What factors affect how well we do in exams?

What factors affect how well we do in exams?


You would think it is all down to how much time you spend swatting in your bedroom.


There are in fact 8 main factors that affect exam performance


Subject Knowledge - Yes how much context you remember. You increase the content you remember by how you effectively you process the information in a way that suits you. In short realistic study blocks. of time


Your Exam History - How you have done in previous exams. If you had a bad exam last time you are inclined to walk into the next exam feeling that this will be the same. Leave the last exam behind you!


Exam Preparation - Have you maintained your health? Do you feel good about yourself? Are you feeling calm, fit, rested and do you have everything you need for the exam from food to pens organised?


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Exam Practice - How well do you know the exam papers? Do you plan on doing the exams from start to finish? Bad idea! You need to do your best questions first when you are freshest and get your best marks for these questions!


Experience of the Subject - Do you bring yourself into your answers? What sets you apart from all the other scripts and answers? Your life experience. Think about where you have travelled too, who you have met, what sports you are good at, what books have you read for inspiration? Who do you admire that you can quote? What work experience have you done? All this is valuable examples you know first hand - you don't have to learn them off - you remember these experiences.


Writing Skills - Do you do out a plan for your essays? Do you make sure to have a beginning, middle and a conclusion? Do you make sure to state if you have been for or against the argument you presented? Do you read over your work as you go along and keep track of what you are saying?


Use of Time - Have you got into the habit of working in blocks of time similar to those that you need to answer the questions in? Have you got time left to read over your work? Do you get stuck on a question and not move on? Do you joint down a plan for the question with the key bullet points to get started?


Attitude and Approach - Do you go in feeling this is going to be about everything you don't know or that it's your chance to shine? Do you know what you are good at? No one is good at everything! You don't need to be - you just need to excel in your strengths! Exams test who you are not what you don't remember.



Mocks and the sky falling in, Chicken Licken Syndrome

Mocks and the sky falling in, Chicken Licken Syndrome


Sometimes I ask why do we do the mocks? In fact, in recent years I have charted that where I have students in schools which don't do the mocks, they perform better in the leaving certificate in a few months time. Why? Because they don't have to recover from what I call "Chicken-Licken-syndrome" where students seem to genuinely feel like the sky is falling in on top of them! The mocks are a test run - you are meant to make mistakes. That's the whole point of doing them.


Often I refer to this time of the year as "crushing season" because I watch the students who we have built up since September lose complete confidence in their abilities. We have to build them up again from the floor. I really question at this stage if the mocks are a good exercise at all? Surely there must be a better way to have a test run?


Ironically, if you did brilliantly you also need to have a little bit of caution at this stage. I often find the students who do exceptionally well in the mocks take it as a given that this is how the papers will look next June. They may be totally different. Did you just get lucky with the topics or do you really have a good exam strategy?


The biggest mistake that is made at this stage is students and parents alike being convinced the mark you get now is the mark you will get next June. This is not true. The course has not even been completed in many cases. The students don't know their best topics yet and they have often had little or no exposure to exam papers at this stage.


Students and parents are often bullied into dropping down a level in the subject. This is also a very bad idea at this stage of the year. The higher you learn a subject too for the longest time possible the better you do in June. For example, if you continue in an honours class and then drop down to ordinary level closer the time you are more likely to get at least a B and often an A at Ordinary level. In a world where points matter this is much better than "passing" an ordinary level paper. In fact, with the new grading system, it may still be better to get a lower grade at a higher level. Do the points math and the worst case scenario before you drop down. But the higher you aim and the more complex the material you cover, the better you will do with an easier paper if you do decide to play safe in June.


The sky really isn't falling in and there is loads of time left to fix the mistakes - but it is very hard to show people your mistakes when you are made to feel so bad for making them.


You need to do a proper evaluation of your exam papers. Where did you do well? What went wrong? Did you waste time? Did you read a question wrong and answer a different question to what was asked? Did you miss a whole section? Did you get stuck on one math problem and not move on? Did you not know any quotes? Are you good at the details or the generic writing?


