Trying to learn from the past with the Leaving Cert exam past papers

BY this time of year they were dog-eared. Full of scribbles. The first one you had attempted, months ago, had seemed so simple and trivial. You had bigger fish/questions to fry/answer.

Trying to learn from the past with the Leaving Cert exam past papers

The Leaving Cert exam past papers. A book of documents with harps on them. The paper statement that said ‘funtime’s over.’ As the school year waned and time ran out, you flicked through the years and tried to spot patterns. “If [that] came up in [that year], what’s the likelihood it will come up again?” They should just create a new subject — a mixture of maths, psychology and current affairs — so that you could successfully predict what’s coming up on other papers depending on a number of critera.

Leaving Certificate examination: Examinology Question 1: Given the following information — Yeats hasn’t come up in four years, but there’s a centenary next year. Yer man in the department’s from Sligo and YOU haven’t done a tap — what are the chances of ‘Lake Isle of Inisfree’ being a ‘BANKER’ this year?

In a way, you were a sort of dispassionate historian — trying to learn from the past, but not to imagine what it was like to live in it. Maybe you noted the date and thought: “Oh, the Leaving Cert started early/late that year, didn’t it?” But didn’t anybody think of the children? All those titles that said “WEDNESDAY JUNE SOMETHINGTH, MORNING 9.30 ENGLISH PAPER 1 represented hundreds of thousands of teenagers’ personal D-Days.

I did the Leaving Cert in 1996, which meant I did relatively friendly papers. Some of the typeface was sans-serif and modern-looking or, at the very least, Times New Roman. But lying around the house were past-paper books that reached much further back in time. There were no pictures or friendly cajoling to get precious little millennial snowflakes to answer the questions. These were done in a typewriterish font; they were humourless, yet still familiar. As if you’d found the file the Stasi had kept on you in a Berlin archive.

This year, I am part of the problem. I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like and what I like is passage B from the Leaving Cert art imaginative composition paper. The students have to do a still life, imaginative composition or abstract composition, based on an excerpt from Irish Mammies Book 1. What I wrote. This is pretty much my life’s crowning achievement to date. Like Thomas Cromwell’s rise from street ruffian to hidden power behind the throne, I have snuck inside the castle walls and am now eating the nice biscuits. I’m also conscious that people will read the passage and be stressed by it. Which wasn’t my intention when I wrote it. (I’m conscious of it, but I’m not going to let it ruin my day.) But if Mammies can make it onto the paper, then pretty much anything can be considered a cultural artefact in years to come. HONOURS TELLY QUESTION 1: Study the following exchange from Winning Streak (The student then watches an excerpt on a video-paper) Why do you think Mary, from Lixnaw, is reticent about her plans for the money? Do the grandchildren have it spent already? HISTORY OF HAMES SECTION A, Question 4: In a hames you have studied, outline, with aid of suitable quotation or quango, the cause of the hames and why the initial investigation into it was itself the subject of an investigation. I’m looking forward to futures past.

They should create a new Leaving Cert subject — a mix of maths, psychology and current affairs — so that you could predict what’s coming up on other exam papers


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