Dealing with Assessments

Assessment 1 has come and gone, and I’m sure you were all as nervous for them as I was. There’s something about the first Assessment of the year that’s so intimidating – especially if you have a new teacher, or maybe you have just started your GCSE’s or A Levels. Your first Assessment of the year, and the result you receive will usually give teachers an outline of where you are in your understanding of the subject. This is the result they will base your target grades on.

Here are my top ten tips for surviving and learning from your assessments.

Tip 1 – Distractions

Now I know everyone tells you this tip. Teachers advised it, my parents advised it, the internet even advised it, (which is ironic.) The advice was simple, turn off your phone to avoid distractions. Now I know it’s not always as simple as that. When I wanted to quickly look something up on google while I was revising I’d have to wait for my phone to switch back on and then I’d inevitably get distracted by it. So what did I do?

First, I worked out what apps were the biggest distractions – Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest. It was simple after that, I deleted the apps from my phone. I knew my account wouldn’t be harmed, and I was too lazy to go through the effort of downloading the apps back on my phone and logging in. This way I could use google and my phones calculator without getting temporarily distracted.Revising

Tip 2 – Rewards

It’s so frustrating to study when you have absolutely no motivation to do it. Recently I was scrolling through the internet, distracting myself from the studying at hand. I just couldn’t seem to concentrate on the studying I had to do. Then, as if by magic, a picture appeared on my screen. It was simple really, layering chocolate bars through the notes you had to revise. A reward system that actually meant something to me.

Now that is the way to revise!
Now that is the way to revise!

Trying to reward myself with five minutes on my phone had never worked, because five minutes would turn into ten, and then an hour, followed by two. This system was perfect, and I haven’t looked back.

Tip 3 – Where are you revising?

People always say that where you revise impacts your ability to revise properly. I can tell you from first-hand experience that this is true. Everyone always makes finding a quiet spot in your house sound so simple and easy. Not everyone has that opportunity.

I always find it hard to revise, and continue to lose concentration as I have a large family and every room in my house is always occupied. Please, if you have the opportunity to study in a quiet spot, take it. It makes such a huge different with your ability to be productive. Distracting yourself by talking to your siblings, parents or friends is just as bad as sitting on your phone, procrastinating.

Tip 4 – Positivity

Try to be positive when it comes to revision. It’s hard to revise with a negative mindset. How can someone be productive and even feel at all motivated, when all they can concentrate on is the pile of revision they have to do?

Try to break it down. Think positively and set small goals. What’s the point of stressing yourself out?

The more time you spend staring into space and worrying about how to combat the task at hand, the longer your overall revision will take. Start working! No one’s going to do the revision for you. I know that the worst feeling is procrastinating over and over until eventually you’ve so much to do it’s hard to even attempt it at all. I know what it feels like, it sucks. But thinking positively about your situation will lift your spirits.

Tip 5 – Past Papers

I always used to struggle with ICT – I was an average D Grade student in Theory. But as soon as my teacher recommended past papers to me, I tried them out. Past papers make such a difference, because it gives you the opportunity to get experience answering the sort of questions that will be on your exam. It also lets you see your mistakes, and shows you what you should be answering for questions you struggle with.

After I started using past papers, I received my GCSE results to find I achieved a B Grade in ICT Theory, an A overall.

The only thing is that you need to make sure you use them correctly- don’t just copy out mark schemes, you really are only fooling yourself.

Tip 6 – Enough Sleep?

Be honest with yourself, do you get enough sleep? I didn’t. I would stay up to one or wo in the morning, doing homework and revision I could have easily done when I got home from school. I’m glad to say I’ve changed my habits.

Getting enough sleep actually makes it easier to get up in the morning. I never knew how much easier it is to get out of bed if you keep to a strict sleeping. It impacts your school classes and focus levels, especially for morning classes. Sometimes it’s better to sleep on the revision you’ve done, rather than send an extra hour on it. It’s not going to benefit you.

Tip 7 – Study Timetable

I’m guilty of not using this tip until last year. I’ve never been the most organised person in the world when it came to laying out a plan on what to revise for. Once I started making one, I didn’t feel the pressure of having to figure out what revision have I done? What do I have to do? Which tests are coming up?

