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Leaving Cert markers will take concerns about 'much too difficult' maths paper into account

Good news for students.

Image: Shutterstock/bibiphoto

CONCERNS ABOUT THE difficulty of the Leaving Certificate ordinary-level maths paper will be taken into account by examiners marking scripts, according to Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan.

Responding to a recent parliamentary question from Róisín Shortall TD, O’Sullivan said she has asked the State Examinations Commission (SEC) to bring concerns about the paper to the attention of the chief examiner for maths.

“Commentary and correspondence on the examination from teachers, professional bodies and other interested parties is considered by the chief examiner in developing the draft marking scheme,” she said.

O’Sullivan told Shortall that the SEC has assured her that it will test the effectiveness of a draft marking scheme before it is finalised on a random sample of scripts.

The outcomes of the random sampling will be analysed and if the outcomes indicate that the paper and/or the marking scheme is too hard or too easy the marking scheme will be adjusted to take account of this.


The assurance comes after criticism of this year’s ordinary-level maths exam, which many students and teachers described as too difficult.

John Brennan, a teacher at the Ballinteer Institute, told TheJournal.ie that there were several questions on the first paper of the exam that some students would not have even been able to attempt.

It was a “mean, much too difficult” paper with “no straight question”, he said, adding that one question on complex numbers had been asked in “more or less the same way” on a higher-level paper a year before.

Brennan said the paper did not reflect the fact that Leaving Cert students doing ordinary-level maths are a weaker cohort now than those taking the exam before the introduction of bonus points.

Stronger ordinary-level maths students have moved into higher-level classes in the hope of securing those 25 extra points, he pointed out.

Eamonn Toland of TheMathsTutor.ie agrees that many students found the exam too challenging.

“Topics that were familiar to students were presented in an unusual way,” he told TheJournal.ie.

Toland said that those sitting the ordinary-level paper would have found it difficult to identify what some questions were asking them to do.

But some of the criticism of the paper went too far, he added.

A lot of students on Twitter were saying that [it] was harder than the higher-level paper, but that’s not true. One became harder and another became easier, but there was still a gap between them.

Read: Leaving Cert shake-up could make it easier to pass higher level exams >

Read: What did a Leaving Cert exam paper look like 80 years ago? >

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Catherine Healy

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