Welcome to your June guide, the month when all the prep work comes to fruition – exam month!
This month is big in so many ways with the final build up to exams, managing the exam routine and then final considerations for CAO which closes at 5:15pm on 1st July.
I will cover these three in this guide and then as usual, answer any questions in our live Q&A during the month.
Final build up to Exams
With just a few days left to exam time, I’m sure the pressure and tension are building in your household right now. It’s an anxious time and many doubts and concerns will be 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.
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.
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 price 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.
Final Considerations for CAO
Once the exams finish, your student will have a week or two to give final consideration to their CAO choices. They may have already decided what they want to do but since their exams they may find doubt has crept in. One mum described it to me as her daughter “now feeling at sea”. So, how can you help?
- First of all, find out what is causing the doubt. Maybe they have done better than expected and now see that they could possibly get something they had previously ruled out. In this case, they can insert this course as 1st preference moving all other choices down a place. Their previous 1st choice is now 2nd and so on.
- If they haven’t done as well as they thought, work with them to think it all through before they change anything. Especially if they are thinking of removing or downgrading a course they have talked about for a long time. They still may get it as points go up and down. They don’t really know how they did until they get their results and it would be very unfortunate if they changed it but later found that they had the points to get it. It is better to leave this course as 1st choice but consider their 2nd choice more carefully to see if this would be a suitable alternative.
- The doubt may stem from the fact that this is the final decision, and their future will rely on that choice. Every adult has to make difficult decisions – this may be their first one. There is always a risk that the wrong one is chosen, and this risk has to be minimised and then accepted.
- Your teen may still be looking at a few options. In this case, it is a good idea to list out on a sheet of paper all the various options with the pro’s and con’s of each. Look at all considerations, such as the course itself, the career it will provide, the location of the college and potential commute or accommodation requirements. By writing them out, it will help bring clarity rather than all these thoughts swirling around their head. Encourage them to use their gut instinct to see if there is one popping out at them over the other.
- Refer back to the October guide to remind yourself how the CAO preference system works or go to the CAO Handbook.
You have made it this far to the month that matters! Your job now is to keep them calm and focused on their study, providing them with the solid support they need to go through the next few weeks. Work with your teenager to find out exactly how best to support them – ask them directly if needs be.
When it comes to the closing date for the CAO, help them work out their preferences by thinking each option through carefully.
Wishing your teens and you the very best!