A Transitional Year

In Ireland, there are two main state exams that you take during your secondary school years. The Junior Certificate comes first and is a 3-year cycle that you complete at around 14-15 years of age. You then complete the Leaving Certificate, which takes 2 years. Students also have an option to spend one additional year in between these two cycles, exploring a range of different social and personal development activities and experiences. This is called Transition Year, or just TY.

Some of the highlights of a normal TY would include going on work experience, doing some community service, taking a trip abroad and generally spending a lot of time outside the classroom. However, our year was very different due to Covid-19 and we were unable to do any of these.

That is not to say we did nothing (far from it) and as we are about to finish TY soon, I decided to take a look back at what I achieved over this very different year. I’ve separated the various items into categories to make them easier to read.

Technology Projects

I did a number of projects that involved using various kinds of technology, which were:

  1. I produced Digital Mosaic Posters for my current and former schools, which involved taking headshots of all pupils and teachers and using a computer program to create a mosaic image of the school crest, then mounting this in a frame.
  2. I started my own blog in 2020 (using the popular WordPress blogging software) and decided to write one new article each month during Transition Year. In fact, the one you’re reading now is the final one in this series!
  3. My friends and I submitted an idea to the BT Young Scientist Award, which was a project that would explore the effects of wearing face masks in school.
  4. I recorded a Podcast, which was a fake interview with a celebrity. I chose to interview Tom Holland and asked him different questions on a range of topics.
  5. I created an online computer game using Scratch, based on the Apex Legends video game.
  6. We learned how to use Solidworks, a popular Computer Aided Design (CAD) software package, and created a basic LEGO Car and small Park Bench.

Music & Art

I also did some projects (personal and school-based) with a musical and artist theme, including:

  1. I was invited (by a former primary school teacher) to compose the soundtrack for an Irish language short film they were producing, which I did with my Dad. In total, we wrote, arranged and recorded 7 tracks, including adding sound effects using Audacity.
  2. I completed a week-long, creative song writing course with Music Generation, Waterford.
  3. I restored an old skateboard, replacing many of its parts and designing my own artwork for it. I also wrote a blog about how I did this.
  4. I created and delivered a presentation about an entrepreneur that I admire, and chose to base it on Stan Lee, the creator of the Marvel comics and movies.


I took the opportunity to do some activities related to the environment as well, which were:

  1. I joined Tramore Tidy Towns to help clean our local beach every Sunday morning.
  2. I was selected to join the Green Schools Committee, helping with various related activities during the school year (including several Covid safety initiatives).

Practical Skills

I decided to try learning some new skills during the year, including:

  1. I prepared myself to sit the Driver Theory Test, which involved practising lots of sample questions using a computer program at home. I applied to sit the real test too but my test date was postponed due to Covid-19, so I am still waiting to finish this.
  2. I took a number of cookery & baking classes at school and made several meals and dishes at home throughout the year. I plan to continue with these as my younger brother and Dad have fallen in love with my brownies!

Sport & Recreation

The school arranged lots of different sporting and recreational activities during the year. These included surfing, cycling (on the Waterford Greenway), walking (on the Suir Blueway and Dunmore East cliffs), as well as Archery & Climbing (at the Dunmore East Adventure Centre).

Online Learning

I also completed a range of different courses online, which included Road Safety (e.g. drink and drug driving, fatigue, cyclists and distractions), Concussion & Covid Safety, creating an education course on skateboard design and skills, presentations skills and using Microsoft Teams.

We attended a number of University Open Days too, which were very informative and helpful.


While the year was very different to what I expected and I definitely would have loved to do some work experience and take a trip abroad with my friends, I still feel that I have learned a lot. I would definitely recommend that everyone should do Transition Year if they get the chance to.

Preparing for the Driver Theory Test

One of the things we had to do as part of my school Transition Year was to learn a new skill. As I already play guitar and drums and enjoy skateboarding and art, I figured I’d like to do something a little different, and perhaps that I might get some longer-term value from. I therefore decided to look at learning to drive but discovered that, before you can do that, you need to pass a test about the theory of driving, so I decided to do that instead. Here is what I learned in doing so.

