About the author:
Martina got 8 A1s in her Leaving Cert and wants to make the Leaving Cert easier for everyone. She is the founder of 625points.com. The website is created by students who got 625 points and shares their notes and tips, so that you don't have to reinvent the wheel. It has served hundreds of thousands of students to date.
I'm sure you've heard plenty of yada-yada as to why you need a study plan, so let's just get into the meaty part and get it done.
To create a study plan, you will...
1) Find out how you will be assessed
Make a list of all the assessments you will have to do and the percentage of marks available for each. This will give you an idea of what's important.
For example, there is one 3 hour paper for Biology. It is split into 3 sections with Section C carrying the lion’s share of the marks: 4 times more marks than the experiment section!
For Higher Level German, there is a 2.5 hour written paper worth 55%, an oral worth 25% and a 40 minute aural is worth 20%. The orals take place before the main Leaving Cert exams.
Note any relevant deadlines (HPAT, projects, etc). Plan around events throughout the year (sporting events, family visiting, etc)
2) Split your entire workload into sections
Every subject is different, but there are probably 15-20 sections to each subject. Splitting the subject into such sections is quite intuitive and is better done by the individual student taking into account his/her own strengths and weaknesses.
While it makes sense to dedicate time to sections that deserve the most marks, remember that learning in one section often prepares you for another. For example, Paper 2 is worth the same as Paper 1 in English, but you will spend much more time preparing for Paper 2. When you learn to structure a poetry essay, you also learn to structure your Paper 1 composition.
3) Map out when you are going to do each section
Let's say you do 7 subjects. Each subject contains 15 sections, so 7 x 15 = 105. You will want to revise everything at least once during sixth year.
There are about 270 calendar days in sixth year. So you will be revising something every (270/105) = 2.5 days. If you want to look over it twice, that means you will be revising a section every 1.25 days.
So that's what it's meant to look like, week by week:
4) Split your time between homework and study
In my personal experience, I've never spent more than 2 hours on homework. On most nights, it was about an hour. However, teachers are different. Some give virtually no homework, others lash it on. Personally, I've always been of the opinion that since it's me opening that envelope with results on a Wednesday in August, I will decide how much time I spend on homework vs my own study, whether they give out to me or not. (Final exams have some advantages over continuous assessment!)
To revise a section meaningfully you need two to four hours, depending on how rusty you are. It's a lot of work, but it's better than repeating the Leaving Cert as a result of not working hard enough.
So let's say you are revising a poet you've done in fifth year and haven't looked at since. You will realistically need three hours or so. If you are revising a section every 2.5 days, that means that you will have to spend an hour each night studying on top of your homework.
People who aim for very high points tend to revise everything at least twice throughout the year. So that brings the amount of work per night to, let's say, to 2.5 to three hours of study.
Two to three hours of study plus an hour of homework: that sounds about right. There are some badass geniuses who get away with much less and some diligent pencil-sharpening folder-organising obsessives who will do much more. Some people who didn't do a lot in fifth year will really knuckle down and do more, productively, but these people are quite rare.
5) Focus on answering past papers, not on making your own notes
Rewriting things down from the book “to make your own notes” is of virtually no use. There are countless studies that show that it's one of the least efficient study methods . Most, as in 99.9% people don't have the dedication to both make the notes and learn them. So most people will dedicate their energy to the wrong thing (spoiler: the right thing would be to do lots of papers). People keep asking about focus: how do I stay focused for the entire year to achieve my aim? This is how: don't waste valuable energy on making notes. Use your energy on past papers instead.
Doing papers (aided by notes) prepares you for the exam unlike anything else. Beware of the nebulous stuff in well-meaning textbooks. The return on your investment is pretty poor compared to trying to do a proper Leaving Cert question.
While you are doing your papers, use notes. So don't revise a chapter by saying, yep, page 57-72, here I come! No. Get the papers. Get a question relevant to your chapter. Start answering it, even if you haven't a clue. And when you haven't a clue/ got stuck, go to the notes and see what they say. You may end up having to read the whole chapter of notes if you are rusty, but still it's worth doing it this way. Why? Going to the notes while you have a specific question in your head, actively seeking out information, is infinitely more efficient than rereading the same sentence because you're bored out of your tree through passive revision.
Passive reading vs active seeking - which do you think works better?
Best of luck this year!