Tough test for those aiming for an A in maths

With expectations of record high numbers taking higher level maths, there will be much focus on reaction and results from yesterday’s Leaving Certificate exams.

Teachers’ Union of Ireland maths spokeswoman Bríd Griffin thought that the afternoon Paper 1 was very long, and rather than having concerns about borderline students getting a pass grade, she said the greatest difficulty might have been for those hoping to get an A.

This may lead to speculation that elements of the new Project Maths course in Paper 2 on Monday might be less challenging.

Ms Griffin said the opening question on algebra was very long, although manageable. She said there was nothing too daunting about the two differential calculus questions, but the final section of the integration question will have left many scratching their heads.

This point was also made by Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland maths spokeswoman Brigid Cleary, who felt students struggled with the same question and a follow-on element. However, she spoke positively about the rest of the higher level paper, saying the first question was the most difficult.

Ms Cleary thought most students should have been quite pleased with the ordinary level maths Paper 1.

Ms Griffin said the final parts of questions on algebra might have been the only stumbling blocks on that section.

The higher level Junior Certificate maths Paper 1, Ms Griffin said, had three straightforward questions, including those on arithmetic and Venn diagrams. But she felt three others could have caused students some difficulty, with overuse of interpretation of algebra in the third and fourth questions, and a text-heavy part to another about a cyclist’s journey from Wicklow to Bray.

Ms Griffin said there was nothing unusual from other years in the ordinary level Junior Certificate maths Paper 1.

Ms Cleary thought both higher and ordinary level Junior Certificate maths exams were along standard lines and a lot of students would have been pleased.

More than 26,000 Leaving Certificate students had started the day with geography papers, and ASTI subject spokesperson Neil Curran thought there was challenging language in some higher- and ordinary-level questions.

He said the higher level exam was fair overall but cited reference to “population dynamics” in part of a regional geography question as needing better explanation. But, he added, part of the same question was about the euro crisis, which was topical, at least.

Mr Curran felt the detail view of a historical map of Carrick-on-Shannon was blurry for students to read.

TUI geography spokes-person Tom Hunt said the short question section was extremely fair and the topics in the physical geography section were standard fare. He said a question about the factors influencing the opening and closure of a multinational’s plants was topical.

Mr Hunt said the ordinary level paper, unlike recent years, was not pitched at an inappropriate standard for students of this level. He said there was a broad range of issues within each section and the language left no uncertainty about what was being asked.

Mr Curran thought the ordinary level Leaving Certificate exam featured many topical questions. Overall, he said the exam was challenging but fair.

The Junior Certificate higher level geography exam was described by Mr Hunt as a model of clarity, with each question setting out one clear task for students. He described it as one of the fairest exams at this level of the last seven years.

Back-up exam after error

More than 40,000 Leaving Certificate students will have to sit a back-up Irish exam on Monday because the CD for their listening test was put in Junior Certificate exam packs by mistake.

The State Examinations Commission assured students last night that the contingency paper is produced to the same standard as the original exam and they should continue with their normal preparations.

A spokesperson said the error came to the SEC’s attention during the Junior Certificate Irish exams on Thursday. What it described as “a limited number” of CDs for the higher and ordinary level Leaving Certificate Irish exam were placed in packs for some centres accommodating students with special needs, instead of the Junior Cert aural test CD.

It is unclear if any Junior Certificate student was played part or all of the wrong CD on Thursday, but the SEC said it believes the content of these CDs may have been compromised. The error means reissuing the entire Paper 1 for Leaving Certificate Irish, as the questions relating to the aural test are on the same paper as the written exam questions.

Around 40,000 students are expected to take the replacement Paper 1 at 2pm on Monday. The SEC said it is satisfied the arrangements will ensure Monday’s exams go ahead without disruption to students. Education Minister Ruairi Quinn said he will receive a report from the SEC this week but is satisfied it is doing everything necessary.

— Niall Murray

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