Cork Independent Leaving Certificate Column #8

20 days to go!

NERVES setting in now. That number is the freakiest thing I’ve ever seen, fact.

I was an exam attendant last June, during the Leaving Cert then, and now that we’ve come full circle, l realise something. The boredom I felt last June during that job. I have never felt since. I’ve been run ragged since September. 1 hate being bored, but roll on days of absolute nothing!

It’s a bit worrying at this stage. Like, it’s less than three weeks away now. There’s only so many times you can try to calm yourself down before that just doesn’t work anymore, and you come very close to freaking out, ripping all those books to shreds and starting a fire for them in the backyard, pulling a total Britney on it.

I got there this week. I still have all my hair though. Think about it. I get up at 8am, spend eight hours in school, sometimes I have four extra hours of Maths every week. on top of drama classes, trying to eat and trying to sleep a normal amount…. I’m supposed to get eight hours of sleep a night. I’m lucky to get six. Because on top of studying and trying to get things done, my head screams at me when I go to bed that I should be doing more.

Maybe this is the ‘Breaking Point’ I was thinking about a few weeks back … This stress is actually tantalisingly close to making me throw something at someone. Everything’s winding down now, all courses done, you’d think that if anything, the pressure would lessen. But I have folder upon folder of notes, my brain hates me for doing this to it. I haven’t read a book in almost a year. My shoulders are actually nearly to my ears with tension, and five minutes lost have become a thing of torture.

I hate traffic, I hate walking anywhere, I hate eating and sleeping, because it loses me time. It’s actually not healthy. Five minutes just shouldn’t be so important. Unless, you know, you cross the street at the wrong time or something.

The Leaving Cert is driving me berserk. Well. Almost. The stress relief here every week is soothing. All my anger comes out in print. My keyboard hates me. We’re finished school tomorrow. Officially, at least. Unofficially, classes run to June. But wow! My last day. It will be perfunctory, unvaried, with a distinct lack of anything special. We’ll go to classes. and we’ll go home with a ton of heavy books and exploding heads. Way to have a bad hair day. It will be completely devoid of any celebration. Because what’s to celebrate? 19 days left? I think not.

Gotta go, have to make my lunch for tomorrow. Here’s a celebration; my LAST ever packed lunch!!

Cork Independent Leaving Certificate Column #13

AS YOU read this, I’m finished my Leaving Cert, but as I write it, I have one exam left.

I’ve spent the last two years, three in some cases, trying to get ready for these exams, and in only two weeks, they’re gone and finished. I’ll never have to go over French verbs again, or Philip Larkin quotes. Or the factors affecting rates of reaction.

Never again will I have to differentiate anything, hopefully. and I’ll never have to remember what my cerebrum does or discuss what my hobbies are, as gaeilge. Brilliant. So since you’ve last heard from me, I’ve sat most of the rest of my exams. Maths Two was alright. I messed up my option question, but otherwise there were no problems there really, it was what I had expected to be honest.

Irish paper One was very accessible to everyone, with reading comprehensions on the Blasket Islands and Fairtrade being both topical and surprisingly interesting. The essay topic of the health service was well prepared by everybody- except, typically, yours truly, who wrote about how the media controls us.

Irish paper Two was similarly friendly. The question about staging an TriaiI was a bit weird. but nonetheless I did my best. Very happy with it overall and the listening was really easy, even the usually frustrating Northern accents were no obstacle.

French was a nice exam. Listening was very easy. comprehensions well understood and easy to write about. and the written pieces were carefully selected to coincide with the Lisbon Treaty- the importance of voting was a theme of one of them. Ironic! A piece on the importance of silence in everyday life was a little silly and more than a bit obtuse, but once you kept the head and tried not to get bogged down in the abstract, it ought to have been alright.

History turned out to be a lucky exam. In each section, there was sadly only one question I could answer, but they were questions I was very good at, so I was very happy. The questions on Lyndon Johnson and Vietnam were very easy, but the expectation of writing a 100 mark essay on the contribution of Goebbels or Riefenstahl to Hitler’s Germany, without a question on the man himself,  was a little deluded in my opinion- as one of the most famous people of our time, and without doubt one of the most important, Hitler surely should have been examined. And if not him, why not ask on Mussolini? Neither came up.

Biology was grand. Great experiment questions- you actually simply had to describe two experiments and there were no difficulties as long as you could think back to it. Lots of ecology questions. and the expected questions on genetics were lovely. and digestion and excretion were very accessible too. No problems, even though I was very nervous going into it.

