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Brendan Kennelly for Leaving Cert English: Begin

"Begin" by Brendan KennellyYou may also like: 2019 Guide to Leaving Cert English. Full notes on Brendan Kennelly will be made available to everyone who has the 2019 guide, free of charge, as soon as they are ready.

Summary: a philosophical reflection on starting something new again and again communicated through the description of a morning walk across the Grand Canal in Dublin.

Style features:
anaphora (1) (highlighted in bold) adds a sense of determination as does the repetition of the word “begin” throughout the poemenjambment highlights the never ending need to begin again imperative tone, “begin again” is an encouraging command to never give up alliteration e.g. “dying in dark / determination” enhances the imageryreference to familiar places, “Pembroke Road” near the Aviva Stadium in Dublin 4, make the poem more accessibleimagery appeals to multiple senses: “summoning birds”, “sight of the light”, “roar of morning traffic”, “crying birds in the sudden rain”, “branches…

Leaving Cert study plans and efficient study

We get a lot of messages like these:


I'm going into 6th Year this year! I have been following all of your posts and I find them very helpful!

I want to get a few things sorted now before I get back to school. I personally would love to have a study plan drawn up so that I can stick to it come September on although, I'm struggling with this as I don't know how it's meant to look or how long I'm meant to spend doing homework and study each night. What would you recommend? I'm slow at learning things and when I do learn a topic, I've it forgotten within the following month or week!!!

I really want to work hard this year, but often find I go completely off point when I'm studying.

Any tips? I would really appreciate it. 

Thank you :)"

All of this methodology stuff is described in detail here, but let's go through the basics. It's a good idea to have a study plan. I'm sure you've heard plenty yada-yada as to why, so let's just get into the meaty part.

To create a study plan, you will...

Step I. Find out how you will be assessed

Make a list of all the assessments you will have to do and the percentage of marks available for each. This will give you an idea of what's important. 

For example, there is one 3 hour paper for Biology. For Higher Level German, there is a 2.5 hour written paper worth 55%, an oral worth 25% and a 40 minute aural is worth 20%. The orals take place before the main Leaving Cert exams.

Note any relevant deadlines (HPAT, projects, etc). Plan around events throughout the year (sporting events, family visiting, etc)

How to make a study plan for Leaving Cert
It may seem unnecessary to go into the details of the syllabus or the structure of the paper. Indeed, it's messy, but it will add phenomenal clarity for later. It's only when you understand what's required of you that you can actually do well.

Step II. Split your entire workload into sections

Every subject is different, but there are probably 12-20 sections to each subject. Splitting the subject into such sections is quite intuitive and is better done by the individual student taking into account his/her own strengths and weaknesses.

Study plan for Leaving Cert sixth year

I suggest you use the plan below for Higher Level English. Download it, print it off and mark off the relevant sections once you're done! It makes it very obvious what you are and aren't covering.

Step III. Map out when you are going to do each section

Let's say you do 7 subjects. Each subject contains 15 sections, so 7 x 15 = 105. You will want to revise everything at least once during sixth year. 

There are about 270 calendar days in sixth year. So you will be revising something every (270/105) = 2.5 days. If you want to look over it twice, that means you will be revising a section every 1.25 days.

So that's what it's meant to look like, week by week:

Leaving Cert how to make a study plan

or this:

Leaving Cert Study Plan table

Obviously, some sections will take less time and some will take more. If you are going for above 500 points, I would recommend that you revise each section at least twice. This more or less means you are doing a section on each subject in any given week. That's 2-4 hours of study a night for most people going for over 500 points.

You can print a blank one and fill it out yourself:

And for the times that you're not in school (midterm, Christmas, Easter, etc):

Homework vs study

In my personal experience, I've never spent more than 2 hours on homework. On most nights, it was about an hour. However, teachers are different. Some give virtually no homework, others lash it on. Personally, I've always been of the opinion that since it's me opening that envelope with results on a Wednesday in August, I will decide how much time I spend on homework vs my own study, whether they give out to me or not. (Final exams have some advantages over continuous assessment!)

To revise a section meaningfully you need two to four hours, depending on how rusty you are. It's a lot of work, but it's better than repeating the Leaving Cert as a result of not working hard enough.

So let's say you are revising a poet you've done in fifth year and haven't looked at since. You will realistically need three hours or so. If you are revising a section every 2.5 days, that means that you will have to spend an hour each night studying on top of your homework.

People who aim for very high points tend to revise everything at least twice throughout the year. So that brings the amount of work per night to, let's say, to 2.5 to three hours of study.

Two to three hours of study plus an hour of homework: that sounds about right. There are some badass geniuses who get away with much less and some diligent pencil-sharpening folder-organising obsessives who will do much more. Some people who didn't do a lot in fifth year will really knuckle down and do more, productively, but these people are quite rare.

How to not forget what you learnt, go off point and waste time doing busy work?

