Here’s an overview of the two papers and some advice which may be of use to Leaving Certificate English students and their teachers – feel free to suggest any improvements!

NB: This is not the Gospel – every teacher has their own advice to offer. Texts referred to here are those used in my own school.

Paper I (2h 50 – 170 mins)

Check the theme of the paper on the front page – this will dictate the type of texts and essay choices

Stick to your allocated times, but leave space after each question in case you want to add more later.

Section I – Comprehending

NB: You cannot answer Q. A and Q.B on the same text 

Read the entire paper through and then choose your Q. B first – pick the option that suits you best. Then pick your choice of Q. A from the other two texts. (10 mins) 

Question A (50 marks) (40 mins)

  • Read the passage carefully again
  • Read the questions and make notes on points to be used in answers
  • Questions generally fall into these three categories:
    • Information retrieval – find info in the passage
    • Opinion – based on the passage
    • Style – remember the five basic language categories, information, persuasion, argument, narrative, aesthetic. Passage can be written in one or any combination of these genres – try to identify as many features as you can. You need to use technical terms here, eg rhetorical questions, repetition, power of three, listing, descriptive language, adverbs/adjectives/strong nouns, imperative, addressing the audience, appeal to the emotions, etc
  • Try to make three clear points in each 15-mark answer, and four in the 20-mark answer (unless directed otherwise) using PQC (point-quote-comment/develop) structure
  • Separate paragraph for each point
  • 15-mark questions should be no less than ¾ page in length, 20-mark questions should be 1 ½ pages approx

Question B (50 marks) (40 mins)

  • Layout very important here – make sure you use the correct format for the task you are set.
  • PLAN your answer
  • Awareness of audience vital
  • This should be 2 ½ pages approx.
  • Question B topics to date have been as follows:
    • Letter (2015, 2014, 2012, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002) – NB addresses, opening, signing off
    • Radio Talk/Report (2014, 2010, 2007, 2003, 2002, 2001) – NB addressing & engaging audience; to whom are you talking?
    • Speech/Talk (2014, 2013, 2011, 2009, 2004, 2001) ) – NB addressing & engaging audience; to whom are you talking?
    • Article (Newspaper/Magazine/Website) (2015, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2008, 2001) – the reader should be aware that this is an article that they are reading
    • Diary (2011, 2008, 2006, 2005, 2003)
    • Book Introduction (2015, 2013)
    • Interview (2010, 2005)
    • Report (2006, 2004)
    • Proposal (2012)
    • Leaflet (2007)
    • Dialogue (2009)
    • Advertisement (2002)
  • NB: Read the question carefully underlining all key points, and ensure that you cover all requirements in your response

Section II Composing (100 Marks) (70 mins)

  • Choose essay title carefully, reading exactly what you are asked to do – underline the key points
  • If there is a quote, take careful note of whether you are directed to use/be inspired by the quote or not (generally NOT)
  • PLAN carefully – spider diagram, mind map, paragraph plan – whatever format suits you but plan is vital to maintain coherence
  • If you are torn between several options, write a brief plan for each. This will show you whether you have enough material.
  • Main categories: Personal essay, descriptive essay, short story, newspaper/magazine/website article, opinion piece, debate, speech, argument, persuasive piece. Be aware of which style suits you best, but don’t be bound by that.
  • Awareness of audience vital
  • Personal essay – NOT A STORY. You may use anecdotes but the personal essay MUST BE REFLECTIVE (your thoughts, feelings and opinions) and should be true – do not adopt a persona
  • Avoid debate essays unless you are comfortable with the correct layout of a debate
    • If you are doing a debate, you must come down firmly on the side you chose
    • Try to include some refutation – answer the possible points which could be made by your opposition
  • Speeches – not always debates.
    • Should always address the audience several times during the speech
    • Try to use devices such as rhetorical questions – imagine you are actually making this speech
  • Avoid short story essays unless you write very good stories – a Junior Cert type story won’t work here
    • If you do a short story, the specification outlined in the question should be CENTRAL to the story, not just mentioned at the beginning or tagged on at the end
  • Essay should be minimum 4 ½  pages

