Student diary: ‘My world is built of past exam papers and mind maps’

Sophie Hickey is trying to balance study and work with a bit of rest and relaxation

My world is built of past exam papers and mind maps. There’s only so many ways you can answer a question, but examiners can pose them differently from year to year, so the exams were all about being prepared.

I’ve tried to balance all the study and work with a bit of rest and relaxation. Just two days before the exam, Mom snapped her fingers and took me to the cinema to see Aladdin. I hadn’t seen the original cartoon and really enjoyed the live-action remake. It was a nice way to tune out for a while.

And speaking of tuning out (ba-doom-tish!), music has been my big escape from the stress of the exams.

Every day after the exams, I come home and play the piano for an hour – just playing, not practicing. Apparently, some scientists believe that music can help consolidate memories. I don’t know for sure if that’s true, but I do feel it has been really helpful for me.


I really love listening to music as well. I’ll listen to any genre. Music will be the last exam I sit and, because I’ve already done well in the practicals, I think I am guaranteed a H3 at the minimum now – it’s a big relief to know this.

That first morning, just last Wednesday, was probably the most nerve-racking car journey of my life, but then I took a breath and remembered that we are all in the same boat.

English paper one is a good one to start with, as you can't really do much revision for it. Much like the rest of the country, I was hoping that the poet Sylvia Plath would come up on English paper two. I opened the paper and looked around: everyone was smiling.

We're in a Gaelscoil, and everyone seemed really happy with the second Irish paper. We were asked about the play An Triail, which is set in Ireland's stricter Catholic past. It's about a young girl of just 16 who gets pregnant, is disowned, and kills herself. It's certainly a unique story and not one we can forget, and the language used is so descriptive. Paper one also included a question about how much Ireland has changed, so it's interesting to see the Irish papers look at the differences between traditional and contemporary Ireland.

Biology was this afternoon. Everyone thought it only went okay, and we expected more on plant reproduction. I'm looking forward to the agricultural science exam, and our teacher, John Butler, is just brilliant: you always come out of his classes having learned something new.

Summer is on the horizon and I’m looking forward to rest and hopefully a little part-time job. My last exam is music, which seems a fitting note to end on.

  • Sophie Hickey is a Leaving Cert student at Gaelcholaiste Luimnigh