Here is a simple recipe: 

1. Don't spend too much time making your own notes. 

A lot of people feel that they should make neat notes on everything. A little bit of note taking is ok, but in general rewriting things from the book is of virtually no use. There are countless studies that show that it's one of the least efficient study methods [1]. Most, as in 99.9% people don't have the dedication to both make the notes and learn them. So most people will dedicate their energy to the wrong thing (spoiler: the right thing would be to do lots of papers). People keep asking about focus: how do I stay focused for the entire year to achieve my aim? This is how: don't waste valuable energy on making notes. Use your energy on past papers instead.

We all have a friend who spends hours and hours perfecting their notes. Well, if you care about your friend, gently encourage them to do some papers. They are likely to find that they aren't quite as confident answering questions as they are going over their notes. And, of course, answering questions is what you will be asked to do in the real exam.

There will of course be fanatics hells bent on doing a high points course who will both make and learn their notes - and nothing will stop them... However, virtually all of these people regret having spent so much time on study when they could have used great study materials they didn't have to make themselves and also had a life in sixth year - don't ask me how I know ;) Use the best notes you can find while you...

2. Do lots of papers. 

Doing papers (aided by notes) prepares you for the exam unlike anything else. Beware of the nebulous stuff in well-meaning textbooks. For example, this is a question from an LC book, on Larkin:

Larkin stated that the ‘impulse to preserve lies at the bottom of all art’. What is Larkin trying to preserve in the poem ‘Church going’? In your opinion, does he succeed or fail? Support your answer with reference to the text.

This question 
- does not follow the format of the Leaving Cert: why would you get used to writing about one poem?
- nothing this specific will come up on the known Leaving Cert
- it's very deep and frankly, the points that will be relevant to this answer won't help a huge amount in the real deal. It's just a whole different dynamic.

It's not a complete waste of time, of course, to do the above question, but the return on your investment is pretty poor compared to trying to do a proper Leaving Cert question. Even just reading this will help 100 times more. Why? It will teach you what good looks like, i.e. what to aim for: the structure, the tone, the amount of quotations, amount of personal response, etc.

Obviously, with subjects such as Maths doing questions from the book is a good idea. All the same, learning by doing real-life questions will just yield better results. If you are training for a rugby match, you're not going to spend all your time stretching, are you? Doing anything other than papers is pretty much that, stretching.

While you are doing your papers, use notes. So don't revise a chapter by saying, yep, page 57-72, here I come! No. Get the papers. Get a question relevant to your chapter. Start answering it, even if you haven't a clue. And when you haven't a clue/ got stuck, go to the notes and see what they say. You may end up having to read the whole chapter of notes if you are rusty, but still it's worth doing it this way. Why? Going to the notes while you have a specific question in your head, actively seeking out information, is infinitely more efficient than rereading the same sentence because you're bored out of your tree through passive revision. 

Passive reading vs active seeking - which do you think works better?

Study plan Leaving Cert
Study for exams by answering past papers. Go to the notes to look for specific things and occasionally have a look at the marking schemes. 
Your answer will look super messy because you're going in "unprepared", but you will learn more in a unit of time than you could learn doing it any other way. More than you will learn by sitting in a class listening to the brightest teacher/examiner/person who sets the paper. More than you will learn by reading around the subject. More than you will learn by going to a summer camp for this subject. Literally, there is nothing that's better. Well, there is, actually: doing it with a friend, who is around the same level in terms of knowledge and drive as you are. Not all the time, sometimes, because you can ask each other questions and figure stuff out together. And if you are a real ninja, you may even check the marking scheme afterwards to see how you did. (By looking just once or twice you will get a good idea of what they want you to say).

Why notes and not a book?

Books do the job for some people. For most though, the book beats around the bush a bit too much and just steals valuable concentration. The argument for making fuzzier, bulkier books is that you need an education, not just learning for a particular exam. I agree with this to an extent, but the reality is that people aren't motivated to learn in each of seven subjects into which they have been herded. Formal education isn't the same as education - and it never will be. No amount of reform will fix that completely. 

The lack of freedom to choose exactly what you want to learn means lack of interest which in turn means you want to get to the point. Plus, people going for high points need to know what works in practice because they can't take the risk. So in reality, you are studying for exams. If you are looking to maximise the return of your effort, you need notes from someone who has fought the same battle as you are going into and won.

What about revision books?

If you want just the skeleton of what you need to know, a revision book will suffice. However, revision books aren't detailed enough for people aiming for high points. So if you want a grade above a H3, you will probably need notes.

Similarly, if your teacher's approach isn't working for you, you will need something more detailed than a revision book and something more practical than a textbook. 

A revision book doesn't really explain stuff, it just restates in a concise way. Much as publishers try to make student-centred exam-focused resources, the only truly student-centred exam-focused stuff is that made by former students who aced the exam.

buy leaving cert notes

Best of luck! 

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