For some students with learning difficulties, the mocks go badly in a more spectacular fashion than most. I myself did very badly in my mocks as do many students with learning difficulties. As the department of education has not granted who will and will not receive accommodations in their exams, very few if any schools allow these students to sit their exams in a similar environment to how they will in June. We are overwhelmed by the exam hall experience. I've conducted some research into why some students are hyper-sensitive and how this can be helped. We don't have a reader and hence we read the questions wrong. It's common we take the wrong meaning and answer a completely different question to what has been asked. If you are going to use a laptop in the state exams maybe you didn't get to do this in the mocks? It's rare I find for students to get the accommodations they need and will have in June at this stage for the mocks.


Some students haven't got to grasp with the whole course in one "bulk" form. They are struggling to put all the sections together and maybe they haven't covered their best section yet. There are people who need to see the big picture first.


No one tells you how to sit an exam and for some students they really do need to do a visual map of the answer and the question, this is highly discouraged. Often, it is implied to be a waste of time when it's not at all. It's a vital way of thinking for visual students.


There are so many factors as to why students find exams hard. With so much time left to refine the way you work best, the sky is not falling in. It's time to realise that making mistakes is how we learn best. How we evaluate our mistakes is what will determine how much we learn from them and how much better we will do in the next exam. The one that matters. Put the mocks in context, they are a test run.


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Dr Naoise O’Reilly Work and Research Areas

Dr Naoise O'Reilly Work and Research Areas 

What does Dr Naoisé O’Reilly do?

What does Dr Naoise O'Reilly do? 
Recently I asked a series of people who have worked with me what do I do? Here are some of the answers, including the humorous!

7 Year Journey Dr Naoise O’Reilly

IMG_7003I have always liked the number 7. This time of the year always makes me reflective as it was the first time students flooded into The Homework Club in Blanchardstown in 2009. Many of these first cases turned out to be hugely influential in my own journey.

The first parent to ever ring me seeking help had a teenager who had not attended school for months, having dropped out of the system. He took classes with us for 6 weeks and did so well in his State Exams the school rang his mother with the results wanting to know what had changed. We worked with him for the next 3 years and hence I found myself taking on a huge number of cases with Asperger's Syndrome. I'm now known internationally as an expert in an area I never expected or set out to be.

By the following September, even though I set the school up for second level students, I found myself taking on the transition age before you start big school. By the following January, a year after my craziness to set up my own school with my own teaching methods, the youngest students were now 4.

Within this time, I had been encouraged by people to go for a number of awards. These were important to me personally as the first outside validations of my work.

I guess all along the only judge of my work, research and methods had been the results my students have received. From there I have become a top referral for many organisations. I find it sad that in many cases I am the person who people are sent to when no one else has been able to help them.

Two years after starting the school, I realised I needed to convert all my work, experiences and methods into a formal system. This meant the birth of The Purple Learning Project. I have always felt there is a balance between supporting people currently in the system and making real change for the future.

I remember this odd moment of describing the basic Purple Learning method to someone and they asked, "Who's work is this" and saying, "It's mine." What book could they read it in? The answer was none - my head. It's always been a bit bizarre to be so outside the box. To work in a way that has not existed before. The Homework Club was, for me, about proving all the wacky ideas in my own head.

Along the way in those years, I developed all these ways of working with people with a whole spectrum of conditions including: ADD, ADHD, Asperger’s Syndrome, Dyslexia, Audio Processing Disorders, Hearing Impairments, Home Schooling, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, Confidence, Bullying, Self Harm, Sexuality, Learning Disabilities, Gifted Children, Exam Fears, Child Development, People Development, Team Development, Business Success, Bereavement and so on.

When I started the school I had one main question in my head. Why do no two dyslexics learn the same way? Through working with so many people and conducting interviews, which allowed me to create unique profiles for everyone, I now have the answer to that question 7 years later.

I now have the recorded patterns of how personality and learning styles go together.

