The new daily grinds: online and on your terms
Shopping, dating, banking, telly: it’s all online now, so why should exam study be any different? The Leaving Cert might be a primitive exercise in paper and ink but there are more and more ways of getting your Leaving Cert fix on your laptop, tablet or even on your phone.
Online grinds, poetry and maths support, exam papers, marking schemes, quizzes and notes: online exam content is mushrooming across the web. Much of it is free or comes at a fraction of the cost of a grind school or personal tutor, but is the screen experience as good as the real thing? In some cases, might it even be better? We asked five Leaving Cert students to test-drive a selection of websites and apps aimed at the frazzled exam student. Here’s what they thought.
Reviewed by Jennifer Kilduff, Loreto Abbey, Dalkey, Co Dublin
Online grinds? I had never even heard of the likes before last week. Before going online I feared the worst: an intimate webchat with a complete stranger. However, once I’d set up my profile on onlinegrinds.ieand checked the site out, my fears fell away as I realised it was something else entirely.
I decided on maths, and clicked into the lecture. It was streamed live and there was also an instant chat facility on the page for any questions. This is a particularly pertinent for keyboard warriors: I could ask all the questions I wanted with no risk of getting exasperated looks from my classmates.
Another advantage was that there is no need to travel. I could watch my grind on my sofa with a cup of tea. It’s quite good value as well, with a 70-minute grind costing only €10.
If I had to pick a flaw, it’s that the website isn’t too user-friendly, but it isn’t impossible to navigate. It’s worth noting that this site covers both higher and ordinary level for Leaving Cert.
Overall, I found the idea quite interesting. I would definitely recommend this site to anyone who is easily bored in large classes. The classes are quite small. They play music videos during the breaks as well, and there’s always a competition to win more tokens. Worth checking out.
Price 70-minute grind for €10
Reviewed by Isobel Gregg, Loreto Abbey, Dalkey, Co Dublin
Mocks.ieis a website and app aimed at helping Junior and Leaving Certificate students with their exam preparation. It offers a variety of free online materials which students can access once they’ve registered. Most of the materials are free but students have to pay for extra notes, correction services and mock orals. There is also a free smartphone app for study on the go.
What makes this website great is its accessibility. I have had the mocks.ieapp for several months now and it allows me easy access to past exam papers and marking schemes. On the app and website the past papers are organised by subject rather than by year.
When you select a subject on mocks.ie, each paper is accompanied by general info on the subject, key definitions and a breakdown of the exam layout. The exam breakdown I found particularly useful for subjects such as applied maths where each question relates to the same topic every year.
Apart from exam papers, mocks.iealso allows users access past aurals, multiple-choice questions (MCQs), revision notes, mock exam papers and mock orals. I sampled a few aurals but found that they were too simplified to prepare properly for the real aurals. They were useful to listen to the language and get used to the questions but the multiple-choice layout made it a lot easier than the real Leaving Cert aural. The MCQs are great for quick revision but I did find one or two mistakes so keep an eye out for that and report it.
You have to buy revision notes, mock papers and orals. I did not buy any notes as I prefer to write my own but the free sample notes seem to be well written. If you would like to see how you are doing in a subject, a mock is a good place to start, with mocks.iealso offering you the opportunity to send off the paper to get marked by a qualified teacher. You get a grade and feedback.
I was particularly interested in how mocks.iecould help me prepare. They offer the option of booking a mock oral. Each mock oral exam is conducted by an experienced teacher over the phone and follows the standard exam format. The teacher then gives you a grade, feedback and advice on areas to improve. Ignoring the quite steep price for a moment, I was curious to see if there was availability. I think the website must have some sort of glitch, as it claims to be fully booked until October 2015.
Finally, mocks.iealso has some very useful advice and study tips. Among other things, there is a timetable of important dates, and a guide to the CAO. There is so much information on the website that it can seem a little overwhelming at times, but it is very easy to navigate and if you’re looking for something specific, it will be easy to find. Price Packages from €60 to €250
Reviewed by Aoife Harrison, Loreto Abbey, Dalkey, Co Dublin
Project Maths at any level can be very difficult to understand; often the basics are hard to get our heads around. Themathstutor.iesets out to guide all levels of students through the basics.
The website consists of videos through which a certain section of a topic is taught in detail. After the video there is a quiz, which students can take to affirm their knowledge of the topic.
