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English Paper One: Reactions to the first exam of this year's Leaving Cert

Fake news, democracy and inventing the wheel – how did the first day of State exams go?

8751 Leaving certificate exams_90514199 Cian Menton and Olivia Cunningham from Trinity Comprehensive in Ballymun as they prepared before their first Leaving Cert exam. Leah Farrell Leah Farrell

THE FIRST PAPER of this year’s Leaving Cert is done, and overall students seem quite happy.

So as students stream out of schools and discuss how the exam went – what did teachers make of English Paper One, which contains questions on essays, reading comprehensions, and functional writing.

So how did it go?

“Leaving Cert students seemed quite happy with both the Ordinary Level and Higher Level papers,” says Kate Barry of the Irish National Organisation for Teachers of English.

“The general reaction seems to be ‘Not too hard, not too easy’ because they like something that will challenge them.”

“In Higher Level, the texts were lovely, especially the first text. The second was a bit harder, and the third one was very nice.”

Celine Gallagher, Higher Level Leaving Cert English Student at Jesus and Mary Secondary School, Enniscrone said the texts were easy to discuss and relevant.

“I found it easy to talk about, given that we’re living through it and we’re always talking about. Text 3 on childhood memories, made it easy to take a personal approach and include funny anecdotes.”

The ‘Question b’s were “what we’d expect” Barry said. One of those questions asked for students’ opinions on relying on the internet for news updates, which was “topical and positive for those that read up on current affairs”.

Question b about poetry was “different and new”, and gave students a “nice opportunity to write about poems that they wouldn’t use tomorrow”.

The essay questions were “very very nice”, according to Barry.

“They were well-pitched, not too juvenile, as sometimes they can be a bit too teenager-y, but there were questions about advertising, democracy, and on how scientists and writers contribute to society.”

There was one ‘silly’ question though: imagine it was the Stone Age and you’ve just invented the wheel.

english paper 1 English Paper One English Paper One

Barry pauses after reading it out.

You might be able to write a humourous piece… but hopefully not too many people chose that question.

Leaving Cert Ordinary

Lorraine Tuffy, Studyclix Expert Teacher and English Teacher at Jesus and Mary Secondary School, Enniscrone said that a well-prepared student would have been happy to see the first question.

“The article for inclusion in a school magazine offering advice to Leaving Certificate students on how to develop study skills, maintain a healthy lifestyle and balance in the build up to exams will be welcomed by many Ordinary Level candidates who are well equipped to answer this question.

A question on Text 3 proposes that all teachers in Irish schools will be replaced by robots. Candidates were asked to write letters to the Editor of a newspaper giving reasons why they do or do not support the proposal.

“This question undoubtedly invited some humorous considerations on the student’s part. I’d be interested to read what some of my students wrote for that one.”

Kate Barry agrees.

“The text was really good – it was about school and schooling, which was really nice and positive. Often kids read negative things in the media, so this was something positive, without being gushy.”

First year of Junior Cert changes

File Photo Leaving Cert Exams Begin This Wednesday. File photo. Laura Hutton / Laura Hutton / /

The significance of the first year of controversial changes to the Junior Cert exam, obviously wasn’t lost on the State Examinations Commission who chose ‘mystery’ as the theme of the paper.

The Higher Level paper has been cut down from two papers to one, and Barry says that the issue with that are evident straight away.

“An exam paper is a bit like a political poll – you want an evenly spread random sample from the course. But parts of the course didn’t appear on the paper – there was no fiction question.”

Barry says that she’s aware that one paper would save costs for the State, but said that teachers would have reservations that the breast of the course wasn’t being assessed.

But they were aware that this was the first time students would have been doing the exam, so there were no nasty surprises and students are mostly happy.

So was it a good start to the first day of exams?

“Oh yes, very much so,” Barry says. “The Leaving Cert is a nice examination in that the format is the same every year, but the content changes a lot.”

But tomorrow is the day for the big Leaving Cert paper, English Paper Two, which contains questions on novels, plays… and poets.

“Well they’re worth the same in terms of marks,” Barry stresses. “The second one, if they’re well-prepared and done the work on five poets, then they’ve nothing to worry about.”

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Exam advice for parents: How to support your child during the Junior and Leaving Cert

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