All in all, I’m happy with my exams. With only one left to sit, Accounting. I’m hopeful that everything will work out alright. Imagine, two years, and suddenly it’s over and it’s done. Next week is my final diary. The end of an era!

I started this diary almost eighty days ago, and time has flown out the window. The whole two years went at a mental speed, and I’m looking forward to a Summer of music festivals and trips to London …

Cork Independent Leaving Certificate Column #12

IT FEELS weird to not have a timeline up here anymore… Anyway, what am I complaining for?! It’s brilliant that there’s no more waiting, no more flopping on the couch and napping (though admittedly, some things never change), no more sick feeling in my stomach.

English has long been my favourite subject, so I really didn’t find any problems with English Paper One last Wednesday. It was very accessible, and though some people complained about the essay titles, in truth you could have written about anything. The questions on the reading comprehensions were very user friendly, it was just a case of picking the ones that most suited you. I was expecting something harder for the B questions, but the diary entry was the one I chose eventually, and it was also very doable.

Though English Paper One presented no problems, I really loved English Paper Two. The predicted poets came up, and the style question on Derek Mahon was perfect. The questions on Othello looked hard at first but after a few minutes thought and a very sloppy spider plan (I couldn’t read it later on …), the one I chose was the second, a question on weak judgement.

The Comparative Study on Theme and Issue was fine, a question on key moments relating to theme should have kept everybody happy.

English was one of the subjects I was most nervous about originally, you never quite know what to expect and the chance of messing up is probably quite high because of first day nerves, but it turned out to be very relaxed and not at all difficult.

Straight after English Paper Two on Thursday, I had the dreaded Chemistry and I’m thrilled to say that it actually went, dare I say it, very well. I didn’t find anything challenging about it, it was just a case of avoiding the things I knew nothing about, so I think that really I got quite lucky. But it does have to be said that I ended up with a crick in my neck that didn’t disappear till Saturday, and I was so tired after Thursday that I didn’t do a whole lot for Maths Paper One the following day.

After looking over tipped questions and theorems and formulae for the six questions I intended to tackle on Paper One, I went in quite confident that everything would be okay.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Maths is not a particular gift of mine, so maybe I can’t judge, but I thought the paper was a bit, shall we say, weird. The thing I’ve always liked about Maths is that there are proofs. Normally they’re worth twenty marks in a question, so if you invest a little time, it’s easy marks.

This year there were lots of tipped proofs. De Moivre, Differential Rule, Factor Theorem, Volumes of Revolution … Only on of them came up. I was a bit disappointed, because I knew them so well. There were funny part Cs in Algebra that were worth a lot, and some of the Calculus seemed to go on forever, but after going back over it all and thinking things through again, I managed to finish some parts I had been stuck on, and I think that in the end it went quite well. Not as well as Chemistry, not as well as English, but definitely not as hard as I thought it was when I first saw it.

Though yet again I write this on a Sunday, next week will see some of my last exams taking place. Reaction to the papers has been varied and I’ve heard different stories from all sides, but the only thing I can really say is that this whole process, though not to be underestimated, is not the melodramatic, traumatic experience you hear people talk about every year. I mean really. Have they not heard of tea?

Cork Independent Leaving Certificate Column #11

OKAY, so technically, I haven’t sat any exams yet. You see, I write this column on a Sunday … which means that as I write this there’s really like, 3 days to go, so I can’t tell you how any exams went. Sorry. Next week, I promise!

Anyway, my birthday was fun. It was so nice to just sit down with a group of my friends and talk about the exams. We decided that really, everything is done now. All we have to do is prove it by writing it down on paper. Which is admittedly much easier said than done, but regardless, that’s all there is.

Bit freaked at the moment. It’s a mite too late to learn new things, a mite too early to stop studying and hope for the best, three weeks too early to give up the whole thing and cry.

I am so sick of this entire thing that if the exams were all last October, I would have been at my happiest. I know that in October, with the gift of hindsight, I’ll be cruel and derogatory about the whole thing. I’ll realise that it was all a waste of time and not worth it at all. That’s what everyone keeps saying to me, and I absolutely believe them.

But in the moment, that’s fairly bad advice. There’s no point in getting blase about it. It still has to be done, like the hovering or whatever. So many people have done this before I have. So why does it feel as though I’m the only per. son this is so ridiculously hard on? You know what the worst thing is? High expectations.

Not necessarily from other people, but from myself. I’m a terror for it, a bit obsessive about getting high grades even where I don’t need them. It’s a bad thing to be such a perfectionist.

