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Taking the stress from exams



It’s the exam that still brings adults out in a cold sweat, years after they sat their final subject – and in less than two weeks, it is the turn of another generation of second-level graduates to sit their Leaving Cert.

It all starts on Wednesday week, June 8 – but already expectations and pressure are at fever pitch. So how do you manage and deal with all of that?

Loughrea-based Marie Barrett is one of the most respective careers guidance advisors in the country – and she knows how to deal with this pressure in a practical way.

Her first tip to students is to ‘make sure to use this last bit of time well – stay in school until it finishes’.

“Some students stay at home thinking they can study better there – but often they get distracted or nerves and anxiety take over. You are better off going to school and being amongst peers who are going through the same experiences,” she says.

At school, there is also the added benefit of having a teacher readily available to answer questions or queries which may help restore confidence and steady nerves.

Next, she recommends students ‘keep the body clock in time of school’ – that means going to bed at an appropriate hour and not staying awake trying to cram work in.

“It’s preferable not to burn the midnight oil; that can work against them and lead to blocking of information due to fatigue,” she explains.

Breaking the day into manageable blocks is a positive and productive step. Marie recommends two-hour blocks of study followed by a half-hour break and a good one and a half hour break during the day.

English is first up for Leaving Cert students on Wednesday week – and Marie Barrett says this ought to be treated “as a court of law”.

“In other words, everything you say, every opinion you give must be backed up with evidence. Find a relevant quote or passage to support your theory,” she expands.

For students taking ordinary level maths she advises, that – if it’s possible – they should still get two or three grinds, because it can still make a difference, particularly in terms of boosting university requirements for that subject.

When it comes to higher level Maths, she simply says: “Grinds have become synonymous with the honours maths” – and the majority of honours students are already receiving extra help.

Another very practical piece of advice is to ‘really look at the subject you’ll be studying’

“It may seem obvious, but many have faltered, even dropping out because they didn’t realise they would have to study X, Y, or Z as part of the course.

“Many students choose to do a business course, for example, without realising they will have to take accountancy as part of that course,” says Marie.

Reading the prospectus carefully and considering your subject choice is of paramount importance.

As for the step up to third-level, students have until July 1 to change their mind, make amendments or add courses to their CAO application.

All of this can be done online and Marie urges students to consider not just plan A, but plan B, C, and beyond.

“For now, it’s all about calmness and confidence,” she says – and as always; preparation is key.

“Know your timetable, have everything ready the night before, take breaks – go for a long walk, swim or gym. Have a massage to slow and calm you down – treat yourself,” she says.

And expect the unexpected.

“Every year, there are nearly certainly one or two papers tougher than anticipated. The upset from that can do damage to deal with the next subject,” she warns.

“When you look at a paper and you’re thrown, stop… count to ten… step back from it and read the question again. Highlight key phrases and avoid rushing in,” she adds.

Parents, for their part, can help by creating a calm environment, conducive to study at home – a healthy environment makes for a healthy mentality.

Marie also suggests parents should consider their words carefully – are they positive or negative?

Or as she puts it: “Do something nice for your stressed out child. An act of kindness can have a positive effect.”

Marie Barrett is founder and a director of MBCS, Marie Barrett Career Services in Loughrea. Email

Connacht Tribune

Violent incident in Tuam leaves seven hospitalised



Gardaí are investigating after an incident in Tuam yesterday left seven people injured.

A violent altercation broke out between a large group at the cemetery in Tuam at about 4pm yesterday.

Around 30 Gardaí responded to the incident at the cemetery on the Athenry Road in Tuam, which broke out following two funerals in the area.

Gardaí supported by members from the wider North Western Region and the Regional Armed Support Unit had to physically intervene between parties and disperse those present.

Five males and two females were injured during the course of the incident and were taken to University Hospital Galway with non-life threatening injuries.

A 16-year-old boy was arrested at the scene, as he tried to flee in possession of a knife.

He was taken to Tuam Garda Station and has since been released. A file is being prepared for the Juvenile Liaison Officer.

Gardaí are appealing for any witnesses to this incident or for anyone with any information to contact Tuam Garda Station .

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Connacht Tribune

Siblings find each other – and their Connemara roots – after 80 years



Reunited...Pat and Miceál McKeown outside their mother Síle’s birthplace in Carna.

By Erin Gibbons

A family separated for over 80 years was reunited at the end of an emotional journey in Connemara last weekend – thanks to DNA testing and the expert help of heritage researchers.

Pat McKeown, who lives in Staffordshire in the UK, is the daughter of Síle Gorham from Roisín Na Mainiach, Carna – but she was given up for adoption and reared for a time in a Belfast Mother and Baby Home.

Now, at the age of 81, she found her roots – returning to her mother’s native place for the first time last weekend, in the company of her long-lost brother Micheál.

It was an emotional end to a lifelong search for her roots that even led her to hire a private detective to try and locate her family and to discover her name.

All of this proved unsuccessful – and she had effectively given up her search when she was contacted unexpectedly by a man called Miceál McKeown, who turned out to be her brother.

Micheál – an artist and sculptor – and his daughter Orla had made the connection through DNA testing, after Miceál too had set out to discover more about his own roots.

That revealed that Síle Gorham had married Michael McKeown in 1939, and Síle went on to have three more children named Áine, Séan and Miceál.

Pat visited Connemara last weekend for the first time to learn about her mother Síle and the Connemara ancestry which she feels was robbed from her for her entire 81 years.

She was accompanied by Miceál, his wife Rosemary, daughter Orla and son-in-law Rueben Keogh.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download the digital edition from

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Connacht Tribune

Student leader’s stalker hell



Róisín Nic Lochlainn

The President of NUI Galway Students’ Union has spoken out about her terrifying harassment ordeal at the hands of a 17-year-old stalker who left her fearing for her safety.

Róisín Nic Lochlainn told the Connacht Tribune that she felt ‘such relief’ when the news came out last week that the young man who spent months putting her through hell online had been brought before the courts in Dublin for a similar campaign of harassment against a BBC NI journalist.

The 17-year-old from Malahide, Co Dublin, who cannot be named because of his age, pleaded guilty to the harassment of reporter Aileen Moynagh at Dublin Children’s Court last week.

It transpired he had used up to 40 aliases to send Ms Moynagh abusive and threatening messages on various social media platforms and by email. It is understood that the teen has a compulsive disorder and Asperger’s.

Ms Nic Lochlainn said she had sleepless nights and sought the help of Gardaí and the university’s chaplaincy service amid a slew of threats directed at her over much of 2020.

“It was actually terrifying. I know it might sound stupid, but I would check the bathroom in my room every night before going to bed. It was keeping me up at night,” she said.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download the digital edition from

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