out which makes it more difficult to study. (That’s why you find it easier to study subjects you like!)


  • Motivate yourself – what do you want to do when you leave school?
  • Get a picture of what you want to do and put it in front of your study desk!
  • How many points do you need?

What are your target grades?  Put that up also…


  • Your study area should be quiet, clean, well aired with good lighting. Do not have any distractions around you. Keep T.V.’s, Stereos, PC’s off. Leave your mobile phone away from you for your study time. (Don’t worry, you will not miss out on anything!)

2. The Target And How To Get There

  • What points do you want?

Don’t just pull it out of thin air, use a practical approach e.g. what were the points for your preferred courses last year… add 30 / 40 to that… that’s what you need to be sure.

  • Set out what you need in each subject to achieve your target.

Insert this into your table and reduce it 10% for the mocks and a little less for the Christmas exams.

  • Put it on your wall

3. Timetable

  • Timetable every hour of the week and available hours
  • Make a list of ALL you do every week…
  • Rearrange social activities to fit around your study, not the other way about! Cut out unnecessary activities – 2 nights out is too much for 5th year!
  • Be smart – Monday is your best night from a study point of view – Friday the worst!
  • Divide up each evening and slot in homework…

N.B. put homework at the end of study periods – why?

  • Slot them into a rough timetable and count available hours for study – 24 or so for 5th year – less for 4th year.
  • Study starts as soon as possible… DO NOT watch ANY TV before you start – makes it harder to start… and finish by 10pm (10:30 latest)
  • Now divide up your study time into 30/35 minute periods during the week and longer at weekends (for sample papers etc…) Leave 10 minute gaps after every hour or so for reviewing your diary, and also short breaks (10 minutes).
  • Allocating study slots to subjects…
  • Fill out a table of your subjects giving marks of 1 – 10 in order of your preference for the following questions-

What is my favourite subject?
Which subject am I most likely to score well in?
What is the subject that’s easiest to study?
What is my strongest subject?

This is ONLY a guide but will help you look more realistically at your subjects from a study point of view:
When you add up the scores for each subject, it is likely that your favourite subjects will have the lowest scores and the more difficult ones (and therefore those which require more attention) will have the higher scores… so use this as a guide for allocating times.
Perhaps some subjects will have one or two more study periods in the week due to the amount of periods available.  This is a good way of finding out which ones deserve the extra attention.

  • Allocating Homework and Revision time:

Estimate, judging on what your teachers say and where your subjects are on the timetable, how much homework you will need to do each night and at the weekends.  Put this into your timetable.
Put your homework in at the end of your study period… from 9 – 10:30 for example… this way if you ever have a bad study day and feel like throwing in the towel after an hour or so, you will still have to do your homework, so you will be forcing yourself to stick with it.
Allocate 10/15 minutes of revision time after each hour or so.  This will be explained a little later.

  • Sample Papers

An integral part of Leaving Cert Study is practice!  So allocate 2 or 3 hours each weekend for sample papers for each subject… the more familiar you become with Sample Papers the better prepared you will be for the exam, and remember to time yourself strictly… be competitive with yourself!  There is little point spending 70% of your time on a 3-part question on the first part and 30% on the other two.

  • Fitting the pieces together

Now that you have arranged all your subjects roughly it is time to fill in your timetable.

Some tips on this:

  • Start as soon as possible.. if you arrive home at 4:20, start at 4:45… It sounds rough but it will make it easier once you get into it…

Avoid TV, especially between school and study!  It will make it very difficult to get up and stuck into it and even if you do, your mind will have switched to TV mode subconsciuosly… This is quite important.  Perhaps a half hour or so when you finish some days…

  • When taking breaks, leave the room, but no need to necessarily go off and actually do anything in particular… just stretch the legs a little and keep the breaks short… again NO TV!
  • Start with a subject you like and end with one you like… but by now we like all of our subjects.

By now you should have a really effective timetable… now all you have to do is stick to it! Avoid making a new one every week… perhaps make it on the PC and mark in subjects in pencil… allowing yourself to make minor changes… swapping subjects etc…

Now over to you!!!!  Make out your timetable!! Ready and waiting for tomorrow!!!

4. Thirty Minute Study Periods

Why so short?
Keeps you interested… active…
Forces you to actually get something done…
No staring into space… (we can all do that very easily!!!)
Focuses the mind…
Attention Span… Shorter than classes!