Theory Test Practice Pack

It turns out that you can buy a special CD (issued by the Road Safety Authority) that allows you to practice the theory test (as many times as you like). It costs around €22 and you can buy it from most bookshops or from your local library. The CD contains all the questions that you could be asked in the real test, along with the correct answers and other information.

Each time to take the test, it asks a random selection of 40 questions (from an overall pool of over 800) and you need to get 35 or more correct to pass. You are allowed 40 minutes to complete the practice test. The program also tracks your progress over time, which is very helpful in building up your confidence for taking the real test.

You can buy a Rules of the Road book as well. At first, I didn’t think I’d need this but I ended up buying it anyway (it only costs €5) so I could look up some of the answers that I didn’t know.

If you want to install the testing program on a laptop, you will need to have a CD drive installed, both to install the program but also to run it. There’s a special security feature built in (to avoid people copying the CD) where you need to have the original CD inserted every time you want to take a practice test.

Mobile App

Although not officially issued by the RSA, there is also a mobile app you can buy (costing €7) called iTheory Driver Theory Test, which is available for iPhone or Android. It is regularly updated to stay in sync with the official set of questions used in the test and is also an effective way to build up your skills and confidence to get ready for the real test.

Practising Suggestions

My advice for preparing for the real test is to take a practice test once per week, to keep your average score near (or above) 35. Then, once you know when your test date will be, you can increase this to once per day (around 2 weeks beforehand) and then maybe twice per day in the days right before your test. Once you get your pass rate up (above 35), you should be able to take each practice test in around 30 minutes.

You can book your official test here, so best of luck!

Living Through a Pandemic

Like a lot of people, I got a little bored during the Covid-19 Global Pandemic in 2020, so I decided to keep a diary of what that was like. Maybe, at some point in the future, someone will find it interesting to look back at how I lived through a small piece of new history in the making.

When I looked back at my diary, I realised that most of the things I saw there fell neatly into a couple of categories:

  • Virtual Learning
  • Social Distancing
  • Cancelled Events
  • Other Highlights

I’ll use these to tell my story below.

Virtual Learning

Online Classes and More Homework

This basically involves me sitting at my laptop (which is a Chromebook), doing a lot of “listening” 🙂 and I may or may not have been slightly amused by seeing some of my teachers struggle with using a microphone for the first time.

It wasn’t actually all that new to me because my school had already switched to using a digital learning system (using Microsoft Office 365) last year. I guess that made it easier for us to adjust to the home-based classes.

It was actually a lot more comfortable than going to school too, because:

  1. I could get up later
  2. I didn’t have to wear the itchy school uniform so I stayed in my PJs all day 🙂
  3. I could have my lunch at home and take breaks when I finished my work early.

However, I also got loads of homework in the first two weeks of online classes because I think the teachers found it so easy to send out homework using Office 365, Fortunately, they realised this after a while and stopped giving as much, so I then had more spare time to do nothing 🙂

Home School Hub

One of the national TV stations, RTE 2, then started broadcasting school classes for younger school children and it was called Home School Hub. The main teacher for the younger kids there was called Ray and he was quite funny. My 4-year old brother enjoyed watching this most days, although sometimes the content was a little too old for him.

Social Distancing

No Friends or Family

Because of the quarantine and the social distancing that was put in place in Ireland, I could not have any sleepovers or go out with my friends (Siún, Laoise, Molly, Sasha, Alethea and Oran). I also couldn’t visit my extended family. That meant that we called them nearly every day and sent them pictures and videos instead, usually involving my brother doing something silly, which he seems quite good at 🙂

Shopping and Food Deliveries

Me and my Mam did the shopping for my Granny and then delivered it to her because she was not allowed to go outside. This was called Cocooning and everyone in Ireland over 70 had to do it.

