Junior Cert higher level maths paper ‘challenging’

WITH only about 5,000 Leaving Certificate engineering students in exam halls because of the rescheduled English papers, Junior Certificate candidates felt most pressure on day two of the state exams.

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland’s maths spokesperson Michael Berry said the higher level maths paper could have been difficult for some Junior Certificate students yesterday morning.

He referred to the wordiness of questions on the first few pages which might have been off-putting initially. But, he said, the first few questions were quite practical arithmetic problems, such as calculating the length of a journey.

Mr Berry said there was nothing in the algebra questions that had not been seen before, such as graphing of functions, and the hard final part of question 6 was the kind of difficult problem required to distinguish top students from the rest.

Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland subject spokesperson Eileen Scanlon agreed that the exam may have been challenging for many students, with the likelihood for example that a lot of them would not have understood what a reserve fund was in the second question.

“There were much more real life problems than in previous years, the kids enjoy those kind of questions but they are also challenging,” she said.

Ms Scanlon also mentioned a difficult functions question and said a graphs question asking to find a turning point was also likely to have caused some students problems.

Mr Berry said the ordinary level paper was straightforward and any student who had a good knowledge of previous years’ exams should have been able to do well.

Ms Scanlon was very pleased with the ordinary level paper and suggested it would be a good move if the same format was used at higher level.

Robbie Cronin of the ASTI made positive remarks about the ordinary level Irish Paper I taken by Junior Certificate students yesterday. He said the comprehension pieces were nice and the letter, which is often quite difficult, was student-friendly.

His opinion of the higher level paper was less favourable, however, as he felt particularly concerned about the composition titles.

He said that most students would have something prepared for the ‘eachtra’ essay choice based on their own experiences, like a party or an accident for example, but that few people would have been able to write about being caught in a storm. Mr Cronin added that the topics of debate compositions, mobile phones and the ugliness of Ireland on weekend nights, were not really appropriate for students of that age.

However, he said that the comprehension section featured questions which were not too hard, although the passage about an explorer vehicle on Mars had some tough vocabulary.

Engineering students were the only Leaving Certificate candidates to take exams after the controversial rescheduling of the second English papers due to have been sat yesterday morning.

TUI subject spokesperson Dan Keane said both higher and ordinary level papers were in line with those of past exams and should have caused few problems for most people. He said the higher level paper was set in a very familiar format and students should have been well able to answer the questions about their research topic of a hybrid vehicle.

With projects already submitted and practical tests finished a month ago, yesterday’s paper was worth just half the total marks for higher level engineering students, and 40% for ordinary level candidates.

Mr Keane said the latter paper was straightforward and contained no surprises for any student who had prepared well.

ASTI engineering spokesperson Eamon Dennehy said the higher level paper offered students a good choice of topics and plenty wriggle room to answer questions to suit them. He said that both levels featured diagrams and illustrations to help students develop their answers.

Mr Dennehy said the ordinary level paper was particularly generous in the choice of questions after the obligatory first question, with internal options available within many questions.

David Monaghan, of the Engineering Technology Teachers’ Association, said higher level students who had their work done on the research topic should have done well with the relevant question, while the design and mechanisms question would have allowed students to adapt principles used in their project work of making a model carousel.

He said the ordinary level paper covered a wide range of topics but not to the same depth as in the higher level exam, and was in a format familiar to students from past papers.

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