*5 mins at the end to read over your paper to spot any glaring errors 

General Points

  • Number all questions carefully and clearly, Eg Section II, No. 2
  • Write in blue or black pen only – you may use red to number questions but not for anything else (Examiners mark using red and green)
  • PLAN
  • Ensure that you cover all aspects of the question in your answer
  • Take time to read the paper carefully – even if the person next to you starts writing immediately, you don’t have to!
  • Be aware of the clock and stick to the times allocated for each section
  • Your essay is worth one quarter of the total marks – give it the time and attention it merits 

Summary of timings

  • Reading:          10 mins (9.30 to 9.40am)
  • Question A:     40 mins (9.40 to 10.20am)
  • Question B:     40 mins (10.20 to 11am)
  • Composing:     75 mins (11am to 12.15pm)
  • Checking:        05 mins (12.15pm to 12.20pm)
  • Total:               170 mins 

 

Paper II (3h 20 – 200 mins) 

FOUR questions to be answered: Single Text, Comparative, Studied Poetry, Unseen Poetry

Stick to your allocated times, but leave space after each question in case you want to add more later.

Read the paper through first – Lear likely to be the last of the Single Text questions (page will be given on front of paper. Check the comparative modes and read the options. Tick the poets you have studied and read the questions. Read the unseen poem and the questions which follow. (10 mins) 

PLAN all answers

*Read all questions CAREFULLY*

Single Text – King Lear (60 marks) (50 mins) 

  • Questions normally take one or a combination of the following formats:
    • Character/s
    • Theme/s
    • Language/imagery/style
    • Dramatic scenes
  • You will have a choice of TWO questions
  • The questions will be complex – outline all the key elements and make sure these are covered in your answer
  • Choose carefully – things are not always what they seem, and what appears to be the easier option may not be. Planning carefully is key.
  • See notes on structuring answers – keep your focus at all times on the question asked
    • If a point is not relevant to the question, leave it out
  • Use suitable quotes to support your points – quotes don’t have to be long chunks
  • Avoid summarising the play or parts of it – the examiner knows the story and assumes that you know it, so this is a waste of time – keep your focus at all times on the question asked
  • Expect the unexpected – you may not have prepared for the specific question you are asked, so be prepared to manipulate your knowledge to suit the question. If you are thrown, brainstorm everything you know that could be relevant to the question and then choose your key points and quotes
  • Length: 5 pages approx.

Comparative Study (70 marks) (65 mins) 

Comparative Modes:

  • Cultural Context (the characteristics of the time and place in which the story is set)
  • General Vision and Viewpoint (the overall outlook of the text, both as intended by the writer and as experienced by the reader)
  • Literary Genre (how the text tells its story

TWO of these modes will be examined, and you will have TWO choices (either A/B or full 70-marker) within each mode.

Comparative Texts: Never Let Me Go by Kasuo Ishiguro, A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen and The King’s Speech directed by Tom Hooper.

Expect to refer to ALL THREE texts in your answer.

  • The questions will be very complex. Expect to be required to (i) compare/contrast your three texts in terms of both (ii) the question asked and (iii) the comparative mode.
  • Read the questions carefully and take time to choose the one that suits you best
  • Underline all aspects of the question you choose and ensure that you regularly signpost these in your answer
  • At least two texts must be compared in each section of a 70-mark answer, and all three must be used unless you are directed otherwise.
  • Integrate your comparisons into each section – do not deal with one text on its own and then the other.
  • Relate each point to two/three texts AND to the question asked
  • Keep your focus on BOTH the comparative mode (Cultural Context, Literary Genre OR General Vision and Viewpoint) AND the specific question you are asked
  • Use comparative terms throughout your answer
  • Ensure that you are familiar with all three modes
  • Fewer quotes are required than for the Single Text, but you will need to prepare some to support your key moments
  • If answering A/B question, do not make any reference to the text used in Part A when answering Part B unless you are asked to do so (unlikely)
  • Expect the unexpected – you may not have prepared for the specific question you are asked, so be prepared to manipulate your knowledge to suit the question. If you are thrown, brainstorm everything you know that could be relevant to the question and then choose your key points
  • Length: 6 pages approx. (2 ½ and 3 ½ respectively if doing A/B question).