I reached the next major crossroads in the school 4 years into the project. The students knew what we did. I collected many of their comments and feedback. It was a magic sense of achievement having created an environment they all loved so much. Hence, the tagline became, "Develop Your Love of Learning." But the parents had no idea in many cases what the project was about. I felt I was missing part of the puzzle. I also felt that many parents had lost involvement in their own children's education.

Confidence Club was born.

I was also itching to take the projects nationally and internationally. Every time I did a radio interview I would be contacted by all these people rurally in Ireland with no support. Confidence Club has been about supporting students in their own homes, with the support and understanding of their parents.

Along the way, the methods have continued to develop in the background. It feels like a back room factory sometimes. The most significant one being in 2013, Periodic Table of the Development of Results. Nicknamed Purple Success. It brought my science and creative brain together. It is the table of the elements each personality needs to succeed in life. Whether it is a 3-year-old I am helping to talk or a 5-year-old to read or a business to grow. It is always just about people and their personalities.

With all the work I have done to date, my key focus in life still remains to take literacy and intelligence out of the same sentence. Because even after all these years, I still remember what the teacher said to me in school at the age of 7.

Dr. Naoisé O'Reilly


Dr Naoise O’Reilly now works across 12 countries internationally

It was a great surprise recently for me to count up the number of countries I have students living in and to find there are now 12 across the globe. These include: Australia, Belgium, China, Finland, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and United States. What technology truly brings to education is accessibility.




2015 A Year in Review – Dr. Naoise O’Reilly

imagesSo, it's that time of year again when we wrap up and reflect on what we have done this year. Reflection is such a critical part in successful development that I encourage everyone we work with to go through the process. I'm always sending 'nagging' type e-mails asking, "so, where are you at now?"

For me, I started the year being congratulated by a series of very influential and hugely successful people internationally. It's impossible to work in a vacuum and this recognition has meant a massive step forwards for me. Especially in little Ireland! It's a sad fact that we are never truly appreciated where we come from. We have beaten our own records on financial success for our Clients this year with an American client making an astronomical amount for an individual in just 48 hours after working with us. But with the Podcast launch, Purple Psychology, it has meant that we are now reaching people in 62 countries internationally. This has also meant that I needed to find a way to work with more employees and hence I created the 4 hour employee system this year. And I said, "no one will listen to the podcast." How wrong could I have been? http://purplepsychology.com/

As always, we have seen a huge mixture of clients this year. From 2 years old upwards. I have helped people to win sporting events, turn their businesses around, get promoted in work, learn to talk, read and write in some of my shortest timescales yet. It's been a year of massive research into empathy creation, speech paths and integration programmes to focus on aspects of Asperger's Syndrome and Dyspraxia/Dyscalculia. My students have expanded across the continents too.

I have also formalised the work I do with Homeschooling (www.homeschooling.ie) and made a separate project for this work. We now support students across the globe and have students in practically every county in Ireland being supported in their homes and in mainstream school. Every year the reach just seems to grow.

I know the high profile client list and the business/sport profiling work I do brings more interest from the media but for me the special moments are still in the videos I get in my inbox of students reading who have never read before, especially when it's only 6 months later and they can read the school play for Christmas. For me my work is still all about others being able to do what I couldn't do at their age or in a way so much easier than what I have had to put in to get where I am now.

Oh, I almost forgot. We also launched an App on the iTunes store this year, the 365Success Productivity App. http://purplepsychology.com/365success-app/

To think Personality Theory Research can have such profound results. I have been told again this week in Washington D.C. that I look at the world differently to everyone else. I still struggle to see what people mean. All I know is that the answers don't seem hard to me.

Merry Christmas 2015 & Happy New Year 2016,

Dr. Naoisé O'Reilly.


“Self Reflection, Feedback & Praise in Education – Why Do We Do The Mocks?”

self-reflectionFrom the very beginning, when I started my own 4 education projects we allotted time every couple of weeks to “Self Reflection.”  This meant that even students as young as 5 were encouraged to think about how far they had come.  Very simple questions like, “what can you do now that you couldn’t before?  What is easier?  What is still difficult?”

