Students are optimistic as Leaving Certificate exams get under way


THERE was a general air of optimism expressed among second level pupils in Enniscorthy who spoke to the Enniscorthy Guardian about the leaving certificate exams.

ollowing lockdown, this year’s crop of students are undertaking a more traditional format of the exams although there appears to be widespread consensus that an overhaul of the exams format is something that needs to be looked at going forward.

In Enniscorthy Community College, Breanna Sludds-Keane, who is a Head Girl, Student Council representative, Green Schools Committee member and Student of the Year, said the leaving certificate is not as daunting as she anticipated it would be.

Having availed of the school’s evening study programme, Breanna said the school had prepared her thoroughly for the exams.

“The teachers also stayed after school to ensure that any work or time lost over lock down was made up. They also ensured we were very clear on the paper layout, what questions to focus on and time and marks given for each question.

However, Breanna believes the Government could do more to support students: “I believe the Government, State Examinations Commission, should have provided the class of 2022 with clear direction from an early stage. For the first half of Sixth Year, I was of the belief we may have a hybrid system as was the case last year and finding out in January as we prepared for our mock exams that this was not the case was very late.”

Breanna is hoping to attend St Angela’s College, Sligo, to pursue her ambition to become a Home Economics and Irish teacher.

Luca Sludds is ECC’s, Sixth Year leaving certificate engineering students of the year. A member of the school soccer team he is also a qualified GAA coach.

“The exams, so far, are fine,” said Luca.

“All the exams I have done are straight forward and the preparation I have done has helped me very much,” he added.

“The mock exams showed me where I was in terms of my progression and what I needed to do to achieve better results in subjects. I feel the Leaving Certificate papers have sufficient choice with regards to questions and I do not feel under pressure for time as there are less questions to be completed compared with other years.”

Luca said having a choice means he can focus more on his selection of questions and expand on the answers he is giving.

“My friends, like me, feel happy with the exams, that they are straight forward and not as bad as we were led to believe,” said Luca, He is hoping to do an apprenticeship in Mechanical Engineering when he finishes secondary school.

Zoe Breslin is a Sixth Year student and library assistant in ECC and he also said the exams, to-date, have not been as difficult as he anticipated.

“I feel the mocks helped us as it allowed us to focus on the questions being asked, calculate our time, and assess our answers,” he said.

However, he said anyone who was using the mocks as a prediction for what was coming up on the Leaving Certificate exams “has not been completely fortunate to date”.

Zoe was full of praise for the school which she said was very supportive of her year group and she also said the teachers have been “very generous with their time and guidance”.

However, she also commented: “ I do believe we should have been given an opportunity to avail of the hybrid system as Covid impacted hugely on us.” 

Zoe hopes to attend Maynooth University to pursue her ambition to become a primary school teacher.

In Coláíste Bride the students were equally upbeat and positive when talking to the Enniscorthy Guardian.

We spoke to Aoife Browne, Ruth Bolger, Hannah Browne and Amelia Morycka.

“You can prepare yourself but it depends on what comes up at the end of the day,” said Hannah.

“English paper one was really nice but English paper two was more difficult and everyone had mixed emotions about it,” added Ruth. 

Amelia said the way the questions were phrased meant students had to really know their stuff and there was no room given for personal view points.

“There was no way you were going to be able to answer the question unless you had studied it,” she said.

Her friends agreed and said: “It was much more specific and you had to know your stuff.”

“There wasn’t much scope for interpretation,” said Amelia. The students also feel it would be better if there was scope for broader answers and interpretation in answers.

“You had to add the same style essay just with different topics,” added Hannah.

However, the girls were very happy with their geography exams and said they were prepared very well for it.

“Geography is very a much a subject where, if a question comes up that you haven’t learned, then you haven’t learned it,” said Ruth.

However, the amendments made this year, resulting in sections of the course being cut because of the pandemic, meant the students were very well prepared.

The fact the students also had 24 per cent of their exam done in advance through field work was something the girls were very happy about.

They said it took the stress out of it and made it easier to relax going into the exam. They also feel that’s something that should be applied to other subjects too rather than it all coming down to one final exam.

With regard to their Third Level studies Ruth plans to do primary school teaching while Amelia hopes to study accounting with finance and French.

Hannah plans to study biology in UCD and Hannah is hoping to pursue hotel management.

In Bunclody Vocational College, Leah Coleman said she was nervous before starting the exams but felt the English paper 1, was a good way to ease into the examination process.

“The choices in the papers this year means that it is easier to manage my time and reduces the stress levels a little during the exams,” said Leah.

In Meánscoil Gharman, Keelan Angood, said he’s very happy with how the exams were going so far.

Keelan said that for him personally there weren’t many issues in terms of what came up to-date but said that fellow students said the Home Ec exam threw up some surprises for people.

Keelan changed from Higher to ordinary level maths within the last month and said he was very happy with how that exam went.

With regard to his future studies, following secondary school, Keelan’s plans are probably a little different to most other people.

“I am going ​​​​​​​to America for college in the autumn,” he said. Keelan hopes to pursue a career in psychology or counselling.

Matilda Ní Mahaonaigh said Enlish paper one was “really nice” and commented: “It was a really good paper”.

“I was grateful of the choice so you had more time,” she said.

Matilda said there were some aspects of Home Economics that proved a little difficult for people.

However, she was happy with the higher level maths exam: “I thought it went well. I did higher level and I expected it to be difficult and effect my confidence but it didn’t.”

Matilda hopes to go to Maynooth to study for an Arts degree.

There was one aspect of the exam questions that Matilda found peculiar, especially with regard to the fact the students sitting the exams are all teenagers.

One question in particular asked students to discuss how colour can be used to flatter body style and shape.

While the intentions of the question may have been innocuous Matilda said it was quite an “outdated” question to ask.

“There may be teenagers sitting the exam who might have a lot of insecurities and perhaps also mental health difficulties and I just thought that question was a little bit strange,” said Matilda.

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