Absence of poet on higher paper catches out some pupils

THE poems of WB Yeats, Patrick Kavanagh, Adrienne Rich and TS Eliot were examined in the second higher level Leaving Certificate English paper.

But it was the non-inclusion of Eavan Boland that drew curses in many of the 4,700 exam centres around the country.

Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) English spokesperson Alan Thompson said, however, that no student should focus solely on just one of the eight poets. He said questions about the four examined poets required a forensic knowledge of their work and the entire paper was much tougher than Wednesday’s Paper 1. However, questions on King Lear were manageable and the two modes examined in the comparative text section would have been expected by most students.

Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) representative Sheila Parsons agreed that students should not have had “all their eggs in one basket” for the poetry but noted that there were no easy poetry questions, particularly the one on Yeats. She said those who studied Brian Friel’s Dancing at Lughnasa should have liked the question on it, while Paula Meehan’s unseen poem was nice but the question about its mood would have challenged students.

Ms Parsons considered the ordinary level English Paper 2 as fair, containing a number of interesting questions on the single text. She believed those who had studied King Lear well should have done well with the question about heroes and villains but felt the unseen poem was quite challenging.

Mr Thompson thought the paper was much fairer than that set for higher level students, citing clearly structured questions on the single text and fair questions on the seen and unseen poetry.

For Junior Certificate, Irish higher level candidates had morning and afternoon papers. TUI spokesman Séamus O Fearraigh was not happy with the unnatural rhythm of two people featured on the listening section who spoke with a Northern dialect.

He felt a higher level reading passage about the All Ireland Talent Show TV programme was relevant for young people, while essay titles about the World Cup and favourite TV programmes were quite simple. Mr O Fearraigh thought the higher level Paper 2 prose and poetry questions were fair.

ASTI subject representative Robbie Cronin said there were a few difficult words in higher level Paper 1 comprehension passages, such as the Irish for “subscription” and “varied”. He said some people might have thought new-style grammar questions were too easy.

Mr Cronin thought the afternoon exam was fair and contained no surprises, with unseen poems about a neighbour’s poodle and the 1911 Census very relevant to young people.

He said the single-paper ordinary level exam, with reading pieces of interest such as one about singer Miley Cyrus were good. Mr O Fearraigh praised the up-to-date material, although he considered the text about Miley Cyrus might have been difficult for some students. He said anyone who had practiced letter-writing should have had no major problems.

About 5,000 Leaving Certificate students sat engineering, with ASTI subject spokesperson Kenny Donagher describing the ordinary level exam as student-friendly. He considered the higher level paper more challenging, with tricky questions including one in which they had to get a proof stress and a welding question broader than usual.

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