Most students leave the exam happy after the first day of Leaving and Junior Cert exams – The Irish Times

The first of this year’s Leaving Cert exams was accessible and included universal topics, and students in the first English exam were guided through the exam using specific prompts, teachers said.

A record number of students – 136,000 – were due to start Junior Cycle and Leaving Cert exams on Wednesday.

Kate Barry, a teacher at Loreto Secondary School in Cork, said the A-Level document gave students a lot of guidance, compared to previous years.

“Understandings for question A provided guidance on the marking and number of marks to be awarded for each question,” said Ms Barry, subject representative at the Association of Secondary School Teachers of Ireland (ASTI).

Clodagh Havel, an English teacher at the Institute of Education, said some of these prompts were more specific than expected, but students would have plenty of room to explore and expand on their answers.

The document focused on the theme of connections and, overall, students would have been very satisfied with its accessibility, said Laura Daly, a lecturer at St Benildus College in Dublin and a Studyclix subject expert.

This year’s assignment gave students the option to choose from three comprehension texts.

They included an article by Irish Times journalist Fintan O’Toole, published in January 2023, about how an appreciation of the natural world can also help build connections between people; an excerpt from The Bee Sting, the Booker Prize-nominated novel by Irish author Paul Murray; and an article by Financial Times journalist Monisha Rajesh on how traveling can help us make connections.

“The first English exam sets the mood for exams,” said Ms. Havel. “The ‘connections’ theme of the article was universal enough to allow students to draw on a wide variety of experiences while also being grounded enough in their world to give them something they could really sink their teeth into.”

Ms Daly, however, said some of the questions in Part B were disappointing.

“This was due to their lack of creativity,” he said. “Students had the option of writing a series of journal entries, a style reminiscent of more traditional exams and commonly seen at junior cycle level. Additionally, the document included a dialogue and a proposal for a Tidy Towns committee.

“Noticeably absent were contemporary formats like blogs or podcasts, which could have added a modern touch. However, the absence of novel or overly demanding tasks in this section would probably have met with students’ approval.”

As for the essay questions, Ms. Barry said some of the students may have been stumped by a question that asked them to write a dialogue, but they had other options.

The afternoon’s Leaving Cert high-level home economics paper was described as fair, but some parts were challenging.

“It was a true reflection of a living subject,” said Sandra Cleary, a professor at the Institute of Education. “Students walking out of the exam hall today are likely to be happy, satisfied that whatever work they have done will have been fairly represented. The newspaper rewarded those with a forensic commitment to past work and the curriculum.”

Linda Doran, subject expert and lecturer in home economics at Mercy College, Sligo, said the article was fair but challenging in places.

“The expected topic of carbohydrates had not appeared since 2017, but it appeared in the first question, which would have reassured teachers and students.

“Food product manufacturing was a common trend in this year’s paper, with yogurt manufacturing appearing in question three and the stages of oil production being addressed in central question four. This focus on food production and technology was also popular in last year’s short questions.”

Meanwhile, in the junior cycle, students faced a challenging start to the exam with the two-hour English exam testing a wide range of topics and skills, teachers said.

“As always, students would have found A-level exam time challenging,” Ms Daly said.

“The four main topics studied appeared: Shakespeare and a novel option in section A, and poetry and film studies in section C. Invisible poetry did not appear, probably to the relief of many candidates,” he said.

Ms Barry said the document was in line with previous years.

“The students would be quite happy and there were good options,” he said. “But the course is much broader than the old Junior Cert, so it is difficult to cover the topics in much depth. It would make more sense to cover fewer areas and in greater depth.

“This is the second year in a row that candidates taking the exam did not have to answer a question on the only required topic, Shakespeare; instead, they had to choose between Shakespeare and their studied novel.”

Try this one at home:

English, test one, higher level.

In Paul Murray’s The Bee Sting, Cass’s character describes people who “stare at her for a moment as if trying to solve a puzzle.” Write a personal essay in which you reflect on some of the aspects of life that you find disconcerting.

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