So you’re almost there… Just a few hours until the Leaving Cert.begins. Nice that they chose English Paper I as the opener!

NB: This is not the Gospel – every teacher has their own advice to offer.

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/underline possible quotes from the passage (mark this Rough Work)
  • 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, use of the 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 – who am I writing for?
  • 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 as opposed to any other form of prose (You can illustrate, use sub-headings etc)
    • Diary (2011, 2008, 2006, 2005, 2003) – thoughts/feelings of a particular persona – you must capture that voice.
    • 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 – it won’t be straightforward


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
  • Click here for a more developed rant on the essay!

*5 mins at the end to read over your paper to spot any glaring errors – this is vital

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)
  • Avoid Tipp-Ex etc – you may forget to write in the words you erased. A simple line through the error will be fine
  • 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 


Now get some sleep, have a good breakfast in the morning, bring several pens and best of luck!!!