Thursday, June 06, 2019

Leaving Certificate Paper 2

Right now our candidates are deep into the marathon that is Paper 2 (Literature), but since the SEC has started to put papers online before the end of each exam, we can already assess it.

Almost all our candidates sit Higher Level, and everyone has studied Macbeth as the single text. No character question this year (character options are relatively limited in a play with such a small cast of important characters). Instead, there are questions on the ways 'horrific, bizarre and unbelievable elements' do or do not 'heighten the tragic intensity' of the play - pretty straightforward, allowing candidates to examine elements such as the witches and the murders of Duncan, Banquo and the Macduffs. The other option is on Shakespeare's use of language, including imagery, and this should be approached with caution (only if a candidate is fully prepared for quite a technical matter).

The comparative section asks on Literary Genre and Vision and Viewpoint, with the first question on the latter opening up possible sidetracking on the matter of 'our personal beliefs' and the second asking candidates to be fully au fait with just what 'personal integrity' is. The first Genre question, on techniques showing characters' mindsets, is straightforward, as is the second, on mood and atmosphere in texts.

The unseen poem is Carol Ann Duffy's 'The Wound in Time', commissioned by Danny Boyle for the centenary of the end of the First World War (odd, then, that it should appear here in 2019 rather than 2018). It is dense and quite knotty, and may well challenge a lot of candidates.

The infamous Poetry Stakes see in the frame Kennelly, Yeats, Bishop and Plath. The Kennelly question has a lot in it (let's hope all understand 'intrinsic'), while the Yeats and Plath questions seem a retreat to the more pared down questions of the past.

Not great that 'skilful' is misspelt in a Leaving Certificate English paper (the question on Bishop), replaced by the Americanism with two 'll's...

A handful of our pupils are sitting the exam at Ordinary Level: Macbeth is straightforward, the comparative questions were fair (on relationships or a theme), Elaine Feeney's 'Jack' is the unseen poem, and our candidates will be happy with writing on either Kennelly's 'Begin' or Bishop's 'The Fish' (skilfully or not).

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