Higher Level candidates had the topic 'Challenges', and the three comprehension texts were: Bono's graduation speech to students from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia (above), followed by a good B task (disagreeing with a school Principal's decision not to hold a graduation ceremony); novelist Joanna Briscoe writing about ghost literature 'in an age of reason'; an extract from Penelope Lively's memoir Ammonites and Leaping Fish: a life in time. So, no fiction extract this year.
Fiction did of course feature in the Composition titles, with a short story 'in which the main character is transformed when faced with a daunting challenge' (quite defined, and giving a clear narrative structure to the candidates) and another 'in which a closely guarded secret is gradually revealed' (one wonders how often that 'gradually' was ignored). Issues to be discussed included the importance of privacy in the modern age (Edward Snowden, Facebook...?), the importance of romance and the 'defining struggles of our age' (zzzz). And a fairly straighforward option to lots of candidates would have been the personal essay about 'ending/s' in life, which presumably drew out a lot of essays on ending school.
The Ordinary Level paper (only 6 of our 75 candidated took this) was on 'parents/guardians' and the comprehension texts were an extract from Roddy Doyle's story 'Animals', one from a biography of Brendan O'Carroll and an extract from Christine Dwyer Hickey's novel Tatty. So, plenty of Irishness and plenty of fiction. The Composition titles provided plenty of scope (though even at Ordinary level they have also become more defined in recent years).