What I wish I’d know before the Leaving Cert

Criodán shares his advice for getting through the Leaving Cert and deciding your path after that

Written by Criodan O'Murchu


As the Leaving Cert is around the corner, with family undertaking exams and following a visit to my old secondary school, I got to thinking about my Leaving Cert year and the attitude I wish I had. Having just finished my second-year exams, I decided to sit down and put pen to paper.

In 6th year, I had Ag Science in UCD at the top of my CAO. It suited all my needs – a course I would enjoy, plenty of job opportunities and in one of the best universities in Ireland, which had just gotten a huge investment into their science department. Unfortunately, I didn’t do the work required for the highly competitive course and I got my second choice – General Science in N.U.I Galway. I had only been to Galway a handful of times and had never even seen the university’s campus.

However, I’m honestly so much happier now than I think I would have ever been in Dublin. After receiving my CAO offer I found out some of my friends were also coming here and since then I have enjoyed everything that the course, university and city has had to offer me. I’ve had the chance to see where my true passion lies and have been able to engage in the community around me as a direct result of the university.

So, I may be quite happy now and it may have all worked out for me, but I have some advice or just some input I wish I had known beforehand.

This is your life

Firstly, you must put yourself first and choose a course/apprenticeship/etc. that you want to choose! The CAO is a fantastic opportunity to get into a course you would love to study, be it science, arts, law, you should choose a course that you yourself are interested in studying. Not a course your parents or teachers want you to do. This is your life!

Reap what you sow

Secondly, you reap what you sow. In order to achieve a certain level of points you must work for it. You should absolutely do some amount of study each night. If you don’t know something, ask your friends or teachers. Do not let homework, assignments and essays build up on you. Keep a level head and work consistently throughout the year. Over the summer (I know this may seem ludicrous and sinful) catch up on stuff you missed. Reread your novel and look over that chapter of biology you didn’t catch the first time. It’s amazing what a fresh head can give you.

Find the study techniques that work for you

Thirdly, following on from my last point, figure out how to study. This might be the most important thing I have learned. I only figured out exactly how I learn this year! If you need to write out your notes hundreds of times, do that. If you find recording your notes and listening back to them helps you remember them, do that. If talking out loud or listening to music helps you to study and perform, then do it! Everyone is entirely different in this regard. Time spent studying is also important. No one I know can spend 4 hours everyday studying, it’s just not feasible. If an hour a day is enough for you achieve your goals, then that’s enough! Find out how long you stay productive and remember to take a break for a cup of tea or a short walk every 40 minutes to an hour.

There are always options

Lastly, if everything does go pear shaped, it’s not the end of the world. You could get lucky like myself and end up doing something you love or alternatively, you can repeat the Leaving Cert. I know. Horror. Would rather do anything than repeat. I remember the exact same thoughts. However, I’ve come to realise that the repeat year is a fantastic opportunity and another chance to improve, understand a topic or subject more and increase your points! Don’t be afraid of it. Don’t aim to end up there, aim for the best result you can achieve but it’s an option if you need it.

I would like to wish you all the very best in your exams and I hope to see some of you in N.U.I Galway next year!

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