The website is well laid out and easy to navigate. Once you join up, you receive an email with a link to a video, telling you how to use the website. There are two levels: you can sign up and receive some videos for free, or you can upgrade to a full membership. It is clear which sections are free and which are available only after purchasing full membership.
The videos are very clear and thorough. One question is examined per video; the tutor goes through it in detail, explaining where each number is coming from. This is extremely helpful, as sometimes in class it can be difficult to understand exactly how the answer was reached. You can attempt a quiz after each video.
You can also get help by commenting below the video or by posting in one of the many forums on the website.
However, some of the videos were too basic and spent more time dealing with minor issues than was necessary. Overall the website is very useful; the range of topics is broad and more topics are to be added in the future. The videos are more engaging than a set of instructions and examples. It is extremely beneficial to hear the tutor’s voice explaining how he would set about solving a problem.
Price Membership to September€49
Reviewed by Shannon Grimes, Laurel Hill Secondary School, FCJ, Limerick
Poetry is one of the things on the Leaving Cert Irish course that people say they find hardest so it was really interesting when the PoetryBeo app stated that its mission is to make poetry easy.
It is a mobile and tablet app for Android and Windows. It contains poems, explanations, notes (both short and detailed), video performances of the poems and a game.
My first impression is of a really interesting app. It looks good and has nice graphics. There are a couple of menus to navigate before getting into the poetry. Every poem has a meaning which is explained line by line in Irish.
By pressing a button it can switch to English. This is helpful as you can go back and forth between Irish and English as you scroll down the meanings.
There are different types of notes that are broken up into sections. There is a simple menu that allows you to navigate through each section. It has the meanings of each text, a short summary and questions and answers that cover the themes and are divided by higher and ordinary level.
There is a glossary of useful words, notes about the poets and some “end notes” that provide a pretty interesting discussion. I was surprised how much I enjoyed them.
By hitting a button, the app connects to videos of actors reciting the poems. The videos are very clear and concise and they have subtitles that display the words of the poems.
The poems are recited by different actors in the dialect of the poets and they bring a feeling to the poems that you just don’t get on paper.
You can also just listen to audio files that are loaded with the app. You can scroll down though the text or the notes as you listen to it. The video and audio files will definitely help me prepare for the oral exam as well as the written poetry section.
The PoetryBeo game is very simple. It gives you a line from a poem and asks you to name the poem. If you get a wrong answer, that poem is then locked out. Initially I found it slightly difficult as a game but after watching the videos it made it much better . Watching the performances of the poems made them familiar.
PoetryBeo Leaving Cert app is easy and fun to use and makes the poems easier to understand.
The videos with subtitles are really entertaining and make the app suitable for students of all levels and abilities. The app is like having a grind for every poem. So pricewise, at €6.83 on Android, it is amazing value if you look at it as 10 grinds and a fun app. I would definitely recommend it.
Price app for Android,€6.83
Reviewed by Kate Hayes, Loreto Abbey, Dalkey, Co Dublin
Everyone but those with the most extreme cases of technophobia would be well able to use the clevernotes.iewebsite. Certainly students of typical Leaving Cert age will find little to confuse them. The webpage is well structured and subjects are well compartmentalised. People who value mind maps over lists won’t love the arrangement of the notes, but I found it brilliant. The creators did a great job of fitting giant swathes of information into neat but comprehensive categories.
The search bar allows for purposeful browsing, useful to a girl unprepared for her history test first thing tomorrow morning. The more organised student is free to scroll through the links to “latest lessons” that appear further down the page. Cheerful colours inevitably fail to make learning fun, but are valiant in the attempt.
Clevernotes gives you access to as much information as you could ever want, but not all material is strictly useful. With the rather ambitious aim of appealing to any number of students and any number of subject choices, I’d imagine it’s quite hard to provide the same tailored help that would be available in traditional grinds. Though in general the notes are of a high quality, the foremost advantage is the price; it’s much cheaper than grinds and covers all your subjects.
I found it helpful for my stronger subjects such as Spanish, but unable to impact upon my lagging Irish grades (in fairness, a Herculean task).
The website allows for lessons through diverse mediums, the availability of auditory notes in foreign language subjects is particularly handy.
Price €12.50 per month; €50 to June