Exam adds up to a fair challenge

THERE were sighs of relief in most Leaving Certificate exam halls on reading the second maths papers, according to Brid Griffin of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI).

After many complaints about higher-level Paper 1 last Friday, students were hoping for a nicer exam yesterday morning. Ms Griffin said it was fair and contained a good balance of challenging and straightforward questions.

She felt that questions on co-ordinate geometry, vectors and probability would have been favourably received, but the last part of a trigonometry question was quite challenging.

Brigid Cleary of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) said most students will have left the exam with smiles on their faces, but particularly those who learned theorems well and had comprehensively covered probability and statistics.

Despite the amount of linear transformations in question three, she said there was plenty of choice.

Ms Griffin said the ordinary-level exam, sat by about 38,000 of the 51,000 Leaving Certificate students taking maths, was well structured and questions were easily understood, with area and volume, probability, statistics and linear programming particularly appealing. However, there were more challenging aspects to questions on the circle and trigonometry.

Ms Cleary was pleased with the standard of the ordinary-level exam.

For more than 25,000 Junior Certificate higher level maths students, Paper 2 was described by Ms Griffin as being in line with the standard of previous years. She thought the trigonometry and statistics questions were straightforward, but the last parts of two geometry questions were challenging.

Ms Cleary said that while the final part of the first question was a bit tricky, it wasn’t unfair, and the paper was otherwise manageable.

Ms Griffin said this year’s second ordinary-level exam may have caused some students difficulty due to time constraints. Ms Cleary said the paper was as expected.

The first Leaving Certificate Irish papers were taken at higher and ordinary level yesterday and ASTI’s Robbie Cronin thought the honours exam was brutally difficult and unfair. He said essay titles on issues such as public leaders and children’s rights were geared more for adults and the composition section was too abstract.

He thought the answers to two questions on the comprehension passages — one about Mary Robinson and another on an Irish teacher in Poland — were tough to find but he was more positive about the listening test.

His TUI counterpart, Bláithín Ní Liatháin, was less concerned at the difficulty but thought some composition titles required a philosophical approach, while some language in the Mary Robinson article was complicated.

She said ordinary level Paper 1 was fine, with nice essays, including one about setting off on a weekend trip. Ms Ní Liatháin thought a letter to thank a friend for a birthday present was lovely but said a question on John Hume was a bit tough.

Mr Cronin thought the conversation questions and essays were nice but felt too much detail was needed in the letter questions. He said one student asked, “who the hell was he?” in relation to the John Hume article and thought some related questions were tough.

Another piece about Dublin footballer Sinéad Ahearne was excellent, he said, although the listening test was difficult, despite featuring topics such as The X Factor and Childline.

Meanwhile, the civic, social and political education (CSPE) exam for Junior Certificate students included a topical question on the presidential race.

Áras an Uachtaráin also featured in the opening question asking students to name pictured buildings and the people associated with them — also topical given the appearance of The White House and Buckingham Palace.

CSPE Teachers Association spokesman Brendan O’Regan said while the exam was fair, it was a bit less imaginative than last year and the absence of questions on individual public figures or campaigners was unusual.

However, he was pleased with questions about electric cars and an African advocacy centre which featured on the accompanying source material paper.

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