Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Leaving Certificate Paper 1, 2019

Good timing today for Paper 1 at Higher Level English, with one of the texts being David Park's brilliant short novel Travelling in a Strange Land, our own Book of the Year in 2018, and just last week named the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year at the Listowel Writers' Week. The extract was mostly disconnected from the narrative of the book (about a father driving across England to collect his snow-bound student son).

Though there are many complaints about teachers about the quality of new Junior Cycle material, at this level there was consistently good writing, since the other two comprehension extracts were by the novelist Jeanette Winterson and the columnist Caitlin Moran. The former's piece 'What is Art For?' was quite dense and may have proven challenging to some candidates. Moran's essay in support of public libraries was characteristically lively (plenty of good material for the style question).

As initiated last year, one question on each comprehension text sent candidate back into their Literature course, something we welcome as an exploration of content which certainly should be deeply embedded, and thus comfortable for candidates. The B short essays were in the forms of argument, a reflective essay (look at the photograph of the earth from space and 'imagine you are fleeing Earth on the last spaceship evacuating the planet have made our world uninhabitable' - hmm, not sure anyone would be writing a reflective essay in those circumstances...) and an introduction to a collection of essays. Again there is a lot in the instructions to such essays to grapple with.

The main Composition essay were well-judged, with topics such as 'a self-obsessed generation', the values of young people today, the places which shaped you and 'what feeds your imagination' attractive to all. Again short stories may have proven trickier, with one contorted choice for a collection of spy stories (a librarian, a photograph and a chair to be central to the narrative) to be treated warily by all by but the most confident - it would be easy to fall flat on your face.

Unsurprisingly the Ordinary Level paper (we have a handful of candidates) will have frightened no-one. The third piece was of the moment: addressing waste at a festival (Electric Picnic), and the compositions straightforward.

Now onto Literature. Lots of resources here to freshen up your understanding of Macbeth, and do some self-testing or pair up with a friend (best practice: don't merely reread notes, which wastes precious time and is largely useless).

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