The power of a positive mind-set when studying for your Leaving Certificate

In part two of our three part series on Preparing for the Leaving Certificate, today ALAN WHITE looks at how students can develop a positive mind-set as they navigate the exam process
The power of a positive mind-set when studying for your Leaving Certificate

Use your time productively over the coming months. Picture: Stock

WHEN we face any challenge in life, one of the main factors that determines a positive or negative outcome for is our mind-set.

For many of us, one of the first big challenges in life is the Leaving Cert. Success in this exam is what students have spent years working towards. No other exam gains as much media attention, discussion or worry as the Leaving Cert.

Facing into the final few months can be a daunting experience for young people. As they return to school after the Christmas break, they are faced with the prospect of five long months of study and pre-exams before finally beginning the exams themselves. It can be challenging to remain focused and motivated in these circumstances, however, developing a positive mind-set will help create positive emotion which will cultivate motivation.


To remain motivated and maintain a positive mind-set, we must experience positive emotion and success. However, we often only consider big achievements in our lives as success and therefore we can go long periods in our lives without feeling a sense of achievement and the positive emotions that go with this.

To remain motivated, it is important to look at our success a little differently. There are small achievements in most of our days and we must reflect and acknowledge these in order to sustain our motivation over a long period of time.

Some examples of this are, understanding a concept that you struggled with for a while, becoming more organised and focused on your study or seeing small improvements in the feedback you are getting from your teachers. These are just a few of many examples but are all positive indicators of progress. When we feel we are progressing and achieving we develop our sense of self-belief through regularly experiencing positive emotion.


Our perception of time can often lead to feeling overwhelmed and can have a negative effect on our motivation. We tend to overestimate what we can accomplish in a day and underestimate what we can achieve in a week or a month. We often try to do too much too quickly and become stressed by the amount of work we realise is in front of us.

There are a number of things that can be done to help in this situation. The first is being organised. Planning the tasks, we need to get done and prioritising what’s most important.

The second is reflecting on the progress made so far. We all have experiences in our lives where we have been successful to some degree.

By the time a student reaches the leaving Cert they will have sat many class exams and had successes both inside and outside of school. Reflecting on these experiences will give a new perspective on what can be achieved over the coming months.

Finally, looking at strengths will develop a sense of resilience. We tend to focus on the areas we are weakest, however looking at our strengths will develop a sense of self-belief that will make it easier to improve on weaker areas.


When we feel productive and that we are getting results from the efforts we are making our mind-set becomes more positive and focused. However, many young people lose focus and become distracted easily for various reasons. This leads to feeling anxious and overwhelmed as it is difficult to concentrate and get important revision done.

In order to use time more productively there are two questions that you can ask yourself to focus on ways you could approach schoolwork.

1. What are you currently doing that is not helping you revise?

There are many distractions in our lives these days which can make it difficult to focus on any task. When trying to remain focused it is important that there are no distractions that will move your attention away from what you are doing. For example, are your bringing your phone with you when you are studying? Do you have a quiet space to work? And are you getting enough rest so that you can concentrate on what you need to do?

2. What three things can you do to

improve your productivity and


Before beginning to study it is important to ensure that you have created the right conditions to be as focused and productive as possible. This might not always be possible in busy households, however any small positive changes that can be made will improve your ability to concentrate on the tasks in front of you. Some things you could do are:

  • Have a clean and tidy workspace.
  • Resolve not to bring your phone or any other technology with you when studying.
  • Stick to doing one task at a time.
  • It can be difficult to remain focused at all times, however developing a positive mind-set by making small changes to how you approach your work will help you become more focused and productive.


Alan White is a second level teacher at Bishopstown Community School and Wellbeing Author. He also facilitates wellbeing workshops for companies and organisations.

For more information visit linkedin Alan White or facebook Changes Wellbeing

Tomorrow: Part 3 - Planning and Organisation

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