Transitioning to Third-Level Examinations


Elephant in the room:

We all know it’s there. Hovering over us ominously, skulking around in the back of our minds. We step outside our doors in week one and breathe in the cool, refreshing air of a new semester. Liberating. As soon as we exhale, it’s Friday of Week Twelve. Time to address the elephant in the room, end of term examinations. The fun is over. Looking back, it’s been a blast. But now it’s time to save the semester. Here are a few tips to help you on your way.



The staple of every successful study week revolves around a suitable study plan. There is no all-encompassing, universal study programme. Each one must be tailor made to your preferences, whether that’s early mornings or late nights, the Glucksmann Library or your small corner desk in Oaklawns. Draw up a plan that suits you. Map out what needs to be covered in terms of course material. One way to do this is to attribute two lecture weeks per day and tick these off as you accomplish them daily. Baby step your way to the end goal. Once you have met your daily target, move onto the next subject. Reward yourself with designated break times detailed in your study plan. Stick to it as best you can and if you miss a section, don’t sweat it. Keep moving forward.


Study Environment:

Another important factor in your preparation is creating the optimal study environment. We each have our own little idiosyncrasies when it comes to studying. First and foremost, ensure you have some water to keep hydrated and that little bit of caffeine not too far away if your body calls for it. Ensure your desk is neatly organised and everything you plan on working on is in order. Some students like to use headphones when studying. Find a nice playlist on Spotify that doesn’t cause your mind to wonder perversely. If music isn’t your thing while studying, take a trip up to the top floor of the library for radio silence. Form a study group with your fellow course mates as Academic Advisor Matthew Murphy outlines, “A good study group could last you your full four years and be really valuable”.


Online Learning:

The transition from secondary to third level exams brings about a new approach. Online learning through U.L’s academic portal, ‘Sulis’ is one of these. All course material can be accessed here. There is a culmination of lecture notes, readings and important announcements made throughout the semester. Take some time to peruse the website and record what needs to be tackled. A popular approach is to condense the lecture slides into shorthand notes for oneself to read leading up to the exam. This helps to eliminate all the insignificant information. In addition to this, students have access to a limited number of previous exam papers via ‘SharePoint’. This is a sure-fire way to acquaint yourself with some questions that are guaranteed to resurface for this year’s exam.



There are two types of students when it comes to finals. Those who are prepared and those who are not. In essence, those of us who have already put in the work and those who are ‘crammers.’ Although not advisable, the vast majority of us fancy our chances at that final hurdle. Take it from me. Don’t be overwhelmed by the seemingly impossible. Caffeine is your best friend. You need to pack as much information into one sitting as possible. Every fifty minutes of study afford yourself a ten-minute reprieve. This prevents any prolonged absences due to oversaturation. Skim over your textbook and notes, only paying attention to the main points. Switch between chapters when you feel yourself beginning to plateau and nothing is getting through. Even better, swap to a different module.



Exam stress announces itself in a number of myriad ways. This ranges from physiological effects such as acne to psychological symptoms such as stress, anxiety and sleeplessness. It’s important to maintain a healthy sleeping pattern in order to keep your body and mind in sync. Academic Advisor Matthew Murphy suggests that you, “Eat well and try get a bit of exercise every once and a while to clear your head.” Take breaks along with your friends and talk about something unrelated to unload from the stress of exams. Listening to music you enjoy, or active meditation are also viable alternatives. Your mental health is of the upmost importance around exam time. Don’t let the pressure of exams get you down. Talk to a friend or relative to relieve any anxiety.


What to expect:

If this is your first time taking third level examinations, there are a few things you need to know. When going to your exam leave your mobile and all other personal belongings at home except for your student card and pens, calculator, ruler etc. Ensure you bring a bottle of water as dehydration affects your ability to concentrate no matter how prepared you are. Always wait until the end of the exam, even if you are feeling pretty confident about your completed paper. You never know when something may pop into your head. After the exam, move on emotionally and mentally as there is nothing you can do about the past. Look to your next exam or the holiday season!


To conclude, third level examinations are daunting at first glance but once you get the hang of it and implement the tips outlined in this article nothing can stop you. Best of luck to all!