It’s gotten to a rather burned out phase where the best I can muster is a halfhearted nod at my books and scanning through of notes. Like, what more can I do? I’m being cheap, but the work I did in fifth and sixth year has to pay off somewhere, doesn’t it? My Leaving Cert just can’t depend on these few days alone, right?

It’s amazing how much your confidence crashes in the last few days. I’m full of doubts. I’ve spent 77% of my life so far in schools of some form or another, and this is the last stretch. It shouldn’t be so disgusting and I definitely shouldn’t feel so bad about the whole thing. I shouldn’t be wondering if I’ll get the points even before I’ve sat the exams, there’s no way for me to know. And yes, fine, regardless of how much work any person has done, if it ain’t your day, it ain’t your day, I get that too. It’s fine to write all that down, but if it isn’t my day, I’ll be inconsolable, not wise and accepting and forward thinking.

Which is why this whole thing sucks when you get down to it: I’ve learned smart things, but not how to use them. Get me? I’m thinking too much.

Cork Independent Leaving Certificate Column #10

6 days left!

I NOW know how the Allies felt before the drop on Normandy. Awful, in case you were wondering. Graduation day was fun. There was food and a mass and everybody wearing nice clothes and forgetting about the Leaving Cert for a delicate period of just over 6 hours. Lovely.

I have a load of photographs of everyone looking their best, carefree and devoid of stress. I realise that photographs quite happily tell lies. I don’t know about anyone else, but during that mass I found myself thinking of Chemistry experiments and not really paying attention to what was going on around me. Not a healthy sign. We had a good time though nonetheless.

It was nice to hang out with my friends and take pictures and dress up. It was nice to spend one last day with people before returning to the mental asylum of my bedroom. Incidentally, the Leaving Cert completely destroys Feng Shui My room still looks like Dresden.

So this week sees my 18th birthday come flying through the door. It’s something I’d barely talked about or thought about, but I’ve decided to take a few hours out on Sunday to have some friends over. Imagine. Four days before the Leaving Cert and I’ll be out my back yard with the buddies. Who else would be that mental?

See, here’s the thing. I know a lot of things now that I didn’t know back in September. I don’t mean properties of transition metals or the politics of Eastern Europe, I mean something broader than that. Like this: I will not get everything covered for my Leaving Celt. Fact.

It’s impossible. There are some things you simply have to leave out. Unless, you know. you have an eidetic memory and an IQ of 5 billion.

Here’s the deal: I have ten textbooks for eight subjects, all at higher level. The pages I have covered amount to something in the realm of 3800. Included in that are 840 pages of Maths notes, ignoring maths textbooks. Now, outside of the fact that I’m sad for counting. don’t you think that’s a little much?

In 2005, only 10% of students sitting English got an A. You read and study Shakespeare, learn five poets off by heart, practice unseen aspects of poetry and reading and five different types of language. Yes, five. You study three texts until you hate them, in order to compare them according to theme, cultural context or literary genre. 10% succeeded in getting an A. All that work. and so few gain maximum points.

It’s the same story for each of the subjects. None of it is too difficult, too abstract, too weird. None of it is rocket science (except studying the Moon Landing). The thing is that the Leaving Cert is the Sahara Desert of my life. Seriously, the Sahara itself would be less daunting. There are six days left.

I really need a cup of tea, so I’ll finish up now. Aside from the ranting and the tangent, aside from the fact that I was sad enough to look up statistics on the department of education website, aside from all of that, because all of that is just the tip of a very large iceberg, here’s the thing.

I still can’t complete the most basic of crosswords.

Cork Independent Leaving Certificate Column #9

13 days to go!

LET’S not even talk about said ghastly figure. Just know that it lurks in the background like something out of the Addams family. Our final ever assembly was on last Thursday. It lasted about an hour and a half and it actually was a nice kind of a thing to have. We were told about the running of the exams (which was probably the least fun bit- knowing that doom is coming at speed), and then our years tutors and principal made speeches.

And then there were the speeches from the Head Girl and Deputy Head Girl. Both of whom got a bit teary eyed at the entire prospect that they were leaving school. Which led to other people getting teary eyed. And then others- and admittedly I felt just a little bit heartless, because at the heel of the hunt, I dido ‘t cry at all. I sat with my friends in the front row and thanked the Man upstairs that I would never again have to report to school at 8am for an assembly.

The Parents Council gave us a great cake. I’m told it was yummy, but I can’t say. I didn’t have any- I spent too long yapping. Typical, says you. Not like me though, to miss a bit of munching!

So that’s the end of school. Although having said that, I’m still going in for a few classes, things like Maths and Chemistry and maybe Biology. And sadly we still have to wear those uniforms. Ew. It’s not that it’s uncomfortable or anything, I’m just sick of it. All that blue.

