Leaving Cert: Qu’est-ce que c’est? French question may have got the goat of students

Leaving Cerfiticate students of Loreto, Fermoy, Clodagh Clarke and Shauna Chan with Deputy Principal Sharon Holland.
Leaving Cerfiticate students of Loreto, Fermoy, Clodagh Clarke and Shauna Chan with Deputy Principal Sharon Holland.

For Leaving Certificate French students, a morning exam featured questions in the listening test which were fairly typical and quite manageable for well-practised students.

Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) subject spokesperson Jane O’Dwyer noted, however, that they might have had difficulty with an item about a goat breeder.

She considered the two written comprehensions easier than other years, and suggested the first one about Paris tourism would have been popular with students. Familiarity with vocabulary in school from their oral exam would have helped with a novel extract.

Other topics likely to have proved popular were women in sport and inter-generational conflict, and a chance to write about Brexit’s impact on Ireland was not unexpected.

Ms O’Dwyer said the ordinary level paper had many question types that were familiar from past papers, and a question about horoscopes would have been liked by most students. Some may have had difficulty finding two past-times in a piece about part-time jobs, and many would not have known the phrase referring to a rugby player’s small size in a comprehension question.

But the rest of the exam featured many recognisable phrases on topics like family and food.

Ms O’Dwyer said the exam was typical of standards in previous years for ordinary level, but those who liked more of a challenge might have tackled the formal letter seeking a summer hotel job.

In the afternoon, history was examined and ASTI’s subject spokesperson Philip Irwin said it was good to see that most of the case studies which students had focused on came up in different sections of the ordinary level exam.

They did not feature across the entire higher level exam, but he said that was a fairly good paper, although testing in places.

A documents question on the Jarrow March was fair, but some students were probably disappointed the Sunningdale Agreement was not featured in the Northern Ireland politics section. They could, however, write about the contributions of Terence O’Neill, Ian Paisley, or both.

There was an opportunity to compare the Anglo-Irish relations records of WT Cosgrave and Eamon de Valera, and students would have liked a question about the impact of RTE, another of their case studies.

Teachers’ Union of Ireland senior cycle history spokesperson Thomas Ahern was very surprised at how fair and student-friendly both history papers were. In many higher and ordinary level sections, students whose strength was not political history could answer about cultural or economic topics, or vice-versa.

Mr Ahern cited the higher level section about the US and the world, 1945-1989, where one question asked about the work of presidents for the good of America. If students were phased by such an original type of question, they might have been happier with the next one about Martin Luther King’s contribution to US life and the Montgomery bus boycott, a case study topic.

The bus boycott was also examined at ordinary level, in a question that typified the exam’s tendency to require students to consider cause and effect of various events.

Mr Irwin said the ordinary level paper opened with a very appropriate documents question on the Nuremberg rallies, followed by a good range of historic personalities in the short questions that followed. These included the Belfast suffragist Isabelle Tod, railway builder William Dargan, Irish Parliamentary Party leader John Redmond and unionist leader Edward Carson.

In the Northern Ireland politics section, three case studies came up - the University of Derry campaign, Derry Apprentice Boys and the Sunningdale Agreement. The Montgomery bus boycott, moon landing, and President Johnson and Vietnam case studies were the subject of questions in the US section.

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