You don’t need anything extravagant. What I stuck to is a simple calendar-type timetable. I wrote out the subjects I should study each day for the month before my exams. It was basic. It made my life so much easier. 

Tip 8 – Start Revision Early

Let’s face it, revision isn’t fun. No one enjoys it, but if you start early you’ll spread it out and it won’t seem so intimidating. I know it doesn’t sound fun to start revising months before, but I can promise that you won’t regret it. Even taking the time once a week to make some revision notes on different subjects all throughout the year, can extremely lesson the amount of revision you have to conquer once your tests arrive. Making notes about a topic that’s fresh in your mind is a lot easier too!

Tip 9 – Morning before the exam

This tip is less of a revision tip, and more of a pre-test anxiety tip. Usually when you come to school ready for the exam within the next hour, you’ll huddle up with a bunch of nervous other students. All of you will state how little revision you’ve done and how you’re so worried because, ‘Becca told me they’ve raised the grade boundaries for this year’s test,’ and ‘I heard this test is supposed to be the hardest yet, because last year everyone got A’s.’

Let me make a recommendation. Did you know that the best time to absorb information is early in the morning? For me, I take that thirty-minute gap I have before my exam to read over all my notes, and there’s always something that pops up that I forgot all about. Every single time I go into an exam, there is always a question that I wouldn’t have been able to answer if I had not quickly skimmed my revision notes before the test began. 

Tip 10 – What sort of learner are you?

Finally, something you should consider before you even begin revision is, what sort of learner are you? Visual, verbal or kinaesthetic? Most of the time people aren’t even aware of these terms. Revising properly suited to your learning style can greatly impact how well you absorb the information.

For example, I know I am a visual learner. I find it the easiest to absorb information by making notes on information and reading over it. Colourful, aesthetically pleasing revision notes are extremely compatible with my learning style. On the contrary I know someone who finds revision the easiest by recording themselves speaking the information out loud, this is auditory learning. They record them speaking the revision notes they need to learn on their phone and listen to it, as it absorbs better into their head. This is because it’s their learning style.

To get a better understanding of the three different learning styles I recommend the link below.

Good luck, have fun revising and learn from your mistakes.


Setting aside differences and picking up the paddles! TBUC 2017

Due to generous funding, a group of Stlouis and Kilkeel high students had the wonderful opportunity to spend four days together on a residential.

The event took place in the Shared Village, Enniskillen, starting Tuesday the 10th of October. The aim of the trip was to increase good relations between the students as there were originally none because of the instilled historical divide caused by religion. While we live in a modern era and young people usually ignore this divide, unfortunately, there are still prejudices within our community and projects like this aim to bring both sides of the community together to foster mutual understanding.

Upon arrival we were separated into groups. This allowed us to mix with each other and make friends. From this point we took part in a range of team building activities that were not only fun but taught us a lot about the importance of communication and teamwork.

Working together is harder than it looks!
Working together is harder than it looks!


Afterwards, we were treated to a delicious dinner provided by the centre, which was much appreciated by the group after those tiring activities!

Dinner Time!
Dinner Time!


Thanks to the teachers and staff who came with us from the schools we had a great night packed with quizzes, prizes and even a dance battle. If that wasn’t enough we ended the night with an activity organised by the shared centre staff. This bizarre activity included each student being blindfolded and walking through the forest in a line joined by hands on shoulders.

Quiz Time
Quiz Time


Over the next three days we took part in a range of activities, from water sports to rock-climbing. Personally Kayaking was my favourite, as I have never done it before.

For me, the trip was about new experiences, I got over my fear of heights and climbed to the top of the wall, I mountain biked when I haven’t been on a bike in years and it was my first time ever doing water sports and I enjoyed every second of it. My friends and I commented on how helpful and patient the staff were, they understood that some people may have been anxious and talked us through each activity and made us perfectly aware of the safety precautions. No one was forced into doing something they did not feel uncomfortable doing.

The site was great, there was plenty of space for us and for our activities. I have already commented on the food, but it was great, although I would have preferred more vegan options, what they supplied me with was delicious.

Here are quotes from three pupils who attended the residential:

“It was a worthwhile experience, I enjoyed learning about different cultures especially in our own town.”
Chloe Murney, St Louis Grammar School.

“It was good meeting new people from a different community and getting to know them”
Ben Berry, Kilkeel High School.