So life goes on outside of school. Spent all of last Saturday bag packing to raise funds to go to Lourdes in July. It took me and a friend another four hours to count all the money we got, but the good news is that we entirely financed our trip! This is amazing, but the ten hours packing I did was actually more fun than studying.

Speaking of that particular devil, it’s going okay. Things always seem to take five times longer than I had originally expected, and the subjects I’m trying to bring up a few grades, like Chemistry and Maths, are harder at this time of year, especially when you pass a question by in a book and don’t even understand some of the words in it, not to mind what it’s actually asking you. Mental.

I do hope, for the sake of the fifth years next year, that the timetable will change back for them. I would actually pay for a few extra days study with Chemistry at this stage.

Cork Independent Leaving Certificate Column #7

27 Days to Go!

DESPITE the fact that that number is giving me the creeps, I’m also glad that it keeps getting smaller. It’s almost over! It feels like only yesterday that there were nine months left, and now there’s less than one!

It’s nice to have a few days off this week. The last term was really long because of an early Easter, and the long weekend is great to break it up. It’s lovely to sit in my bedroom, window open, in pyjamas, cup of tea in hand trying study with the sun attempting to coax me outside. I’d love to study outside, but I know I’d start squinting and probably would fall asleep.

Writing this article every week is making me think about the last six years. They went so quickly that I seriously don’t remember a whole lot about them. It’s sad in a way that there’s only a few days left. Today I’m thinking about transition year. I think sixth year would have been really hard if I hadn’t done fourth year. It was a real year for growing up, for doing completely different things and doing work experience gave us all a better idea of careers. It really helped, even though it was stressful with things like mini company and school shows to work out. All the things we did gave us good organisation skills, we were made responsible for ourselves, and it was also probably the year that I made most friends.

The friends I made in transition year are the friends I still have today. I know it’s only two years down the line, but I think fourth year really gave me people that I would always like to have close by. That’s another thing. Sixth year must be so hard if you don’t have many friends. I just think that you always need someone during this year who gets what’s going on in your head and is there on the sidelines to snap you out of stress mode when it’s required. It’s brilliant to rent a comedy every few weeks, sit down with a group of your buddies in someone’s living room and moan for all Ireland. On these occasions, for anyone who’s interested, chocolate is an absolute must!

Seriously, if I didn’t have that throughout this year, I might well have morphed into a quivering wreck. Maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but you get the message. Be there for your friends. Sixth year can’t be a selfish year.

Graduation is coming up in my school. The dates are different for schools all over the country, and I’m a hopeless case with events, so I don’t know what date ours is! Oops! We’ve all put money towards a party and everyone will get a yearbook. Each of our friends came up with something to write under our pictures, which will be cool to look back on in a few years time. It’s something to look forward to actually. It’s a few hours where nobody will be studying for a change, so I’ll tell you more about it when it happens.

Cork Independent Leaving Certificate Column #6

41 days to go!!

ORALS are officially finished! French went fine, I was much calmer for it, so that’s probably why. Everything I wanted to talk about, I got to talk about, so that’s a good end to the two weeks!

The books are out now for sure, trying to get as much done in the last six weeks as possible. It’s almost over. Studying isn’t hard anymore. Because now its just about gritting the teeth and doing it. It’s become habitual, much like sleeping, eating, and drinking tea.

The anticipation is growing too, now we’re nearly done and plans for the summer are being finalised. The happiness is preventing people from getting stressed out, so there’s no chain reaction of panicky tears. Yet. I don’ t want to repeat myself, but its unbelievable that we’re almost finished the Leaving Cert.

I also don’t want to sound like someone who has been through the wars, but I really thought it would never end. Since September, time seems to have disappeared, and now there’s just none left at all. It’s amazing how fast the year went, especially given as how it’s supposed to be laborious and tedious in the extreme. Fifth years- take note!!

The last hurdle before the terminal exams are the projects. There’s a project for History and Religion, and there’s a field investigation for Geography, and I’m sure there are more for other subjects, but I don’t know anything about those. I only do History out of that list, so I only had to write one project.

I know other people though, who had to write. two or even three, which must be nearly impossible! It was so hard trying to get research done, evaluate books, write an extended essay, and even originally picking a topic was difficult. Mine is on the long and short term effects of the Six Day War in Israel, just so you know that I’m not joking about how hard it was.