The Steps:
1.    Word Dump (30 seconds)

  • Use a scrap page and write down everything that comes to mind about what you are about to study – before looking at any books or notes!

2.    Read Questions            (2 minutes)

  • Read any questions at the back of the chapter or Sample Papers (if available)

3.    Read Headings                (2 minutes)

  • Decide on how many pages you will cover, and read all headings / bold text / graphs / diagrams, and think about what they mean and what might be in the paragraphs below…  How well do you remember it from class… do you understand this?

4.    Note making                (20 Minutes)

  • Read ? Highlight ? Make Notes!  See next section

5.    Re read questions                (2 minutes)

  • Re read the questions, answering them in your head this time

6.    Word Dump                     (3 Minutes)

  • Put away all notes and do another word dump… then compare the first one to the last one and see what differences there are = that’s what you’ve learned!

7.    File Notes away            (30 sec)

Summary for your wall:

1.    Word Dump               ½ minute
2.    Read Qs                         2 minutes
3.    Read Headings           2 minutes
4.    Make Notes                20 minutes
5.    Re Read Questions    2 minutes
6.    Word Dump                 3 minutes
7.    File Notes Away        ½ minute

5. Making Study Notes on 1 Page

Most Study Sessions will not produce more than one page of notes!
Do NOT write full sentences… points are easier to remember.
Headings on the left of the margin and details on the right…
This allows you to test yourself afterwards.

Example: English Comparative.

How many miles to Babylon?- Jennifer Johnston.

Characters: Gerry Crowe, Alec Moore, Major Glendinning.

Social setting: Wicklow, Ireland during the 1910’s (years leading up to the rising), France, during the first world war, Class divide. Landlords/Peasants; Officers/Privates.

Theme: Relationships. Alec and his mother, Alec and his father, Alec and Gerry.

6. Filing and Managing Your Notes

The best way to do this is to get a folder for each subject. Get dividers for each folder. The better organised you are at the beginning the easier it will be as you get closer to exam time.

It is essential that you get into a routine of doing this from day 1.

7. Introducing “The Review Diary”

The Review Diary is without a doubt the most important aspect of your study plan.  You need to understand this completely, so it is worth asking questions if you don’t understand!  You need an extra diary (like your homework journal) and it needs to be dated for each day of the year… with a decent amount of space for each day.

Each time you make a page of notes in a regular 30 minute study period, label the top right hand corner to identify it:

  • What Chapter / Topic it is
  • What Study Section it is

For example:
Business Studies, Chapter 5, first notes page:    BS.5.1
English, Hamlet, Claudius, Second page of notes: Eng.H.Claud

So, after you study for 30 minutes, you label the page and then enter the code/label into your review diary.

Then, during your review periods of 15 minutes, you simply take out your diary, open it on whatever day you are on and see what you have to do that day.  You find the page (Example Business 5.1) using the coding at the top right hand corner of the page.

Take out the page and just spend about 1 minute on it, test yourself by only looking at the prompt notes on the left.  Ask yourself the information and then check to see if you are correct.  When you don’t know/remember something… mark it… and move on.. the next time you see the mark in the notes you will remember that you didn’t know it last time and this helps you to make it more important in your mind.  If you don’t remember it again… you can mark it again.. And if these marks build up, you can go back to the book.

Naturally as you move on and your work snowballs… you will need to increase the amount of review time needed in your timetable.  By May you will be spending an hour or so reviewing!  That is good, that means you’ve more covered… and therefore more in the brain!

8. Monitoring Chart

It is no use making a nice timetable and not sticking to it!  It is even worse if you think you are doing well and in fact you are not doing yourself justice. That is easy to do!  Perhaps you are performing well only on Monday and Tuesday, and forgetting the rest of the week.  All you will remember is how much study you have done! Make out a chart for each week and mark in the days and what the planned amount is (according to your timetable) … Add that up and put the total in.

This gives the student a way of seeing how he/she is improving, and where he/she needs to improve!

9. Other Tips – Flash Cards

Flash cards are also a nice idea for the difficult to learn formulas or quotes… you need to have a number of cardboard pieces in your room.  Write it down put a stack in your study area, and each day take 4 or 5 and have them with you… when you are on the bus or have a few seconds you can glance over some of them and learn things very well – without any great effort… Just organisation!!!

That is what being smart is all about!!!

The End

Now it is up to you… it is not easy at the beginning… but when you get into the swing… study becomes a breeze!  No worrying the month before exams… no panic.