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State Examinations Commission

Leaving Cert: Commentary over higher-level maths paper one 'will be considered during marking'

It comes after the paper was criticised by students across the country for its difficulty.

“COMMENTARY AND CORRESPONDENCE” from students, parents and teachers about this year’s Leaving Cert higher-level maths paper one will be considered as part of the marking process, the State Examinations Commission (SEC) has said. 

It comes after the paper was criticised by students across the country for its difficulty. 

Approximately 24,904 students sat the higher-level paper on Friday, the SEC said. 

Speaking to RTÉ’s Liveline this afternoon, one student, Róisín, said the paper was an “awful shock” and that she saw many girls leaving the exam hall “in tears”. 

Another student, Michael, told the programme that it was “panic stations” when he opened the paper. 

“I’m normally quite relaxed, and I was in complete shock. I asked to go to the toilet, I had to go water my face… I had to just reset and get into it again,” he said. 

He said he had been studying by doing past paper exam questions, but that those on Friday’s paper were “nothing like the questions” he had studied. 

In a statement on Friday, Studyclix subject expert Stephen Begley, a maths teacher at Dundalk Grammar School in Co Louth, said the paper was “a busy, diverse and challenging exam”.

“Many parts to the questions were fair, encouraging and accessible, though the lengthy and contextual long questions would have challenged some,” he said.

“With a mixed reaction from students, the consensus is that the paper was busy and diverse, and while the short questions were accessible, the long questions proved tricky in parts. There were no surprises in the topics that appeared, and no notable topics were absent from the exam. All in all, those comfortable with calculus would have had the upper hand.”

In a statement to The Journal, a spokesperson for the SEC confirmed that feedback on the exam would be brought to the attention of the Chief Examiner.

“Commentary and correspondence from students, parents, teachers, professional bodies and other interested parties is a normal part of the examinations process,” they said.

“Such correspondence is brought to the attention of the Chief Examiner and is considered in the refinement of the draft marking scheme.”

The spokesperson said the approach taken by the SEC to the development of the final marking schemes “ensures consistency in the marking and fairness to candidates”.

“The final marking scheme will be published, as will the marking schemes in all other subjects, after the issue of the Leaving Certificate results.”

The spokesperson added that there will be no “cliff edge” or automatic return to pre-pandemic grade profiles for Leaving Cert results this year.

Minister for Education Norma Foley previously pledged that the overall Leaving Cert results for the class of 2022 “will be no lower” than in the previous two years.

“The commitment to avoid a “cliff-edge” in the profile of results is likely to require an adjustment to the marks awarded to students which can only be applied once all of the marking has been completed,” the spokesperson continued.

Leaving Cert results will be issued on Friday 25 August to take account of the time needed for this step.

The spokesperson said that exam papers and draft marking schemes are developed “through a rigorous development process to meet the requirements of the relevant syllabi and standards of assessment”.

“The examination paper development process involves a multi-stage process of drafting, setting, translating and various layers of oversight and scrutiny. Those involved are experts in the subject who are also experienced teachers,” the spokesperson said.

“As part of the normal paper development process, the Mathematics papers were reviewed by subject experts before they were finalised in order to assess their suitability, the appropriateness of how they assess various learning outcomes as set out in the specification, the clarity of language in them and the demand they present.

“Leaving Certificate examination papers are also subject to review by university representatives who view the draft examination papers and marking schemes.” 

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