How to get a better Leaving Cert
Rory Crean knew he’d need a top Leaving Cert to get into medicine, so he found a mentor who could help him. His first book, ‘How to Exceed Your Expectations in the Leaving Cert’, lets everyone in on the secret
W HEN RORY CREAN, a UCD medical student, was about to start his Leaving Cert year, in 2011, a college friend sat him down and helped him visualise the eight months between him and the exams, and how he was going to use them.
“She was in first-year medicine and had just been through the Leaving,” says Crean. “She didn’t tell me exactly what I needed to do to get straight As. What she did was prompt me to examine my approach to the Leaving, to explore what methods work for me, to make a plan and to stick to it.”
Thanks to that conversation, Crean put in a very productive sixth year and got straight As for his trouble. He spent much of last year writing exam tips for readers of The Irish Times. Crean has now written an ebook, How to Exceed Your Expectations in the Leaving Cert, which he hopes will act as a virtual mentor for the many students embarking on the Leaving Cert this year and in years to come.
“Not everyone will have the benefit of the mentor that I had, but I have tried to apply the same principles in this book. The idea is to share the strategies that worked for me, as well as offering alternatives for different learners. The fundamental objective is to help exam students visualise the year ahead and make a plan they can stick to in order to reach and exceed their expectations.”
“You may know exactly where you’ll be in 10 years, or you may not know where you’ll be in nine months, but you are working towards something,” says Crean. “Set yourself a target, like attaining X hundred points, getting into course Y or just going to college Z next year.”
“To flog the dead horse that is the marathon analogy, no one runs 26 miles without drive and motivation. The same applies to you. If there’s one thing this book should show you, it’s that the Leaving Cert is fair. If you play by the rules, get your prep work done and meet the clear deadlines long the way, you’ll give yourself every opportunity to outperform yourself come exam time.”
Here are some excerpts from Crean’s account of cracking the Leaving Cert.
Pick the right subjects
Bring your talents and experience into the classroom. Most of you will have a hobby or talent that you’ve been honing over the years. If you’re clever, you’ll find a way to bring those skills into the Leaving Cert and get marks for something that may require very little work. If you’re the kind of person who can paint or draw without ever having to correct mistakes, then art is an obvious choice. If you play any instrument or sing, or even have an interest in composition, then, again, music is the obvious choice. These are no-brainers; the artist should take art, and the musician, music. So where you can you apply other talents?
Bookworms may feel like they’re at a disadvantage, as English is a core subject anyway, but if you can cover a lot of text in a short period of time, then subjects like classics, geography or history should be at the top of your list. Few subjects give you the same room to flex your vocabulary muscles and, provided you match those muscles with accurate and relevant information, you could position yourself to do very well in essay-heavy subjects. Adding any kind of flair to your history or geography essay can make it stand out in a pile of bog-standard answers.