Leaving Certificate English Paper 1

Craig McHugh

Craig – Higher Level English Paper 1

D-Day! June 8th 2016. English Paper One. The paper that can make or break a person if you ask me. But that’s probably the overly dramatic thought process that is compulsory in consuming students who want to do anyway decent in the English exams, it’s all about “BS” – English is, or so my teacher says.
Paper One for me was done back ways, like I’ve always done. But for those who do things the right way I’ll start with Section 1:The three choices had “A comedy of errors” of which I didn’t touch. Some story about a dog called “One eye” and his reclusive owner who is trying to save him, and then a speech from Obama on Space. I took Question A from text two, it was rather do-able in that it asked to identify narrative language and aesthetic language, of which the piece was undeniably consumed by. There was also an opportunity to take an in depth look at the mental state of the main character, I said he had characteristics of mild aspergers due to his obsession with routine, and was obviously very anxious and perhaps overcoming a near suicide due to his reference of “I must go on”. It really showed the triumph of the human spirit, and I found the piece very engaging and enjoyable.

I took Question B like most people in my year from the Obama piece. I wrote about how Lyndon Johnson and Nixon set up in jet fuel flames the promises of a great society in Vietnam and Florida, and that Obama shouldn’t do the same. I found it very enjoyable writing indirectly, even though he will never see it to one of the most inspirational people of our time.

Finally, essay wise – I wrote the speech. Number 7 in fact on what it means to be Irish. I talked about our pursuit of fairness and our obsession with identity and blatantly said that we should not fear the erosion of our culture by others, for we have enriched other cultures by spreading ours.

And that was it, I walked out of the exam hall – sweating on what is definitely the most humid day of the year. Let’s hope English Two is just as kind. Best of luck everyone!


Liam – Higher Level English Paper 1 DSC04124 (1)

Questions that I did; Section 1: 3A, 1B. Section 2:2

When I went into the exam I took out the highlighter and went crazy. I highlighted the paper’s theme, ‘Journeys’ and then started at the back at the section 2 options. I highlighted the key words on the short story and personal essay questions and moved on to the B questions in section 1. After reading them , 1B stood out to me so I went for that. Then it was deciding the As. I liked the topic of 3, Obama’s speech about the future of NASA so I went for that one.

I timed it out and spent 60 mins reading the comprehensions and doing the A questions, 30 mins on the B questions and the remaining 80 mins on the composition.  The A questions I didn’t find too challenging, but it was really writing enough and having sufficient points that gets me. I really liked the B question, a speech, as a judge judging posters for Shakespeare’s play “The Comedy of Errors”. 1 and 2 were first and second , were yours the same ? And even the short story, I did the one about the mistaken identity, based on text 1. All in all it went fairly well.

English wouldn’t be my favourite subject, but sure it was grand!


Emma – Higher Level English Paper 1 Emma O'Callaghan

English paper one was completely different to other years!! The comprehensions were extremely specific and the part B’s were very tough. The essay titles weren’t the best and there wasn’t even an article which I was hugely disappointed about! I myself was happy enough with the comprehensions and the part B, but I found I was waffling on for my speech which was about travelling before working or going in to further education! The essay titles again were extremely specific, and none were general like other years. Overall it didn’t go horrible but it could have been a lot better. Hopefully there will be a nice paper two tomorrow to make up for the paper one!!




Cárthach – Higher Level English Paper 1 DSC04123 (1)

So, after waking up not knowing was it actually the first day of exams and to my father’s absolute cracking joke saying it was called off, I showed up to the school in quite a good mood and had a chat with my friends, we discussed the timing of Paper 1 quickly to make sure we knew that crucial element of exams (especially for a slow writer like myself).

Before we knew it, it had started and I was well underway on the most difficult part of the whole exam, starting!

After choosing the B part, I spent what felt like a very long time choosing the right Comprehension, but once I began on the second comprehension it got easier, even if the questions required referring back to a lot of examples in the text and the complexity of the narrative was a challenge in itself.

I didn’t actually get to finish the (iii) part worth 20 marks, so this was the low point of the whole exam, but I did the thing I had prepared to do, drive on and stick to the rigid time plan I had agreed on!

The next 35 minutes was spent on a blog post…an uncommon type of B question. The task was to criticise President Obama’s decision to spend $6 billion dollars of public money on NASA. This wasn’t the worst either, time pressure yet again forcing me to rush the ending! Overall, I was happy with this option, but the rareness of a blog coming up in functional writing certainly put people off!

The composing question was difficult to choose in my opinion! As someone who usually is suited to personal essays, the option was a more solely narrative approach on describing an urban journey. I live in the Gaeltacht, with 4 donkeys, I didn’t think this was very suitable for me! My other preference was a speech at a class debate with a motion for or against ‘young people should travel the world before entering the workforce or furthering education’. A nice title, but I felt I wrote it in a very unorganised way, but wrote a sufficient amount and hopefully I’ll be awarded for sticking to the speech style, but content was lacking, perhaps other things weren’t right either, trying to be positive now and look forward to being finished!

Overall, It was a fairly fine day to begin with, not brilliant, but fine! If only the rest will be the same!

My aim is not to engage in over-thinking such as what I could’ve, would’ve and should’ve done. It’s finished now and only another load of papers to get through before freedom! Hup!


