The Psychological Society of Ireland



The Psychological Society of Ireland,
Floor 2, Grantham House,
Grantham Street, Dublin 8, D08 W8HD.


Psychological Society of Ireland & ReachOut offers

10 tips to Junior and Leaving Certificate students

With the Junior and Leaving Certificate exams commencing next Wednesday, the Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI) and ReachOut are offering 10 tips to get through exam time:

1. Exam time can be an anxious, stressful & potentially overwhelming experience. Remember, test taking anxiety is normal and because anxiety is an emotion it will pass if you give it time. The more you fight it the longer it will last. As the phrase goes, “if you see a wave coming, grab a surfboard”

2. Don’t forget to mind yourself, especially in a couple of key ways:

  • Sleep: you should be aiming for 8-10 hours per night, make sure to try to wind down before going to sleep. You don’t go from 5th gear straight to 1st gear when driving a car, your mind works similarly, it needs time to slow down before sleep.
  • Make sure to eat regularly, keeping up the car analogy, a car won’t run without petrol in it. Eat regular meals and eat well, this will help your ability to think, concentrate and last the distance.
  • Exercise will help to relieve some of the build-up of stress and improve your mood, try to build it into your plan, walk the dog, go for a swim or cycle or anything that gets you active.
  • Make time for some fun, it’s not only allowed, its recommended. Schedule in specific things you enjoy doing at weekends or during breaks between exams.

3. Have the practical issues organised in advance, not at the last minute:

  • What’s my timetable for the exam period – have I a printed copy?
  • How am I travelling to the exams?
  • What do I need for each exam? – pens, rulers, calculators, exam number?

4. The run up to and the exams themselves can be a very tiring time, both physically and mentally. There’s a tendency during these times to increase our caffeine intake. Caffeine is a stimulant, the impact of which can mimic feelings of anxiety and interfere with our ability to sleep and concentrate. Where you can minimise your intake of caffeine during exam time.

5. Try to keep some perspective. Ask yourself the question, in 10 years’ time are you likely to remember what grades you got in the exams? – unlikely, I certainly can’t remember.

6. Try not to despair, this leads to an increase in anxiety which can impact on exam performance. It’s more helpful to focus on what you can do vs what you can’t do / didn’t do.

7. Remember, no matter how the exams go you always have options; to repeat, to get experience, to return to school as a mature student. As much as you might worry that they do, exams don’t define you as a person. We’re all more interesting and important than a grade on an exam.

8. Post-mortems – dwelling on what has already happened will only mess with your head, it doesn’t help because you can’t change the past. They rarely turn out as badly as we predict they will. With social media and instant messaging there’s the new temptation to take the post-mortem online, this is also unlikely to be helpful. We recommend trying to leave the last exam behind you, focus on what you can do, which is the next exam.

9. If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed make sure to talk to someone, friends, family, a teacher, you’re not going through this experience alone, support is available. Check out for more helpful information.

10. Remember, exams are time limited, there is an end in sight, there’s a long hopefully busy and enjoyable summer break ahead.

To download a PDF of the 10 Tips please click here
To read the Irish Times article from Friday 29th May please click here

Mark Smyth is a Senior Clinical Psychologist, member of the Psychological Society of Ireland and contributor to ReachOut.

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