If you don’t check in with yourself you don’t know what you have achieved.  Never mind comprehend what is left to do.  A sense of achievement is vital.  Otherwise, why do we do all this work?  What is the point of learning if you don’t see who you are?

Also, this gave my teachers an opportunity to offer feedback on what was happening.  Though, to be honest, feedback is something that is integrated into every task and exercise due to the comments we ask children, parents and teachers for.  It’s second nature to mentor by encouragement and leave people with a very clear idea of where they stand at all times.

Feedback is vital in education because anyone with a sensing personality needs the reassurance that they are doing it right.  Kinesthetic people look for feedback all day long all around them - even in their physical worlds - never mind emotionally.  Anyone with a high feeling element to their personality takes criticism very badly and rarely finds it constructive.

There are a variety of personalities that thrive on praise - they stop functioning and lose all motivation when it is lacking.

In 1925 Dr. Elizabeth Hurlock showed in a study that students who were praised and encouraged got vastly different results from those who were not or were criticized.

By the end of the 5th day the results showed:

Those given praise – 71% improvement

Those criticized – 19% improvement

Those ignored – 5% improvement

This is huge and has been known since 1925.  So, why are we still giving students such a hard time at such critical stages in the exam process?  What I have to explain to parents on repeat loop at this time of year is that your daughter or son is not the same person they were in February of this year as they will be in June - 4 months is a lifetime in the development of a person between the ages of 15 and 18.  So much will have happened.  They will have changed their appearance, their friends, their music tastes and so on.  They have been learning so much information and working so hard to understand how to study, how to answer questions and most of all they have learned from their mistakes in The Mocks!  So, why would you think they were the person they were 4 months ago and would they get the same result now?

I have written about The Mocks before, the top tips for why we do them and how we get through.  But this year I'd like to write about something slightly different.  The "Chicken-Liken-syndrome" where students seem to genuinely feel like the sky is falling in on top of them!  The mocks are a test run - you are meant to make mistakes.  That is the whole point of doing them!

For some of The Students at The Homework Club®, Confidence Club®, The Purple Learning Project® and Homeschooling® this happens in a more spectacular fashion.  I myself did very badly in my Mocks as do many students with learning difficulties.  As the Department of Education has not granted who will and will not receive accommodations in their exams, very few, if any schools, allow these students to sit their exams in a similar environment to how they will in June.  We are overwhelmed by the exam hall experience.  I'm conducting research at the moment into why some students are hyper sensitive and how this can helped.  We don't have a reader and hence we read the questions incorrectly, we take the wrong meaning from the question and we answer a completely different question!

Some students haven't gotten to grasp the whole course in one "bulk" form - they are struggling to put all the sections together and maybe they haven't covered their best section yet!  No one tells you how to sit an exam and for some students who really do need to do a visual map of the answer and the question, this is highly discouraged and implied to be a waste of time when it's not as all.  It's a vital way of thinking for them.  If you are going to use a laptop, perhaps you didn't get to do this in The Mocks?  There are so many factors as to why students find exams difficult.

I call this time of the year "crushing season" because I watch the students who we have built up since September lose complete confidence in their abilities.  We have to build them up again from the floor.  I really question at this stage if The Mocks are a good exercise at all?  Surely there must be a better way to have a test run?

The sky really isn't falling in and there’s loads of time left to fix the mistakes - but it is very hard to show people your mistakes when you are made to feel so bad for making them.  We do The Mocks as a test run to get feedback, encouragement and hopefully some praise for what we are doing well.  To learn from our mistakes.

Many people reading this might find all of these reasons lacking in the current system.  They may find that it is an ultimatum to drop down in a subject.  Even if it is worth whatever risk going for the higher level and getting more points - valuable points you need.  Doing a subject and passing it is of no benefit if you don’t have the level you require for a course or the points at the end of the day.  After all, these are the only reasons we sit exams in the first place - to get the qualifications we need!

Dr. Naoisé O’Reilly,

February 2015.



