The daunting experience of a second English exam came and passed for this year’s Leaving Certificate students yesterday afternoon.

A discussion of descriptions of Hamlet as “a disturbing psychological thriller” might have spooked some Shakespeare students, but teacher Kate Barry felt those who knew the play well should have done fine with it.

As Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) spokesperson, she said this and another on the dramatic functions of Laertes and Horatio were not the kind of questions which students could answer with pre- prepared answers.

She also noted the use of the same question about a statement on female characters’ powerlessness in relation to three of the five single texts.

She felt it was quite fair as no student might feel disadvantaged for focusing on a particular text, but stronger students might have preferred a question that examined more specific aspects of their chosen text.

The use of prepared essays would also have been difficult to use in response to a comparative study question on general vision and view point, Ms Barry said.

The usual straightforward kind of questions were asked in the unseen poetry section.

Ms Barry said prescribed poetry questions on Eavan Boland, John Donne, John Keats and Elizabeth Bishop were all fine, with the most student-friendly ones set around Bishop’s work.

Teachers’ Union of Ireland’s Thomas Ahern said a theme of power struggles within and between characters ran through the higher and ordinary level English exams, in relation to single texts and poetry.

At higher level, he felt students definitely needed to apply their knowledge and to have mastered chosen texts or poets to do very well.

Mr Ahern said the questions on unseen poems were very straightforward, and the prescribed poetry questions were very fair.

Leaving Certificate engineering students were examined in the morning. ASTI’s Eamon Dennehy said there were plenty of examples in the higher-level exam of the use of technology in everyday things, such as bicycle helmets, Lego bricks and golf clubs, so it’s not the eternal thing of engines and machinery.

Students got to apply knowledge of tests in some questions, such as one about a safety frame in a Formula One racing car.

There were also the usual maths elements, such as drawing graphs and extracting information from them, and well-prepared students should have been fine with questions on this year’s special topic of automobile manufacturing robotics.

Mr Dennehy said that both papers had questions on environmental issues such as solar-powered flight and renewable energy for higher and ordinary-level students, respectively.

He said the ordinary level was familiar in its layout, and safety themes were prominent.

One question that may have challenged some students asked to explain how a metal had the same solidification and melting points, but the paper had plenty of visual cues to keep candidates on track.

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