Study guides - who's best?
With so much on offer, it can be hard to know where to look for study help. We asked seven students for their advice
STATE EXAMS are big business and there are scores of companies are vying for a piece of the action. The number of books, grinds courses and websites offering to help students is mind-boggling. While revision books and exam papers have been around forever, there has been an explosion of online resources in recent years. While quality varies hugely, one thing is certain, students are using the better online resources in their thousands.
AllHonours.ie, for example, is a forum-based Q&A site which has 22,000 users. More than 19,000 users have registered for Eircom StudyHub, while more than 20,000 students downloaded the Mocks.ie apps from iTunes in the run-up to the 2011 exams. Skoool.ie claims 250,000 student and teacher users. The most exciting development in all of this is the content being created by teachers and individuals with an interest in education. Sites such as leavingcerthistory.net, leavingcertenglish.net and leavingcertfrench.com are leading the way, providing excellent resources and notes.
While students are strapped for time, finding the right resources can be difficult, however. When a site charges a fee for a service, for example, how do you figure out whether it’s worth it? The cost of a private grind is a good benchmark, as many sites that charge a fee for content or services are normally aiming to provide a cheaper alternative to grinds. Whether the online service actually provides a decent alternative will probably come down to individual learning styles. So what resources are worth spending some time on? We asked some students to take a look at some of the better known study aids.
This website offers exam tips, notes, aural tests and revision tools, as well as real-life exam correction, feedback and mock oral exams. Prices range from €1.99 to €24.99.
ORLAITH FARRELL, Loreto Secondary School, Wexford
THE VERDICT: Everything on Mocks.ie is set out clearly, with no tricky add-ons. It’s free to register and there’s some free content. For things that cost money, like study notes, mock oral exams and exam corrections, you can either choose to pay as you go, or you can purchase a package that offers bulk corrections and access to content starting at €70.
I did a mini-aural, which was free of charge. The site also offers students a chance to sit a mock exam, and have it sent away for correction by an examiner. It costs from €13.95 to do that. The oral exam looks expensive at €24.95 but it was definitely worth it. On purchasing your oral you’re given a phone number and an access code and you call at your chosen time. It was all done in French.
The teacher gave me a real idea of what an oral examiner would be looking for and when we finished up she gave me a full report about what I need to focus on. She was incredibly nice and it was really useful. Overall, I think Mocks.ie gives us a clear view of what exactly the Leaving Cert entails.
This is the official website of the State Examinations Commission. Free of charge.
JAMES LAMBERT, O’Fiaich College, Dundalk
THE VERDICT:The examinations.ie website is outdated, boring and tedious to navigate, it focuses wholly on the theoretical element of state exams and holds little empathy or advice for the condition of a Leaving Cert. However, it does present concrete statistics and marking schemes that should be used in conjunction with any given study plan. For me, it is my essential online resource. Exam papers are all accessible and downloadable directly from the website for free (however accepting the terms and conditions 20 times in a browsing session does become quite mind-numbing). A word of advice – print with caution! The business studies 2011 marking scheme is 48 pages long. To be more eco-friendly, marking schemes can be downloaded as PDFs and transferred from your computer to your smart-phone or tablet.
Another great resource available is the statistics section. It shows you the likelihood of getting that A1 in higher level art for example, 96 out of 8,215 (1.2 per cent) obtained it in 2011, handy to know if you’re aiming for seven A1s.
The website is essentially an archive and in an archive, usability and accessibility aren’t always the priority. The website needs to cater for the 2011 student. An integrated student account particular to subject choice would be a great addition. However, this is ultimately the best, most trustworthy online resource for Leaving Cert students.
Free with Eircom broadband packages, this site offers video tutorials and exam answers as well as study notes and aural versions of the lessons.
CLARE REIDY, Laurel Hill Coláiste, Limerick
THE VERDICT:Eircom StudyHub is very easy to use. Each subject comes as a pack that contains notes, videos, model answers and audio lessons. What I found particularly helpful was how you are shown the marks given to the question, the appropriate time to spend doing it and the method of answering.
