Shahed – Higher Level
The dreaded English Paper 2, where the questions are either awful or a blessing. Thankfully, the general consensus this year is that it was a nice paper throughout!
I opened the paper and quickly read the questions. When I saw the poetry section, I nearly screamed with joy. Thank you, SEC!!
For the Single Text, I answered the question about Macbeth’s relationships and how they can be seen as power struggles. This was a pretty straightforward question with a lot of leeway for answers, as you could include literally any of the other characters in the play. It was a nice start!
For the Comparative Study, I answered the Cultural Context question relating to difficulties that the characters face and how they respond to them. This took some thinking, but once I got into it, it was quite simple.
Next was Poetry, the section that everyone dreaded. I turned the page and who was there but Seamus Heaney, yet again! Only this time, for the Unseen Poetry questions, which related to what the meaning of the poem was and two of your favourite images or else to give your personal response.
The Prescribed Poetry section was a miracle. Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath both came up, as did William Butler Yeats and Philip Larkin. Despite the fact that this section is worth the least amount of marks, it’s certainly the hardest and the one worried about the most. The poets were all what everyone hoped for and the questions were straightforward. I answered about Plath’s language and theme.
With one subject down, I now have six left to go. Time to tackle some maths!
Nicole – Higher Level
First off I should say (and this will say a lot about my personality) that I only realised today through no one’s fault but my own that I WAS blogging English. So apologies there.
So onto the papers. Well I’ll say this first because we’re all thinking it: HEANEYYYYYY!!! *shakes fist at the sky*
Where were you where we needed you? All my very brilliant English teachers in my school and heck, every teacher in the country was counting on him to come up. And he did!…in the comprehension and unseen poem. Err I think I’m speaking for everyone when I say this, that’s not what we meant exam makers!
Though I must be honest, it was not a tragedy for me as it was for some as I was counting on my gurl Emily Dickinson all the way (see my bio) but still. Cheek.
So Paper 1 went alright didn’t it? It’s nice I think how we have an exam that doesn’t require studying (unless you’re hardcore) on our first day. I went straight to the back page once the clock hit 9:30 and checked out the titles for the composing sections. I had decided previously that personal essays and speeches were just not for me. Unless I can rant about something I truly am passionate about, I’m pretty useless with them. The title I ended up choosing (and quickly so, though we are warned about not reading the paper properly, lets face it nobody wants to dawdle around) was the ghost themed story. Once that was picked I quickly scanned the rest of the paper (taking a second to appreciate the irony of Heaney showing up in Paper 1) and I went straight into Question A. I chose Text 1 (as did most of my year I found out later) and went straight to work. For some reason I do this thing where I write absolutely loads for the first question of whatever exam I do, and this was no exception. I must have spent over an hour on those silly comprehension questions! Question B I chose from Text 2, a speech on positive and negative influences in young peoples lives. I started writing and I somehow twisted it around to suit myself and made it really about looking out for abusive relationships, that the ones we most love could be the most harmful. Pretty heavy stuff but I was pleased enough. And then my story. Well my story was implying that my character was just after dealing with someone dying but their memory still haunting them. And let me tell you readers, I thought I was the STUFF writing it “Aw yeah this is going to be GREAT!” I was thinking to myself. And of course I was punished for my arrogance when I read over it as it was…well I was alright I guess. In summation I think Paper 1 was grand. Really, to be honest I have no idea whether it went really well or bad, but by talking to others I can safely say I’m not alone in feeling that way.
Now Paper 2. How lovely was it to start at 2:00pm? I had attempted to studying yesterday but I only succeeded in organising my notes, watching a John Green live show and giggling to myself at the always fantastic Leaving Cert memes that surface this time of the year (the Seamus Heaney ones; oh LORD people will not let that go anytime soon). So I tried again this morning with about 50 million pages in my hands, reading them over and over and over and so on and just hoped while I could not feel it, that SOMETHING was going into my head.
When the exam started at 2, I think I was in shock because everything I was reading just didn’t seem to be reaching the part of my brain that y’know, comprehends anything. “Huh?” I was saying, having to read over and over, until I could finally focus. Everyone dashed to the last page to see who the poets where and thank god, the woman herself, Emily Dickinson was there. I was also doing ‘Macbeth’, and for my comparison essay my chosen texts were ‘Wuthering Heights’, ‘Sive’ and ‘Casablanca’.
The first thing I did was my comparison section, which was on the cultural context because I could never throughout the two years of the Senior Cycle comprehend the order and structure of an essay like that. I caaaaaaaaaan’t flip back and forth between texts without getting very confused and structurally diabolical so I literally needed to learn off the order of what I was going to say. Again I spent a good hour or so on it and it was by far my longest piece in the exam (which is fine by me, its a good load of marks).
I had to note how the people in the texts reflected the society so I tried by best by mostly repeating the sentence “This is shows how ___ was a reflection of this culture”.
Then I did ‘Macbeth’, which everyone thought would be about Lady Macbeth but alas, was not. I find in essays like this, just be really strong in opinion. Say things like “I would argue that…” “Some critics say…” heck even if the critics you are referring to are make believe, it sounds a lot stronger, like you are certain of what you are talking about. Then I went onto poetry which, for future Leaving Cert students I have to say to you, try not to stress about too much because it’s not even the biggest part of the exam. But every year people stress (with good reason, don’t get me wrong) about this section and you’re just going to make things feel a lot worse for yourself. My poetry essay I found out was a lot shorter than what my friends were saying their’s was, but even then there is no point on stressing about it now, its over! Lets celebrate! When I finished my unseen, I literally exhaled like the way you would after taking a gulp of a cold fizzy drink “Ahhhhh!” partly because my hand had been killing me and could finally rest, partly because I’d needed to go to the bathroom for over and hour but was too afraid to leave and waste time, but mostly, MOSTLY because I was DONE.
Thanks for reading!
Please note: blog post reflect the opinion of the author and not necessarily the opinion of the Irish Second-Level Students’ Union.