“I liked interacting and working with students my own age that I wouldn’t normally hang out with.”
Jodie Knox, St louis Grammar School

What to do next?
What to do next?



OCD Awareness Week

Here at St Louis we’re always keen to raise awareness of mental health – just a few days ago the Year 10 boys attended a workshop for World Mental Health Day, and if you scroll back through the blog you’ll find more great articles by our blogging team on mental health. Today we’re looking at raising awareness about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

More and more people are starting to realise the impact our mental health can have on our lives, but it’s not all depression and anxiety. This week is OCD Awareness Week, a global campaign to raise awareness and understanding of OCD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It was launched in 2009 by the International OCD Foundation and aims to educate people in the hopes of removing the stigma that can be caused by misunderstanding.

It’s estimated that between 1-2% of people have OCD, yet many people still hold the belief that OCD is just a ‘quirky’ personality trait: the co-worker who likes to keep their workspace tidy and hates the thought of mess, or the pupil who’s ‘a bit OCD’ because they keep their notes in a neatly organised folder. As Christmas approaches we all see the Facebook posts of hundreds of people all professing to have OCD: Obsessive Christmas Disorder, and we’re all familiar with the countless meme pages that claim will drive your OCD mad, all because they post pictures of uneven tiling or crooked paintings. Of course, none of these truly depict OCD, but year after year this false image prevails.

So what is it really?

OCD is an anxiety disorder that consists of obsessions – repetitive unwanted and unpleasant thoughts, images or urges that cause feelings of anxiety, disgust or unease – and compulsions – a repetitive behaviour or mental act carried out to try and relieve these feelings. Fears of uncleanliness and contamination are often seen as the hallmark of OCD, but while these are common obsessions, they are far from the only symptoms. Some other common compulsions include checking things, such as light switches or locks; avoiding certain things such as cracks on the pavement to abate anxieties similar to superstitions; and hoarding things just in case they might be useful later.

Living with OCD can be a constant battle, but we can all do our part to help. If you know someone with OCD, one of the best ways to help is just to be understanding – often one of the biggest issues is negative attitudes towards a condition they can’t control. It’s time to do our bit to combat the stigma; be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

For more information on OCD, you can check out the NHS website, the charity OCD Action or the charity Mind.


Banning Books! Still?

Good news for book lovers; bad news for censorship.

Last Sunday (24th September) marked the beginning of Banned Books Week, an annual campaign promoted by the American Library Association and Amnesty International to celebrate intellectual freedom and raise awareness of individuals who are “persecuted because of the writings that they produce, circulate or read.”

Hundreds of books are “challenged” – an attempt to remove them from libraries or the curriculum –every year over content. Four of the most commonly challenged books in the United States are on the new GCSE English Literature syllabus, while eight are on this year’s A Level syllabus. Everyone who’s done their GCSEs has read “Of Mice and Men”, and yet none of it has done us any damage. Our eyes didn’t fall out of our head, our minds have not been corrupted by the senseless horrors of rural 1930s America and we’ve moved on with our lives.

So why are so many books challenged every year?
The most frequently cited reasons are that the material is “sexually explicit”, contains “offensive language” or is “unsuited to any age group”. Perhaps this is understandable. After all, there are some things that are undeniably unsuited for certain audiences – no one wants to hear that The Exorcist has just been added to the Year 8 syllabus. Many critics of Banned Books Week even argue that despite its name, most of the books highlighted are merely challenged, not banned.

However, there is a more nefarious side to these challenges. Half of the Top Ten Challenged Books of 2016 were challenged for reasons that included “LGBT content”, which provokes a controversial discussion over human rights and what constitutes ‘inappropriate’, an issue that Amnesty International is eager to highlight. Each year on its website, it documents “focus cases”, which show that while these challenges may not seem a big deal to us, such attitudes have real implications around the world where individuals are reportedly killed, incarcerated, or otherwise harassed by national authorities for the material they produce.
We also have to consider the issue of censorship – who gets to decide what is acceptable to read and why? Where do we draw the line? Do these challenges violate our freedom of speech, and where will it end? I’ll leave that for you to decide, but if there’s one thing we should take away from Banned Books Week, it’s to appreciate the freedoms we have and fight for those without.