In some ways, it’s much more helpful than school. During online lectures, the teacher never has to correct a texter or an inattentive doodler. You are free to work at a suitable pace for you.
I clicked into Higher-Level English and then into the video presentation on the unseen poem. The woman taking me down through the notes was matter-of-fact and reassuring.
I put StudyHub to the ultimate test: could it help me understand French? A presentation on the subjunctive helped but the fact that there was no definite grammar section, jumbled me up again. In the Active Maths pack, there is emphasis on knowing what formulae are in the maths tables and what formulae are not. That’s what all Active Mathsers need: hand-feeding. Generally speaking, Eircom StudyHub is useful for all of us who are under pressure to perform to our highest standards.
Edco exam papers and e-xamit.ie
The Educational Company has come up with a companion website to its exam papers. Students enter a promotional code online to access sample answers. The papers range in price from €3.85 to €7.16 on schoolbooks.ie.
CORMAC O MEADHRA School - Presentation College, Bray
THE VERDICT:Whether it’s English, Biology, French, Maths or Irish, there is one common message: studying past papers is key. I find that the trouble with past papers is it’s hard to know how good your answer is. Each question on Edco’s papers from the last four or five years has a code which, when typed into e-xamit.ie, brings up a sample answer, along with advice on preparation and the actual answering of the question. These are full answers, except in the case of English where essays are shown in the form of the main points. It’s a good idea but I have found that the answers can occasionally lack the detail that the Leaving Cert requires – and the need for detail is one thing that teachers have drilled into me. All the same, the e-xamit.ie answers are very useful as a comparison to my own work.
Edco papers are more expensive than others on the market. Are they worth the extra money? While I would be wary of some of the Edco sample answers, I have found that these papers overall do aid effective study and allow access into sections that previously proved hard.
A well-known free exam resource providing notes, exam advice, podcasts and subject FAQs for students in all years.
DARRAGH FITZPATRICK, De La Salle College, Waterford
THE VERDICT:I tend to struggle with geometry and similar concepts but this website’s user-friendly interactive lesson, however, helped me to grasp axial symmetry almost immediately. Skoool.ie offers interactive lessons in many different subjects. In my opinion, the most impressive aspect of Skoool.ie is its comprehensive guide to the various texts and poems on the English course at junior and senior level. The theme, imagery and use of language of several well-known poems are all clearly explained. I find this analysis incredibly useful when trying to dissect poems and particularly when practising exam questions. Skoool.ie’s Exam Centre provides numerous revision and study tips that help with skills like time management, setting goals, and organisation. Overall Skoool.ie is an excellent and free exam resource that I think many students will find as beneficial as I do.
Less Stress More Success
Well-known revision books. New editions are slimmer and content has been refined. They cost €9.99 on schoolbooks.ie. A website, moresuccess.ie has been launched offering digital book subscriptions starting at €1.99 for one month.
CONOR GERAGHTY and SHANE HUNT, Presentation College Bray
THE VERDICT:Conor: “The Scrúdú Cainte section in the Gaeilge book was very comprehensive; including an analysis of the exam layout, sample conversations, phrases and vocabulary, and a list of questions likely in the exam. The book includes a CD. Listening to my prescribed poetry worked well. Not as easy to use was the website, www.moresuccess.ie. At one point in the book I was directed there to view my Sraitheanna Pictiúr. After a frustrating search, I surmised that this online content was either fictional or well hidden. Overall, however, I was impressed.”
Shane: “I looked at biology. For me this is the best book in the range. I have trouble retaining the quantity of information, definitions, and experiments that are necessary for the biology exam. But the book uses colour, diagrams and text, which help you remember all the necessary information.
One of the best features of the range is the addition of these are green boxes at the top of some of the pages in the books. These boxes explain what you are about to read, so you’re not completely in the dark when you move from one topic to the next.”
Less Stress More Success is basically a grind class, in a book. But remember, if you refuse to study from your text book, or your teacher’s notes, chances are you won’t be motivated to use Less Stress More Success.
During online lectures, the teacher never has to correct a texter or an inattentive doodler. You are free to work at a suitable pace for you”