Leaving Cert 2022: English Paper One higher level was ‘beautiful’ says teacher


Leaving Cert 2022 kicked off with English Paper 1 today, and a higher level paper that was described as “beautiful”.

xtensive adjustments to all of this year’s papers because of the disruption to education caused by the Covid pandemic means plenty of choice and fewer questions to answer.

Paul McCormack, English teacher at The Institute of Education said the English Paper 1 higher level exam – comprehension and composing – with the theme “powerful voices” was designed to be relevant to the tens of thousands of students sitting down to their exams

“Overall, a beautiful paper, which offered opportunities for original, fresh writing. The tasks were designed to reward those candidates who have worked hard to develop their insights into personal, narrative, persuasive and argumentative writing, he said.

Mr McCormack described the three reading comprehension passages as accessible and thought-provoking, with carefully crafted Question A tasks

In the part (ii) questions on all three texts, candidates were offered the opportunity to give their thoughts on censorship and cancel culture, the long-lasting impact of music or the importance of youthful voices in public debate, were all both challenging and designed to reward thoughtful, creative thinkers.

He commented on the variety of the Question B tasks: the three formats were an open letter, a podcast and a newspaper editorial, while the topics to be addressed included the status of poetry as a compulsory area of study for the Leaving Cert, the role of music in the writer’s life, and an imaginative response to an instance of censorship.

“All three questions were carefully structured and designed to reward the candidate who is able to put forward a logical, original and informed response, “ he said.

While there was no adjustment to the composing section of the paper, Section 11, Mr McCormack said the choice was “fantastic”.

Candidates had to select one out of a total of seven – two personal essay titles, two short stories, a speech, a discursive essay and a feature article.

“Titles required candidates to write on topics as diverse as the nature of fashion, who the powerful voices in modern life are, objects they regard as ‘faithful companions’ and the pleasure, satisfaction and personal growth derived from learning,” he said.

Mr McCormack said the two short story titles offered lovely stimuli for imaginative narratives, with an engaging speech topic, in which the candidate, who had to imagine they were running for the position of President of Ireland, had to discuss their social and cultural values as well as Ireland’s image abroad.

Jamie Dockery, a teacher at Tyndall College, Co Carlow, and of the Studyclix grinds website, noted that in the composing section, in a move away from recent exams, students were not invited to use material from their Paper II course.

“Instead, they were challenged to offer their considered opinions on the lack of diversity in public debates; whether music has a greater impact on us than books or films; or whether they agree or disagree with censorship and contemporary cancel culture.

“Some students may have struggled with these particular questions.”

Mr Dockery described the ordinary level exam as both interesting and challenging to students.

“Candidates were asked to focus on the theme of ‘Exploring Friendship’ which also gave them the opportunity to consider our relationship with artificially intelligent robots and extra-terrestrial beings,” he said

Mr Dockery said ordinary level candidates in particular would have benefitted from having to answer only one comprehension text, rather than two, one of the adjustments to English Paper 1 introduced to compensate for the Covid effect on teaching and learning

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