Most days, when we tried to drive to her house, the police were stopping everyone to see why they were coming to and going from my hometown. This felt really weird because I never thought I’d be stopped by the police for doing the shopping!

Video Calls and Netflix Parties

To keep in contact with my family and friends, we would sometimes have a video call with them, as well as normal phone calls. Me and my friends started using a new feature that Netflix brought out, called Netflix Party, which meant we could all join a virtual group and watch a movie together at the same time. There was also a chat box at the side which meant, when a jump scare would happen in a horror movie, the chat would erupt in a frenzy of “agghhhhhh” and “hbudgbuyhwjdkkbi”.

Going Outdoors

We spent a lot of time in the garden during the pandemic because we couldn’t go out that much, or very far if we did. We did some gardening and we cleaned my Grandad’s motorbike too. We also cycled to the beach a few times and stopped to throw stones into rock pools with my brother, and ate Haribo jellies on the slipway. This was fun for me because I remember doing the same thing with my Dad several years earlier.

Cancelled Events

A number of events that I would normally have attended were also concealed during the Covid-19 pandemic.

St. Patrick’s Day Parade

All of the St Patrick’s Day Parades were cancelled due to the virus so we had to make do at home. We put up every green decoration and Irish flag we had, from the hallway to the sitting room, and wore every shade of green. My brother then led the world’s shortest parade through the house.

He also did a version of Riverdance with my Mam and then we made our own green ice cream because it’s not a proper St. Patrick’s Day in my house without that!

Blanks’ Concert

On the 19 April 2020, I would have been going to a Simon de Witts (a.k.a. Blanks) concert in Dublin with my friend, Molly. However, it was postponed until the 11 October so I’m glad it wasn’t cancelled altogether. We will be in 4th year by then and hopefully won’t have a lot of homework, so I can’t wait to see him then instead.

Junior Cycle

I found out on 19 March that all Junior Cycle practical exams were cancelled and that we would be getting 100% in each of them. I was pretty happy about this, for obvious reasons, but I guess I was a little disappointed because I had actually prepared for it and I had practiced my songs a lot.

Then, on 10 April, I got even bigger news, when I found out that the Junior Cert exams were postponed (until September) and so we’ll have no exams in the summer. My phone was buzzing like crazy all day with my friends talking about it and celebrating 🙂


Normally we would go to an Easter Egg hunt in my hometown (created by the scouts) but, with the quarantine and social distancing in place, we had to make our own. While my brother was beating my Dad in a game of Draughts, my Mam and I “went to the toilet” and suddenly saw that the Easter Bunny had been to visit 😉

We went outside and he started finding the eggs around the garden and putting them in the bag. He had found them so fast that, while he was at the side of the house, I tried to take some out of his bag and re-hide them, but I heard him coming back so I had to launch them out of my hands and pretend they were there the whole time. I’m sure if he reads this in future, I’ll be in trouble.

Other Highlights

Xbox Games

I started playing games on my Xbox One a bit more during the Pandemic. My favourites were Apex Legends, Sims 4, Roblox, Call of Duty Warzone and Minecraft. My brother also got hooked by Cars 2, Disneyland Adventures and Disney Rush. He was actually so good that my Xbox score was thousands more than my friends and they were amazed by how many achievements he had gotten.


I nearly broke the Internet after Disney+ was finally released in Ireland on 24 March 2020, because I had waited several months. I could finally watch nearly all of the Marvel movies and my brother could watch all the Pixar movies that he knew from the game, Disney Rush.

Grandparents PPE

My Grandfather (a.k.a. Dan Dan) started taking social distancing and cleanliness very seriously from the moment quarantine was put in place. He did this by developing his own range of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), which involved wearing multiple layers of hats, scarves, masks, gloves and coats. That resulted in only being able to see his eyes when he went on walks and walking like a crab going into the utility room when he got home.

All in all, it’s been a very interesting experience to have lived through a pandemic, so I hope you enjoyed reading about it here.