The comprehension texts offered more quality than normal - an extract from Dennis O'Driscoll's fine 'interview-biography' of Seamus Heaney, another from Al Gore's Nobel acceptance speech of 2007 as an example of rhetoric, and an extract from Ray Bradbury's famous novel Fahrenheit 451. The questions on each were the usual mixture of information-retrieval and analysis of style.
Perhaps the most notable feature of this paper was that it was the first time there was no picture 'text'. Some previous exam papers have been criticised for the poor level of photography (it was better last year). This time, the only visual element consisted of two front covers of the Bradbury novel - a more interesting question than the rather flabby general picture collections of the past. This may well have disconcerted some candidates when they turned over for the composition questions, since this time there was no general short story option based on photographs. Two short story options were more limited and specific than heretofore (especially number 7, which was very particular: 'Write a short story in which two unusual or eccentric characters meet for the first time.').
The remaining Composition questions gave plenty of leeway for candidates to ponder 'the future' (the overall theme of the paper). We suspect hundreds of examiners will be spending much of June and July learning an awful lot about teenagers' holiday, third-level and life plans... One attractive question was number 1, 'a personal essay about your experience as a performer and/or audience member of the dramatic arts' - a good option for our own pupils, given their great involvement in drama and music.
And so now everyone settles down to prepare for tomorrow afternoon's literature paper, including King Lear, and we cross our fingers, given what happened last year. We'll report tomorrow night.