Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Leaving Certificate Paper 1

The annual national stress-fest that is the Leaving Certificate exam season is on us, accompanied by the usual 'exam weather'. Paper 1 English was taken this morning, and there was certainly nothing in the Higher Level paper to increase those stress levels (Paper 2 tomorrow might be a different matter). Almost all our pupils take Higher Level.

The comprehension passages were interesting and well-chosen, starting with Colum McCann's 'Advice to Young Writers'. The second question on this text unusually opened up the literature course too, which probably surprised candidates, and this reappeared in different contexts for all the comprehension texts. Question B on this text was an interesting one about young people responding to 'unwanted advice'.

It was also good to see an extract from the very recently published Elmet by Fiona Mozley (above, shortlisted for last year's Man Booker Prize). The B question here was also accessible, being to do with 'the education you have received.'

The third text was the most inventively chosen, being from Above the Dreamless Dead, a collection of poetry and graphic illustration on the subject of World War 1 (here, an Isaac Rosenberg poem, 'Dead Man's Dump'. The questions fully exploited the meeting of the two media, and again the B question allowed candidates to use their literature knowledge.

The big question (25% of the overall mark) is of course the Composition. Two short stories, a descriptive essay, a personal essay, a speech and a discursive essay formed the mix this time. Candidates should have stayed away from a very demanding question of writing a short story in a collection of detective fiction (a tough one to take on extempore), but other tasks were more straightforward, including a essay about 'the value of personal space and quietness in the modern world'. Everyone sitting the Leaving Certificate should take just some such time this evening to themselves.

The Ordinary Level paper was as usual pretty straightforward. There were comprehension passages from Joanne O'Riordan (on technology and her disability Total Amelia - only seven people in the world have this), Larry Ryan (an interview with the Olympic rower Gary O'Donovan) and Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi. The B questions posed no great challenges. In the full Composition section, there were three personal essays (including one on having or not having brothers/sisters), as well as a speech (impact of technology), two short stories and an article.

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