Preparation for the Leaving Cert Exams

Final build up to Exams

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With just a few weeks left to exam time, anxiety levels will be rising in your household. Doubts and concerns hovering in your teens’ minds. 

There will probably be moments of high drama “I’m going to fail!” or silences and/or short tempers and snappiness. How are you going to manage all of this?

In fairness to you and your teen, you are not going to remove it completely. It is better to accept that it will happen but work on strategies to keep as even a keel as possible during those times. Here are some tips that you can try:

  • Ensure your teen is getting a good mix of healthy nutrition/sleep/relaxation and down time. This is crucial to their exam performance.
  • If they are going through a particularly hard time, talk to them about what is going on. Are they overwhelmed with the workload? They may need someone else to provide a calm head to prioritise their work and break it down into smaller chunks. Be prepared to sit with them to help them work out a study plan.
  • If they are doubting their ability to pass or get the grades they want, remind them of the work they have already put in over the past two years. That still counts and will support their final revision and preparation.
  • Keep the perspective! Remind your teen that the Leaving Cert is just a set of exams. Their whole life doesn’t depend on it. They will find their rightful place in the world eventually.
  • Acknowledge their efforts. Even if you think they could be doing more!
  • Mostly, your teen will want to know that you are supporting them. They may just need to have a rant without you doing anything for them except to listen. At these times, instead of trying to fix their problems ask them directly “Do you want me to help you or just to listen?” If they want you to do something, ask “how can I help?” This leaves them in control while knowing that you are available to assist if needs be.
  • Have their favourite dinners and snacks available. Now is definitely the time for comfort food.

Exam Routine


Once exam day comes around the nerves will be quite high. However, by the second or third day, an easier routine will emerge, and the stress will reduce somewhat. Here's how you can help:

  • After each exam day, work out what your teenager needs to do to leave that day behind. Some teachers recommend walking out of the exam and not discussing it with others. This may work for some but maybe your teen needs to discuss it. 
  • They may be bursting with pride because they did a great exam and want to share it with you. On the other hand, they may catastrophise the whole exam when its only one part of a question that they didn’t get right. The bit they did poorly in is what will stick in their mind, so helping them work their way through that will help. Either which way, they need an outlet for the built up tension/excitement so that they can focus on the next day.
  • Finally, beware the long gaps to the last exam. Your teen may be relieved that they have a week to prepare for the last exam and take a day off or more before settling back in to study. This can be difficult! Complacency may set in, proper preparation wane, leaving that last exam as a bit of an after thought and maybe performance can slip.
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I support parents to help their teenagers navigate through the Leaving Cert Year. You can find out more about my course here. But don't sign up until August 2022!

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