Students compose themselves with English

The English papers faced by about 53,000 Leaving Certificate students were based on themes of storytelling and humour.

Students compose themselves with English

For the higher level Paper 1, sat yesterday morning, Michael Doherty of the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) said the three texts on the theme of storytelling were engaging for students.

They would have been pleased to see reference to popular TV shows Revenge and Homeland in a magazine article about suspense and cliffhangers, followed by questions linked to the accompanying images.

Another piece from a newspaper article on New York’s Grand Central Station was poetic and descriptive, and Mr Doherty considered the related questions not too difficult.

He felt the choice of compositions should have offered something for every student, with two short story options about a reunion or manipulation more general than last year’s options, although another title was very abstract.

Alan Thompson, English spokesman, Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI), thought higher level Paper 1 was very fair and should have calmed students’ nerves, as it gave them a chance to write at length and showcase their ability in the subject.

He felt the texts on storytelling were thought-provoking and should have given students ideas for their own writing later in the paper, although they were a little bit “text-rich”.

He was pleased at the clear construction of essay titles as it left little room for students to use prepared compositions, which he said should help safeguard the exam process.

He also considered the ordinary level paper a good one to settle nerves, with written extracts well pitched at students by their content, language, and style. While there was a good range of essays, he felt the short story options were a bit more prescriptive than usual.

Mr Doherty said the theme of humour in the ordinary level paper should have given students a lift, opening with an extract from comedian Des Bishop’s book My Dad Was Nearly James Bond and nice questions about it.

A piece written by The Far Side cartoonist Gary Larson included two of his images, while comedian and former Britain’s Got Talent judge Michael McIntyre’s autobiography was the basis of a third comprehension passage.

Mr Doherty felt most students should have found an essay title to suit them, with two nice short story options to feature animals or a story in which someone’s opinion of another character changes dramatically.

The afternoon home economics exams, for which more than 12,000 students were entered, included a higher level paper that ASTI’s Maura McCaul thought more challenging than recent years.

She questioned why it featured a question with a table based on the old food pyramid, when schools have been teaching about the newer one that health and food safety authorities sent them last year, although it should not negatively affect how students would have answered.

Elsewhere in the exam, she said there was a broad range of topics, including a question on adequacy of social housing, a general area examined every year but two since 2004. Most of the paper was fair but she considered the level of detail required in an optional question about the primary education system too tough.

TUI’s Kate Hehir said short questions at higher level were straightforward and that the food survey question was a topic students should be familiar enough with to do well.

Ms Hehir was also pleased with a question on family budgeting.

Elsewhere, she thought students would have been challenged to come up with the names of two relevant laws in a question about child protection.

Both representatives were positive about the ordinary level exam, which featured straightforward short questions and a question on the new food pyramid.

The Twittersphere was alive with witty observations by both students and interested observers on day one of the exams:

@MonicaHeck — Love that in Ireland everyone is glued to the leaving cert to find out what came up. In Switzerland, once you’re done you never look back!!!

@JohnnyBarry7 — What’s up with everyone using new pens tomorrow that’s just like using a new hurl in a final you just don’t do it

@tzeem — I’d say people in my school are more worried about what to wear to the exam than the actual thing

@xxsarah_x — The examiner needs to realize he’s not getting paid to drink tea, have naps and pick his nose violently #juniorcert

@ovrplyd — Sylvia Plath, Gerald Manley Hopkins, Derek Mahon and Elizabeth Bishop will be headlining this year’s Oxegen festival

@ryancanninghum — I keep staring at my Language in Focus book funnily... I’m not sure what to do with it yet, but I want to put it through some sort of pain

@Carlyp0ps — delighted with the way paper 1 went :) #HonoursEnglish #Paper1 #LeavingCert

@Leanne_Jedward — I will cry with happiness if the Aimsir Chaite comes up tomorrow pleeeease #juniorcert

@garyKILLSx — Decided I won’t bother looking up any of the answers I don’t get. If I didn’t know it then, no point knowing it now. :)

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