Junior Cert students faced tricky proposition with Maths Paper 2

Damal Shahid, Isi Haq Abass and Mark O'Sullivan discussing the junior cert science papers after exams at St Francis College , Rochestown. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Junior Cert students faced a tricky proposition with today's Maths Paper 2, according to teachers. Some students may have struggled with the terminology in the paper, while several questions would not have looked out of place on a Leaving Cert paper, teachers said.

There was also a striking similarity between some questions on the Ordinary and Higher Level papers, potentially causing a headache for some students. Eamonn Toland, founder of the theMathsTutor.ie, said that there was "plenty of accessible material for all students, with just a few challenging parts for those looking for higher grades".

"Overall Junior Cert Ordinary paper-2 was a challenging paper with some tricky elements and some questions partly recycled from the Higher level paper," he said.

The trend continues for variations of questions to be reused across the Junior Cert Higher and Ordinary level papers, which may be a potential disadvantage in some cases for ordinary level students.

Brid Griffin, maths spokeswoman for the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI), said that the Higher Level paper was a good test for "applying knowledge."

"There was a mixed reaction to Question 7," Ms Griffin said. "The wording was very confusing; many students told me that they didn't know what they were being asked."

Concern was raised about the wording used in some other questions too. Elaine Devlin, ASTI maths spokeswoman, said that while the paper, in general, was quite 'do-able', students faced some unusual requests for a maths exam:

"Question 2, Part H asked students to write a paragraph. This is not something that we practice in Maths, nor is it something that we expect in an exam. It is strange and could be difficult for students who don't have English as a first language, for example."

Ms Devlin said that Question 13 (B) was a 'leaving cert standard question" and that Question 14 was "very difficult, very abstract."

Studyclix.ie expert teacher, Sean Donnelly, also raised concern about the phrasing of some questions. “Students who were not rock-solid on their mathematical terminology would have struggled in parts of today’s paper two," he said, pointing to questions on statistics and geometry that were particularly challenging."

In the afternoon, students turned their attention to science, with the paper described as "of its time" by Luke Saunders, Studyclix.ie founder and science teacher at Jesus and Mary Secondary School, Enniscrone.

"There were references to climate change, sustainability, our depletion of Iridium for use in mobile phone screens and even an entire question devoted to cutting-edge research from UCC that shows the link between gut bacteria and stress-related disorders," he said.

"There is a clear emphasis in the new course on scientific literacy and students whose teachers had exposed them to reading extracts from scientific magazines or journals would have had little problem with today’s source material."

At Junior Cycle, science is examined at a Common Level, meaning there is no Higher or Ordinary paper. Mr Saunders said that as a result, many students would have found the paper very straightforward: "So many of the questions required little or no deep scientific knowledge and instead could be answered if the student could apply basic common sense."

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