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Now is the time to start good study habits

Posted by Francis O' Toole on September 15, 2016


This week schools have settled back to class and it is time for senior cycle students who wish to make the most of their 5th and 6th years to establish good habits. Some students feel they will never be able to do enough to be successful at Leaving Cert. Hearing stories of those who study for six hours a day and achieve 625 points can be overwhelming, as most of us feel unable to compete.

There are a few basic things that every student can do to lay solid foundations, and ensure that they are on the road to reaching their potential.


Completing assigned homework to the best of one’s ability every time is essential to learning new material well. All too often, busy students rush through homework to meet the requirement set by the teacher, instead of considering homework as study the teacher has asked them to do, and for which you will receive immediate feedback.

By listening in class and always completing homework, students will learn the curriculum properly as they work through it. As a result, material will be familiar when it is revisited. Sitting down to revise familiar material before a class test, end of year exam or Leaving Cert will take a lot less time than sitting down to revise material that seems unfamiliar because we rushed through it the first time.

Goal setting

It can be really helpful to set grade goals for Leaving Cert, class tests, and everything in between. This gives a focus to study and a sense of achievement as students meet these targets. It will show students that their work is paying off and assist them in maintaining their motivation.

Students should firstly think about what they would like to achieve in each Leaving Cert subject and then consider the grades achieved in the 5th year exam. The next step is to set a target for each term. For example, ‘what grade would I like to get by the October mid-term, for my Christmas exams, mocks etc’. Each grade should be a little higher than the previous one. Monitoring these goals and adjusting them accordingly will help students reach their targets by the end of the academic year. There is a really helpful worksheet on that will assist students to set these goals .


Don’t forget memorising

Students often tell me that they don’t do their ‘learning’ homework. They often leave this until the end when they are tired – and then skip it. While doing good homework, practice questions and keeping up with the teacher are all great ways to ensure that students are on track, at some point students will have to sit down and memorise information.

Nobody enjoys this part of the process, but it is unavoidable and the earlier a student begins, the better. Doing this every day will pay off as students will find new information is easier to learn and will not have to revisit it.

Fresh start

Treat this year as a fresh start. Forget about 5th year or Junior Cert: you cannot change what has gone before but you can change your approach to school from today. It may take a little time for new efforts to begin to show in grades, but they will.

Despite best intentions, the saying ‘tomorrow never comes’ can be true for many students, who report that they intend to start studying ‘on Monday’, ‘next week, ‘after the mid-term’ or ‘after Christmas’, but unfortunately this goal can be continually delayed. If you have trouble getting started, begin today. Start small and plan exactly what is to be achieved by the end of the study session.

Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin

Q. I am interested in applying for medicine in the UK. What is UKCAT and do I need to apply for it?

A. The UK Clinical Aptitude test (UKCAT) is one of the assessments that some UK universities use as part of the entry process for medical degrees. It is important to recognise that while some universities use UKCAT, there are a number of different assessments used by UK universities.

If you are interested in applying to study medicine in the UK or Northern Ireland, be aware that the closing date for applications is October 15. Next, check the courses in which you are interested to see which assessment they will require you to sit: UKCAT, BMAT or HPAT UK (a different test from HPAT Ireland).

If any course requires you to sit UKCAT, register at Registration closes on Wednesday September 21. It is possible to take the assessment in a variety of centres around Ireland but places are filling up fast.

Important dates


Open Evening – Bray Institute of Further Education

Open Day – Dorset College

GMSAT – Graduate Medical School Admissions Test GAMSAT Irl

Open Evening – Irish College of Humanities & Applied Sciences


n Interviews for Veterinary Medicine in The Wroclaw University of Environmental and Life Sciences (2 Days), Poland – Polish House, 20 Fitzwiliam Place, Dublin 2

Open Day – Portobello Institute

September 17

Open Event – Dublin & Galway Pulse College

Open Day Ulster University – Magee

September 20

Final deadline for applications to 2016 Courses – UCAS

September 21

Open Evening – Bray Institute of Further Education

UKCAT Registration Closes

Irish Independent



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