Psychological Assessments to determine Cognitive Development

FEAR1I was 4 when I had my first official Psychological Assessment and it was a traumatic experience. My parents took me to see the movie “Lady and the Tramp” immediately afterwards to help me recover.

This is why when I now do Psychological Assessments of young children I am very focused on a fun enjoyable experience - a trauma free zone if you like.

I was 8 when I had my second Psychological Assessment and 16 when I had my third. I have lived with hereditary Profound Dyslexic Spectrum Disorder since birth and it still impacts of every aspect of my daily life - but I developed ways to cope.

I remember there were pages and pages of how I did not measure up to other children my age. There was never help given to my parents and I to assist me in working the way I needed to work. The only focus was on what I could not do.

Hence, this is why I started to develop my own methods of learning from 4. I was also acutely aware at 4 that I was completely incapable of doing what the School and Government Shrinks wanted me to so.

These days, I set children and families up for success no matter how “behind” the rest of the world perceives a child’s cognitive development and behaviors.

Every family I have dealt with personally, and that is thousands of people at this stage, are set up to succeed in the precise ways that their child is capable of learning and developing.

Personality is a massive factor in development. Some people are more independent that others. They may walk faster, they may be quieter. Some people are born chatterboxes and others do not speak until much later on. Some will not play by themselves others are loners. No one can be put on a scale and expected to fit.

Even children who have hearing impairments and a great big long list of conditions I deal with can develop better and learn faster with the right interventions. It does not matter what it is - no two children can rise to their challenges in the same ways.


How can a professional determine if a 4-year is up to task with cognitive development?

Most professionals rely on standardized test. Personally, I do a session with the child using my “toolbox.” This involves a whole series of games with everything from Playdoh to magnets. This allows me and my Team to test abilities across a whole spectrum without the child even being aware of it. All the testing is completed without the child feeling like they are being examined.


What if the 4-year old cannot do all the cognitive skills for his/her age?

Should a parent worry?

I do not deem tasks age appropriate. I strongly believe development is a little bit more complex and I think it is unfortunate that a lot of learning difficulties are determined on an age scale. This ends up making parents feel very bad about their child’s development. During my initial assessments, yes sure it is always very obvious to me what people cannot do, but it is equally obvious if they have fantastic visual pattern recognition or memory association skills. These can be used to develop the areas that are lacking. Just the same ways I achieved a First Class Honors Degree followed by a Doctorate when told as a teenager that University was “beyond my status.”

I think the system sets up parents to worry. But one of my key tasks in taking on any new case is to put everyone’s mind at ease and make everything doable. Families always walk out the door with a way, structure, plan an if necessary Team support to do everything.


How can a parent help a child develop these skills?

I set up programs for parents to use the everyday in their own home to help their children. I think one of the disadvantages of our technological world is that it is very removed from other people and parents. Yes, I do like to use some Apps but I like to develop skills using less remote games. Child cookery, for example, builds time management skills and the use of a radio in the background helps children filter information.

Dr. Naoisé O'Reilly  Expression Developist™


What ADD & ADHD are really all about explained by Dr. Naoisé O’Reilly

I always see ADD and ADHD as an affect of what is really going on with the students who come to me looking for help and support with their school work. This has helped me to coin a term over the last 4 years called "Diffuse Focus™" to describe what is really happening for them. I equally see these patterns of behaviour carried through to adult life with our business clients!

Dr. Naoisé (Expression Developist™)



Welcome to the Purple Learning Project.

The aim of the Purple Learning Project Foundation is to create a legacy of the methods which Dr Naoisé O’Reilly has developed since 2009.

The methods in learning and personality theory have been developed while working with people of a variety of ages, backgrounds, and cultures. The methods have been applied to the education, business and sporting environments. The ages are in the spectrum of 4 to 70's. The methods include: Purple Profiling, Purple Processing Scales, The Periodic Table of the Development of Results, Forget Phonics Reading Method, Purple Pre-School Success and so on...

There has always been a clear distinction for Dr Naosié in working with people who currently need help within the system and leaving behind something of integrity for the future generations.