Air of mystery intrigues candidates

LEAVING Certificate English higher level Paper 1 had a theme of mystery running through it.

Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) subject spokesman Michael Doherty thought there were no surprises in the comprehension questions and felt that students would have been well prepared for questions on writing styles.

While there was a good range of essay options, he considered the choice of just one short story very narrow. The story had to be about the solving of a mystery, which many students felt was a bit vague, but Mr Doherty said more capable candidates wouldn’t have had any problem.

His Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) counterpart Alan Thompson said the higher-level paper was very fair as the type of questions that confronted students were all very familiar. While the layout was changed in places, he felt that images accompanying the first two comprehension passages may have aided students.

Mr Thompson said the ordinary level Paper 1 seemed to please most students, particularly the comprehension texts taken from astronaut Buzz Aldrin’s memoirs and a book about the TV series Star Trek.

Mr Doherty said ordinary-level students should have found the passages interesting and a change to the style of comprehension questions, with the third question divided in two parts for the first time, may have helped students.

A related question asking students to write a letter of application to join Nasa’s next space mission would have been welcome as classes were well prepared on formal letters.

However, he also believed creative students were limited by having just one short story option.

Ordinary level Junior Certificate English students sat their only paper yesterday morning and Mr Thompson said it was very nice. He was particularly pleased that the writing sections allowed candidates to showcase their personal experiences and creativity.

He considered the higher level Paper 1 fair but challenging, believing most students would have been kept writing to the end. For example, there were abstract elements to a functional writing option asking for a letter to a future child about milestones in his or her life ahead.

Mr Thompson also considered media studies questions about judging the newsworthiness of stories quite abstract, although help was provided in the material accompanying the questions. On the other hand, he said, an alternative option to write a school magazine review of a piece of modern technology such as a mobile phone, an MP3 player or games console was much more familiar territory for Junior Certificate students.

ASTI spokesperson Christina Henehan said the reading section of the higher level Paper 1 was straightforward and a speech about social networking sites was modern and topical. There were some new question formats and students were challenged in places by questions that required them to think from an adult point of view.

She said higher-level students needed to infer a lot of things from drama and fiction questions in the afternoon paper but the unseen poetry section was straightforward. The paper was more about communication and writing skills, she felt, than it was about literature.

Ms Henehan said the foundation level exam, taken by about 1,700 candidates, may have caused confusion for any newcomer students with the vocabulary in an article about a Harry Potter theme park.

Meanwhile, Leaving Certificate home economics papers yesterday afternoon tested the knowledge of more than 10,000 higher-level and 2,300 ordinary-level students.

ASTI subject spokesperson Maura McCaul said the short questions section of the higher-level exam was very straightforward. The rest of the paper was very topical, with an analytical question about milk and dairy products examining small businesses which are considered an avenue out of the recession.

She complimented the strong financial elements in the paper, including a case study about an unemployed father and related questions about welfare payment entitlements.

Ms McCaul said questions about different housing styles were harder for ordinary-level students than those who sat the higher-level exam, as they had to discuss social, economic and environmental factors. She said the ordinary-level paper was generally quite challenging, particularly on financial questions.

A TUI spokesperson said papers at both levels were very fair and featured topical, modern questions of strong relevance to the Ireland we live in today and the current economic situation. The breadth of the syllabus at higher and ordinary level was covered in a fair and very reasonable manner without seeking to “throw” students in any way.

The TUI spokesperson said the ordinary-level questions were clear with good use of bolding and underlining that helped avoid ambiguity about what was being asked.

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