According to the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) subject spokesman Robbie Cronin, the article about historic and modern censuses featured very technical language.
He and Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) subject spokesperson Ruth Morrissey agreed that many of the questions about it contained quite difficult vocabulary.
Ms Morrissey also considered the vocabulary in the second piece — an item about cultural heritage and the Irish language — very hard. Although students needed to understand the article very well to answer many questions, one on climate change’s impact on cultural heritage may have been welcomed.
Ms Morrissey felt a question about the film An Cáca Milis was unclear but those asked on poem An Spailpín Fánach were very fair.
Mr Cronin found no surprises in the prose section and said a question on An Triail was very topical, asking students about how cruelly single mothers were treated in the play. Ms Morrissey thought students got a good opportunity to write about characters in Maidhc Dainín Ó Sé’s autobiography A Thig Ná Tit Orm.
In the ordinary-level exam, the career of RTÉ journalist Caitríona Perry made for an interesting article, in Mr Cronin’s view, but he felt that Brexit’s impact on Ireland was a difficult ask in a question following a challenging article about modern Ireland.
Ms Morrissey considered the section more accessible and thought the questions were very fair. She said questions on folklore story Oisín i dTír na nÓg were very fair, and the poetry questions about Dís were appropriate for students at this level.
Mr Cronin thought a question about Oisín i dTír na nÓg was difficult but fair.
Reactions on social media from many of the estimated 20,000 higher-level biology students were overwhelmingly negative, but teacher responses were mixed.
I am a broken woman after that biology exam #leavingcert— Lynn Roche (@LynnRoche_x) June 12, 2018
TUI education and research officer David Duffy said there were more open questions asking students for detailed explanations in their answers than in previous years. He also reported that most questions covered a broad range of topics, so students who had not covered all topics might have found it difficult.
Mr Duffy also commented on the absence of diagrams as prompts in the final section, but added that students would have been happy with a nice section of straightforward experiment questions.
ASTI biology spokeswoman Lily Cronin said the higher-level paper reflected the course well, but said the high numbers studying the subject meant it is taken by students with a broad range of abilities. She thought a wide range of topics was covered in the short questions, such as ecology, genetics, and evolution, while students would have liked the human biology topics.
Ms Cronin said students who had done the mandatory experiments should have had no problems with that section of the exam, and that long questions on ecology and on the heart and blood vessels were fair and doable. She concluded that the exam was well presented, covered a lot of topics from the course, and had a nice focus in places on human biology which students tend to like.
She thought the ordinary-level biology exam, for which around 14,000 students were entered, was well illustrated with diagrams throughout. In the final section, parts of the long questions were very relevant to those diagrams, such as those on ecology, the circulatory system, and an Australian spider.
Mr Duffy said the paper was fair but students could not afford to have left any topics out because of the wide range of topics covered. The final question was an exception as it was entirely on plant biology, which many students struggle with, and they could choose to avoid it.