Almost 900 students at 41 schools which piloted the subject sat 2.5-hour papers yesterday afternoon.
Students doing the higher level exam could have written about the need for a “social contract” as proposed by Leo Varadkar when campaigning for the Fine Gael leadership last year, but they needed to refer to theorists they had studied as part of their answer. Another question invited discussion on the invisibility of women today, compared to their position in a patriarchial society in 1918.
If students did not like to take on the question about rising nationalism in the US and elsewhere, they could have picked a question about a statement by U2 guitarist The Edge on globalisation.
Ordinary-level questions included infographics about Census 2016, and about journalist deaths in the context of media freedom. Another allowed students give their views about equal access to education in Ireland.
Brendan Greene, a Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) spokesman gave a positive response to the standard of questioning on both papers, being appropriate to the abilities of students at either level.
However, while there were many very current topics, he was surprised at the absence of questions about referendums when one of the most debated in decades was known to be taking place this year while exam papers were being finalised.
Michael Gillespie of the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) said the higher level physics exam opened with very straightforward questions for any students who had practiced the experiments.
He said some questions on the paper had a mix of topics so, although they were not particularly difficult, students needed a broad knowledge of the course.
Mr Gillespie thought students doing higher level maths would have liked the arithmetic type of questions.
Kevin Dunphy of the ASTI thought there were some challenging sections, with those who had studied all the course rather than just relying on revising old exam papers likely to to best. He also suggested that applied maths students might have had an advantage in a question about field athletics.
Mr Dunphy said experiments questions gave ordinary level students a positive start and, other than a challenging one about light, questions were very nice, being clear and to the point. Mr Gillespie said the ordinary level physics paper was quite straightforward with plenty opportunity to gain marks for students who did not have a perfect knowledge of every detail.
The higher level design and communications graphics paper taken by around 4,700 students were deemed a nice examination for well prepared candidates, and provided good choices. This was a common view of Seamus Cahalan and Seosamh Mac Ceallabhuí, ASTI and TUI subject spokespersons, respectively.
Mr Cahalan thought a development question was out of character with previous papers but still answerable, and the final parts of most questions were suitably tough to challenge those chasing a top grade. Mr Mac Ceallabhuí said the question about road geometry was much nicer than what students usually face on this topic.
He thought the ordinary level exam had no surprises, and Mr Cahalan also praised the paper other than part of a short perspective question.