Ellen – Higher Level English Paper 1 DSC04117 (1)

That’s it: the myth of the Leaving cert finally debunked- it’s all just another exam. These were my first thoughts as soon as I sealed up the answer booklet. As for the exam itself, you never really know about English Paper I because it’s so objective. There was mixed reviews in my school, some tears, some sighs of relief. I myself was so happy when I saw the theme was journeys!

I was having nightmares last night about visual elements of texts so naturally when I saw the first text I ran a mile. Obama’s speech about NASA was my natural choice, and I was able to bring in my knowledge of the Moon Landing from history. Was it just me or were the questions way more personal this year – ‘in your own words what were the changes’? And ‘in your opinion what are the disadvantages?’

For QB I did the competition entry, which I wasn’t really sure what the format was supposed to be. I did a letter while other people described the cinematic qualities of the text in detail, so we’ll see how that goes. The composing section was not bad at all and offered lots of choice, including a nice debate about young people traveling. I chose to do the descriptive essay about an urban landscape and wrote about my time in Jerusalem. I’ve never written something from the second person before so we’ll see how this goes..! All in all I feel it was quite an approachable paper.


Conor – Higher Level English Paper 1 Conor O'Hare


Yes, I will begin every blog post with a themed pun. If you feel ill, it has worked.

For those that were experiencing great nerves this morning, the starting point of the Leaving Certificate 2016 examinations, we as a nation did not make it easy for them:

“I think I will turn on the radio; listening to some songs should allow me to feel relaxed.”

[turns on radio]


[turns off radio]

“Okay, maybe I will just stick to songs on my phone.”

[looks at phone]


“What? They’re ALL relatives, wishing me good luck? I didn’t even think I had 23 relatives.”

[turns off phone]

“Maybe I’ll just sit on the couch in silence.”

[parents enter]

“Oh my God, OH MY GOD, today’s the big day! We best drive you now to avoid the traffic.” “Mom, Dad, it’s six in the morning. The exam isn’t for another three and a half hours!”

“Well, better safe than sorry. Come on, polish your shoes and let’s get going. You need to make a good first impression with the examiner.”

After meeting my classmates inside the waiting centre thirty minutes prior to the examination, it was perplexing to see that the calm people were those about to take the examinations, whilst the parents were experiencing heart palpitations and saying “Jesus, I don’t smoke, but if it will help with the nerves, I need a drag now.” It is ironic, seeing as they are the ones saying “worrying solves nothing”, yet they are the ones trembling. Our belief is different. To quote a student in my year: “They’re just summer exams with a fancy name.”

On receiving the exam paper, the first thing one should do is take note of the theme of the paper. This year, it was the theme of “Journeys”, and we were met with comprehensions, varying from Shakespearean plays to space travel. In fact, I think most students belittle the theme, based on how eclectic the theme itself is. One thing to note was that in the Shakespearean text, which was a writer’s telling of ‘The Comedy of Errors’, it asked to include reference to a Shakespearean text that you have studied. I can imagine most students thought mutually: “Paper Two in Paper One? What next? Construction of an orthocentre in my poetry question? Madness!” But I found it quite intriguing, in that it allowed us to view the works of Shakespeare as a collection, taking notice of the admirable literature he has provided us. If you care to avail of it, you might mention a thing or two about ‘The Comedy of Errors’ when answering on Lear tomorrow. Make your essay stand out. That is what ensures a great result.

Unless you write something like “Juliet Capulet, Julius Caesar, Romeo Montague, Mercutio: if you take these character's names apart you can spell out Illuminati. Therefore, Illuminati confirmed.” Maybe you ought to avoid that. There seemed to be little complaint drawn towards the composition section as well. In fact, the overall paper was deemed by most to be rather accessible, and even enlightening, in that they begin to explore concepts that they hadn’t even considered before. That is a wonderful quality of literature, I find. You are met with a world that was once held underneath a blanket, and grow a hunger to try to lift it out of the shadow that it once occupied. The paper also gave confidence to students in their ability to write, due to the broad nature of the paper, one that will certainly be required for the battle we face tomorrow.

As the exam ended, and people were comparing what questions they completed, it moved on to the topic of tomorrow’s paper, and making predictions. One would swear that the nation is holding a large bet on who comes up in the poetry. My advice: leave it. Listening to predictions may cause you to forget your strongest poet (bad), study a poet that you have little understanding on (worse), and, as we have seen with many, MANY, predictions, leaving you without anyone to answer on in the exam, because you have only focused on one poet (worst). Stick to what you know now, and don’t get flustered by what other people are saying. No one knows what is coming up. Poets and other questions have repeated themselves. All I can imagine is the person writing the exam with a random number generator choosing the poets, thinking: “If only they knew…”. But I am getting ahead of myself here. This is for tomorrow.

So, the conclusion for the day is as follows: most seem pleased with the start, and are now preparing profusely for Paper Two tomorrow afternoon. Oh, and relatives are beginning to relax. For the most part. Hopefully students are getting into the routine of things now, and will take the approach of giving the exam their all, and moving on as soon as it is finished. The more you think like this, the sooner the #whoppersummersesh seems to approach. That is a time parents should be worrying about.

Please note: blog posts reflect the opinion of the author and not necessarily the opinion of the Irish Second-Level Students’ Union. Blogs are updated daily by 6.30 pm on scheduled examination dates.

Zeminar is an event for Generation Z, particularly those aged between 15 and 19, and their parents, teachers, mentors and coaches. It will take place from 11th – 13th of October 2016. For more information see www.zeminar.ie

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