Leaving cert English paper two a stern challenge

After paper-one left many English students 'beaming', paper-two provided a much more stern challenge.

Leaving cert English paper two a stern challenge
Presentation Waterford studnets Faith O’Niell, Jodie Fagan Katie Connell and Robyn Morrissey assess English paper two. Picture: Patrick Browne
Presentation Waterford studnets Faith O’Niell, Jodie Fagan Katie Connell and Robyn Morrissey assess English paper two. Picture: Patrick Browne

After paper-one left many English students 'beaming', paper-two provided a much more stern challenge.

Students and teachers were thrilled after Wednesday's paper one gave a positive start to the exams but yesterday's higher level paper-two was described as "a challenge" with some expected question styles and poets absent.

Kate Barry, English teacher at Loreto, Fermoy and ASTI subject spokeswoman, said well-prepared students should have been able to handle the challenge posed but that some may have been caught out.

Specifically, the questions on Macbeth would have caused an issue for some students, she said.

"Usually one of these questions is character-based but this year there was no character question, although one option does mention characterisation," Ms Barry said.

Well-prepared candidates would have been fine with a question on imagery, she said, but she described the other question, which focused on horror and tragedy as "particularly challenging" as it required a deep knowledge of the text.

As for the other single texts, which included Margaret Atwood's 'The Handmaid's Tale', Ms Barry said the questions were quite generic, which may have been an issue for some students.

It was the first year that Dublin poet Brendan Kennelly was on the course and he appeared on the exam, as did Sylvia Plath, with the latter likely to have been a welcome sight for many students. Seamus Heaney, usually a popular choice with teachers and students alike, was absent yet again, though.

As for the ordinary level paper, Ms Barry said that many of the questions were "fair" and wouldn't have caused any panic for students. Specifically, she said that the unseen poem was "much more accessible" than the poem on the Higher Level paper.

Studyclix.ie expert teacher Lorraine Tuffy, an English teacher at Jesus and Mary Secondary School Enniscrone, Co Sligo, said the paper was 'interesting' but had some surprises. She said that open-ended questions can be both "enticing and stimulating" for some students but that others would have "felt confusion".

Ms Tuffy said the comparative section of the paper, which requires students to compare themes or topics from several pre-studied texts, was "the most demanding question" and may have been "an arduous challenge" for some students.

Meanwhile, Irish rowers Sanita Puspure and Gary and Paul O'Donovan made a surprise appearance on the Leaving Cert Higher Level Engineering paper yesterday morning in a question on the complex engineering of modern rowing boats.

Just over 5,600 students were expected to sit the paper, almost 1,000 more than in 2018, with more than 5,000 opting for the higher level paper yesterday.

The rowers appeared alongside cutting-edge technologies like 3D printing, exoskeleton robot suits and nanotechnology in a paper that was described as "challenging."

The exam includes a section of questions that relate to a design project completed during the school year, giving students a chance to demonstrate problem-solving skills.

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