It’s good to know that now some of my Irish exam. some of my French exam and some of my History exam is done though. It seems to relieve the pressure in a way. I don’t have to try to talk to myself in a different language anymore, and surprisingly, the orals really helped my Irish and French grammar too. I don’t make silly mistakes anymore. Well, I do, but they’re not as numerous!

I know the Leaving Cert is difficult. But with course books in front of you and notes made out, it’s not as hard as it would seem. The difficult thing, I think I’ve finally worked out, is that there’s simply not enough time in the day. Trying to go to school and come home, do homework, eat yummy food, and study, is very hard. We’re also staying after school twice a week to finish the Maths course, which is great because we’ll be done, but it takes more time out of the day!

Cork Independent Leaving Certificate Column #5

48 days to go!!

IRISH oral done. It was okay I guess. I mean, nothing at all difficult was asked and I wasn’t allowed to lead the conversation as I would have liked. But all in all, 1 had a chat with the examiner and I suppose if that was what he wanted, he certainly got it. 1 shall never complain about it again. Yeah right!

Next up, French oral. And once again, by the time you read this, it will be done. I’m expecting it to go very well. I’ve put a lot of work into it, since September, and I think it really should be fine for me. lt’s not supposed to be as complicated as the Irish. So there’s no real need for being good on current events or anything too hard. Fingers crossed anyway!

The two weeks of orals have been the biggest temptation for dossing. I kid you not. You’d think people would just tum up to class, but they don’t. It’s like the orals are another two week holiday, and they’re not. I got a lot of studying done during the free classes and Irish classes we had last week, because my Irish teacher was helping others to prepare orals so the rest of us could study. That suited me down to the ground, I was able to just sit there and learn with no distractions.

Things are really closing up now. We have so little left to do in most subjects, like Biology, History, Chemistry and Irish.

French and Accouting are done, so it’s maths and English we’re down to, and there’s little enough to do there too. I’m so thrilled that this thing is nearly finished with. It’s so unbelievable that next year, I will most likely be going to college.

I know that yes, that’s more learning. But at least it’s learning that I’ll want to do. I will never again have to wear a school uniform after June. Yay!

My room currently looks like what I’d imagine Dresden looked like after the war. In other words, total bomb site. Come June 18th, I tell you, every single one of those books and folders will be destroyed, if I have my way. There might even be some space there for things I like after my cleaning spree. Anything related to school– out with it!!

I have to go look over my French notes. And I’m hungry, so there might even be a croissant. Bon chance tout le monde!

Cork Independent Leaving Certificate Column #4

55 days to go!

NOW that we’re in the fifties, I’m a bit worried. By the time you read this, I’ll have sat and finished my Irish oral. I can’t wait for i to be over, I’m glad it’s on early in the week, so that then I can focus on French. I don’t want to discount any subject too early, but my French is much better than my Irish, so hopefully my work there will pay off.

With the two oral weeks, it’s been hard to study anything else, because my mind wanders to grammar and vocab notes I’ve got scribbled all over my books. Trying to get a lot of history in this week especially, my mark in that was bad. Then, so was everyone else’s. No one can quite work out why, but definitely it’s making us work harder.

There’s no stress this week. I just can’t stress out for some reason. I’m taking it easy. Probably not a good sign, but if it is bad, don’t tell me, because I’ll completely lose my fragile sense of contentment. I’m more excited now than anything else about the Summer ahead. Oxegen, I’ve chosen to go to Lourdes to help out, going to London with my friends to see Phantom of the Opera… God forbid l’d get a job, says you.

It’s amazing, my French is actually much better than my Irish. What went wrong there? I mean, I have six years of French, and 14 years of Irish. I love French! But I don’t love Irish. Why? It’s not that I’m bored of Irish. I’m not. I like being able to speak my Own langauge. It’s very handy when you’re away and you don’t want people to know you’re talking about them. So why am I so very unenthusiastic about sitting the Leaving Cert Honours Irish exam? It might be because I have absolutely no idea what a seimhú and an urú are. I think I’m supposed to know, but there’s no hope for me ever finding out. I don’t even know if that’s how you spell them.

Or it might just be the actual curriculum. I’m not sure that there could be anything more depressing. I honestly don’t have any interest in a gambler who gambled his way into heaven. I don’t particularly enjoy reading about a young girl and the trial to work out why she killed her daughter. There are thousands of things that appeal to me, must I be force fed the Irish historical oppressive harshness?!

I’m surprised they don’t have us read eyewitness accounts of the famine, as gaeilge. And thank god I’ve never had to read Peig. No offence. I’m sure shewas great. But I don’t particularly care. I truly can’t help that.

My bagel is getting cold. Good luck to everyone in the Irish orals!