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Q. » What are the most common failings in answering Leaving Cert questions?
A. » The following four errors are evident every year:
· Running out of time is possibly the most common failing. It is essential that you keep a check on the time. Give yourself twenty minutes per question. If you know the material, you will have answered it in that time. If you are stuck for information, leave the question temporarily, and come back to it at the end, or perhaps when the information comes to mind. If you have not finished a question in the twenty minutes, go on to the next one.

· Not answering exactly what is asked. Every year, students come out of the exam and compare what they wrote. It is common to hear some saying ‘Oh, I thought the question said...’ Be sure to read each question carefully. If a question asks you to state Boyle’s Law, don’t put ‘pV is constant’ — give the answer in words. (However, if you cannot recall Boyle’s Law, putting ‘pV is constant’ is far better than leaving a blank). Another common failing to answer exactly occurs when the question asks ‘what is observed when...’ e.g. ‘what is observed when calcium dicarbide is added to water?’ The answer is not: ‘ethyne gas is given off’ — it is ‘bubbles are seen and a white precipitate is formed’.

· Drawing an inadequate diagram. Remember that a diagram must work. If, for example, you are to collect gas in a graduated cylinder, you must show graduations on the cylinder — otherwise the vessel could be just a gas jar.

· Making careless slips in calculations e.g. multiplying by 103 when converting cm3 to litres (dm3) instead of by 10–3. Always think about your answer — is it sensible? Since a litre (dm3) is much larger than a cm3, converting to litres will have to produce a smaller numerical value.
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