Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Leaving Certificate Paper 1

The Leaving Certificate exams started this morning, as always with English Paper 1. Now, this afternoon, this evening and tomorrow morning there is the annual stress-fest which is final-hours' preparation for the literature papers.

At Higher Level, this year the 'general theme' was 'Different Worlds' (though it is doubtful if this theme ever sinks into the consciousness of most candidates, or ever matters). There was an interesting selection of comprehension texts, starting with 'The World of Poetry', which combined images, poetry and prose in its use of this Guardian article from last year from by Marta Bausells on the poet Robert Montgomery, and his work on billboards. There was plenty here for candidates to get their heads around. The 'B' question which followed brought Paper 2 into Paper 1 (not the first time this has happened), by asking candidates to choose three poems from their course for display, and an article on the school website (any real purpose to this in terms of language register?) explaining the choice.

Text 2, 'A Connected World' was by the fine political and cultural commentator Timothy Garton Ash, with some thought-provoking analysis of how 'the internet subverts the traditional unities of time and space'.  Again, this will have challenged candidates. Online news appeared in the B question - very much a subject de nos jours.

Another excellent writer, Paul Auster, produced Text 3, 'The World of Childhood', an extract from his memoir Report from the Interior, followed by a radio talk for the B essay on the candidate's own childhood.

Overall, this added up to a well-selected and interesting triad. Nothing bland or predictable there. 

There were plenty of accessible options for candidates in the main composition section (though number 4  - "write a short story in which a tattoo plays an important part in the narrative" seemed what teenagers would call 'random'). A descriptive piece called 'Night Scene' and a personal essay about insights and revelations offered wide scope.

Then there was the playful Question 5: 'Imagine it is the Stone Age and you have just invented the wheel. Write a dialogue in dramatic form, in which you introduce and promote your invention to your sceptical friends and neighbours.' Now that's one to steer clear of unless you've got real ability. One that could go downhill quite quickly, or at least run out of steam, or at worse fall flat on its face (after going downhill and running out of steam).

At Ordinary Level, which a handful of our candidates sat, there was another excellent author, Donal Ryan, whose most recent novel All We Shall Know, is just out in paperback, and is highly recommended, as well as a piece by a Syrian refugee, Nujeen Mustafa, and a piece comparing schooling in the past with the future (teachers as robots - yes please! Now we can all go off to the beach). The Compositions, as always at this level, were straightforward. A piece about childhood items discovered in your parents' attic was good. A short story about a family regretting adopting a robot would stretch Ordinary candidates.

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