How to stop the overwhelm ahead of Leaving Cert exams

In the final part of a three part series on preparing for the Leaving Cert, ALAN WHITE shares some tips on how to get planning and organised for the weeks and months ahead
How to stop the overwhelm ahead of Leaving Cert exams

Students can quickly become overwhelmed by the workload of the leaving cert. When we are overwhelmed and anxious it can be difficult to remain focused and concentrate on important tasks. Picture: Stock

WHEN preparing for exams, one of the most important but often overlooked factors for success is planning and organisation. Spending a small amount of time everyday planning the tasks you need to complete can enhance concentration, focus the mind and relieve stress.

There are many ways that revision can be tackled, and a different method will suit different people. However properly planning what you want to achieve in a day or a week and organising your time accordingly will help develop a sense of clarity and purpose around revision.

Students can quickly become overwhelmed by the workload of the leaving cert. When we are overwhelmed and anxious it can be difficult to remain focused and concentrate on important tasks.

Thankfully there are some things that students can do to give themselves the best chance of productive revision.

Developing Healthy Routines

Before making study plans, its important to get the basics right. This is why developing heathy routines will help students feel their best and better able to overcome the challenges they will face over the coming months. Health routines include things such as:

  • Going to sleep and waking up at regular times.
  • Getting exercise.
  • Eating well and staying hydrated.
  • Making time to connect with friends and family.

Although students time will be limited over the coming months, ensuring that a healthy routine is maintained as much as possible will allow them to feel at their best and more motivated.

Study with Purpose

The reason many young people disengage from the Leaving Cert is often because they become frustrated with their inability to make progress in their subjects. The majority of students try their best to focus and study, but often give up as they find it difficult to know where to begin, what they should be doing and how they should be doing it.

Study should be planned and focused on specific, this means that before beginning to study, students should know exactly what they plan to do. By carefully planning what to focus on students feel less anxious about beginning, are clear about what they want to revise, can see that they have made progress and feel a sense of achievement after completing each task that they set for themselves.

As well as planning what to do, its also important to organise everything that is needed for study.

Books, copies, stationary etc. This might seem obvious but given that students study an average of seven subjects it can be easy to lose track of materials. Creating a system whereby students can quickly find all the materials they need will Reduce the amount of time searching for what they need. One such system that works well is having a folder for every subject that contains everything they need.

Getting Value for your Time

Many young people feel that they are not studying unless they are spending hours and hours studying every day. It is important to remember that there comes a point where too much study becomes counterproductive, our minds can only focus and concentrate for small periods of time, so it is important that students build in regular breaks to their schedule, and set a time to begin and end depending on how long they feel they are being productive. Remembering that it is quality over quantity when revising and that one well planned focused hour of study is better than spending three hours trying to read over pages of notes.

Study and Active Learning

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I’ll know, involve me and I learn” – Benjamin Franklin.

Learning to learn is one of the most important skills students need. Very often we teach young people what they need to learn but often forget to teach them how they should learn it. 

Opening up a book or reading notes for hours on end will more than likely lead to frustration as it is very difficult to retain information in this way.

Active learning is when the student is engaged in the topic that they are studying and putting into practice the concepts that they have learned. What this means is that when planning what to study, each topic needs to be broken down into:

1. Revision of the key concepts.

2. Testing understanding of the material / concepts learned by attempting a question on them.

It is also important to set an approximate time for each topic that will be revised and to ensure that any study timetable has a mix of all subjects as often we tend to focus on the subjects we like and neglect those we find challenging. Although it is a good idea to begin with a preferred subject it is also important to ensure a balanced approach across all subjects.

The best thing about learning about how to organise and plan revision, it takes very little time to do and increases the amount of work that can be done. Taking some time on a regular basis to plan will allow students to feel more in control of their workload and remain motivated.


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

You can catch up on Alan’s three-day series here

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