The second higher level Leaving Certificate paper for students of Irish was much tougher than Monday’s first exam.

Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) subject representative Ruth Morrissey said that the two comprehension pieces — one about Olympics controversies and the other on climate change — were tough.

Not alone were they heavy topics, she felt there was a lot of unfamiliar vocabulary in them, although the questions about them were manageable enough. Some of the final questions on each also required students to have understood the pieces in great detail.

The story of Oisín in Tír na nÓg may have disappointed students who expected questions on another story, An Gnáthrud. Ms Morrissey said students may have been even more surprised that one of the questions asked about the part of Saint Patrick in the story, even though he only appears briefly in Oisín i dTír na nÓg.

She felt a question about the importance of adjectives in the poem An tEarrach Thiar was tough for some students, and also mentioned that many students had expected An Géibheann to be examined.

Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) subject spokesperson Robbie Cronin was more pleased with the paper, and considered both comprehension pieces topical and interesting.

He did agree, however, that the language may have been challenging for students hoping for a D or C grade.

There were no problems with the prose and poetry sections, where questions were easy to understand which is crucial. He considered the questions on the play, short story and extra poetry open and easily accessible. Mr Cronin thought the first comprehension piece on ordinary level Irish Paper 2, contrasting Irish actresses Saoirse Ronan and Maureen O’Hara, was interesting and the questions on it seemed good.

A second piece about the history of Waterford and famous characters was tough for ordinary level, and language in a question about memorial events was very difficult.

However, he reported that poetry and prose questions were well received.

Ms Morrissey also considered the Ronan O’Hara item a nice extract, and she said questions on the poems Géibheann and An Spailpín Fánach were in line with those of previous years.

As the most popular non-compulsory subject, nearly 35,000 Leaving Certificate students took Biology yesterday. However, many will have found the higher level exam tough going, with a lot of reading to be done and fewer diagrams than normally found on the paper.

ASTI’s Lily Cronin said a lot of the syllabus was covered and questions were very detailed.

“Students who are very good and who revised well will be rewarded, but a lot of students would have found it challenging,” she said.

She said students had to read questions extremely carefully and, with a lot of elements in some of them, they had to change their thinking to different topics quickly. The phrasing of a question about the cell cycle may have been tough for weaker students.

The start of a long question about cell metabolism might have put students off going ahead and doing the rest of what was otherwise an okay question overall. There was welcome help on a question on the ear with the listing of the parts to be labelled, but the language in a follow-on part about the eye might have turned some students off attempting it.

Ms Cronin thought there was a lost opportunity to include questions based on topics or articles on modern biology. She said there is plenty in the news all the time about things like genetic engineering, stem cell research or advances in DNA profiling, and students may have been rightly disappointed not so see such topics featured.

A TUI spokesperson on biology thought the exam was okay, but agreed that the phrasing of some questions would have caused problems for less able students.

However, it was felt that well-prepared students had plenty to choose from, and that material from teacher guidelines was a feature, as it had been in previous years.

The TUI spokesperson considered the ordinary level exam fair, in line with those of other years, and students should have been well prepared. Ms Cronin shared this view, saying the short questions had a good selection of diagrams. She said questions about experiments were fair, although students may have been challenged in trying to explain the purpose of different implements or substances they used.

It was good to see native species like bees in Ireland and the Irish elk form the basis of questions, and there was nice use of modern biology in part of a reproduction question that asked about in-vitro fertilisation.

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