Unseen Poem (20 marks) (20 mins) 

  • Leave this till last but ensure that you leave enough time to complete it
  • Read the poem and note any poetic techniques that you recognise – assonance, alliteration, imagery, metaphor, simile etc.
  • Try to get a grasp of what YOU think the poem is about
  • You will have TWO choices of question – select the one that suits you best
  • Your total answer should be around 1 ½ pages

Studied Poetry (50 marks) (50 mins) 

  • FOUR poets will appear on the exam paper, with ONE question on each poet
  • To date, the choice has always included at least one woman poet, one Irish poet and one dead poet, but we can’t take this for granted and YOU MUST KNOW FIVE POETS well
  • A minimum of FOUR poems from your chosen poet must be discussed IN DETAIL in your answer – just mentioning a poem briefly will not suffice
  • Read ALL relevant questions carefully and take some time to make your choice – it may help to make a brief plan to see which question you have more material for
  • Questions can be expected to cover a combination of subject matter (themes) and the poet’s style
  • Underline all aspects of the question you choose and ensure that you regularly signpost these in your answer
  • PLAN carefully and try to combine all aspects of the question in each section of your answer
  • Avoid spending too much time on the introduction – marking doesn’t begin until you engage with the question
  • Avoid summarising the poems – only use material that is directly relevant to the question asked
  • Don’t mention features of style, eg alliteration, unless relevant to the question asked
  • Use suitable quotes to support every point you make – ensure you quote accurately
  • Expect the unexpected – you may not have prepared for the specific question you are asked, so be prepared to manipulate your knowledge to suit the question. If you are thrown, brainstorm everything you know that could be relevant to the question and then choose your key points
  • Length: not less than 4 pages 

General

  • Read all questions carefully – they will be complex and you will be heavily penalised if you do not answer the question asked
  • NB: You must answer the question you are asked – NOT the question you would like to be asked. If you do not engage with the question asked, your P mark will suffer and consequently the rest of the PCLM marking scheme
  • Quotes from Lear and poetry will be checked for accuracy
  • Avoid summarising or telling the story (or parts of it) in relation to any of your texts
  • Number all questions carefully and clearly, Eg Section II, Question A (a).
  • Write in blue or black pen only – you may use red to number questions but not for anything else (Examiners mark using red and green)
  • PLAN
  • Ensure that you cover all aspects of the question in your answer
  • Take time to read the paper carefully – even if the person next to you starts writing immediately, you don’t have to!
  • Be aware of the clock and stick to the times allocated for each section
  • Did I mention reading all questions carefully?
  • Read all questions carefully… and PLAN.

Summary of timings

  • Reading:                      10 mins (2pm to 2.10pm)
  • Single Text (Lear):      50 mins (2.10pm to 3pm)
  • Comparative:               65 mins (3pm to 4.05pm)
  • Studied Poetry:           50 mins (4.05pm to 4.55pm)
  • Unseen Poetry:            20 mins (4.55pm to 5.15pm)
  • Re-reading:                 05 mins (5.15pm to 5.20pm
  • Total:                           200 mins

Reminder – PCLM

P – clarity of PURPOSE – answering the question asked (30%)

C – COHERENCE – how well your answer is constructed (accurate quotes come in here) (30%)

L – LANGUAGE – all expression issues (30%)

M – MECHANICS – spelling and grammar (10%)

**One last thing… READ ALL QUESTIONS CAREFULLY!**

Last last thing… best of luck!

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