French and history papers 'challenging but manageable' for Leaving Cert students

French and history papers 'challenging but manageable' for Leaving Cert students

Avril Ní Mathuna, Jill Ní Fhloinn, and Cáit Ní Crulaoi, students of Coláiste an Phiarsaigh, Glanmire, Cork, have a quick review of the French paper after the exam on Wednesday. Picture: Larry Cummins

A challenging aural marked the French exam, while a broad range of history essay questions gave students plenty of scope, as Leaving Cert exams continued on Wednesday. 

Both French papers were manageable, with good comprehension, according to Siobhan O’Donovan, a teacher at Patrician Academy in Mallow and subject spokesperson for the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI).

Muirin Abimbola, Maeve Ní Chroinin, and Eilis Ní Bhreacain, students of Coláiste an Phiarsaigh, Glanmire, after the French exam. Picture: Larry Cummins
Muirin Abimbola, Maeve Ní Chroinin, and Eilis Ní Bhreacain, students of Coláiste an Phiarsaigh, Glanmire, after the French exam. Picture: Larry Cummins

The higher level saw a continued trend where question material linked up with material prepared for the orals. 

Topics included writing an email about fitness, activities, sports, and training during lockdown, or a reflection on the pleasures of reading. Technology, disability, and healthy eating were some of the other topics to appear on the paper. 

“All of which would have been well prepped, so students were very happy with it,” said Ms O'Donovan.

Student Shonagh McPhillips speaking after the history paper with Jennifer Hickey, deputy principal, at St Mary's Secondary School, Mallow, Co Cork. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Student Shonagh McPhillips speaking after the history paper with Jennifer Hickey, deputy principal, at St Mary's Secondary School, Mallow, Co Cork. Picture: Denis Minihane.

The ordinary level paper was also very reasonable, with students offered more time and more choice this year. 

“It would have been very much in line with expectations.” 

However, students found this year’s aural exam quite challenging overall, Ms O’Donovan added.

“They struggled to follow what was being said and felt there was too much extraneous material to sift through in order to find the answer. Section two, in particular, was cited as being difficult to answer.”

Tomas MacGearailt, Daithi Ó Loinsigh, Sinead Ní Threasaigh, Naoise Ó Mearain, and Daire Ó Maonaigh, students of Coláiste an Phiarsaigh, Glanmire, after the French exam. Picture: Larry Cummins
Tomas MacGearailt, Daithi Ó Loinsigh, Sinead Ní Threasaigh, Naoise Ó Mearain, and Daire Ó Maonaigh, students of Coláiste an Phiarsaigh, Glanmire, after the French exam. Picture: Larry Cummins

Corinne Gavenda, a French teacher at the Institute of Education, said that this year's French exam was a challenging but fair paper that required students to think on their feet. 

"Students would have jumped for joy at questions 1a and 4, as the topics were familiar and relevant. Questions 1b, 1c, 2, and 3 were slightly more unusual and demanded more independent thinking and personal opinion." 

The history exam took place on Wednesday afternoon, with amendments this year meaning students had more choices and more time.

Usually, students have to tackle the documents section as well as three essay-style questions. This year, they had the documents section and two essays. 

“Overall, there was good choice, and good broad questions,” said Philip Irwin, subject spokesperson for the ASTI. “The higher level paper was very fair.” 

The documents section dealt with the Montgomery bus boycott, a popular choice with students, he said. 

Lauren O'Mahony and Niamh Sugrue, students at Coláiste na Toirbhirte, Bandon, Co Cork, sharing a toast after completing their French exam. Picture: Denis Boyle
Lauren O'Mahony and Niamh Sugrue, students at Coláiste na Toirbhirte, Bandon, Co Cork, sharing a toast after completing their French exam. Picture: Denis Boyle

"It would have given them plenty of space to write about the civil rights movement.” 

The section on Ireland also presented students with a very good, but very long, question about why both the negotiations and the terms of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921 were controversial.

Students Helena Walsh, Ailbhe Heffernan, and Andrea White after completing the history paper at St Mary's Secondary School, Mallow, Co Cork. Picture: Denis Minihane
Students Helena Walsh, Ailbhe Heffernan, and Andrea White after completing the history paper at St Mary's Secondary School, Mallow, Co Cork. Picture: Denis Minihane

Students may have found challenging an essay topic asking them to discuss how divided societies sometimes are culturally productive in the context of the North up to 1993.

“It was an interesting question, but very searching and difficult for Leaving Cert level.”

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