Leah – Higher Level

Hello and good afternoon to the readers of this post! I hope everyone is feeling well on this fine evening and that if you’re one of the “lucky” few to be going through exams at the moment, I truly hope that everyone finds the strength to do their best over the next few weeks. I myself have been inflicted with the trials & tribulations that go hand in hand with the thoughts of the Leaving Certificate today.

Firstly, however, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Leah and I have never done an official State Examination – until now. As you can imagine, I was extremely nervous at the daunting prospect of my first State Exams to be so significant to my future. But, no pain, no gain – right? These past few months have been a nail biting experience but now, finally, I have made it. Alongside all of my friends and classmates, we have all reached the first day of exams.

This morning I arrived at my school fully decked out in my uniform at 8:30. That’s an entire hour before my exam was due to begin but I was too full to the brim of nervous energy. After waiting for what seemed like both endless hours and fleeting minutes, my exam centre was opened and slowly but surely, each of my peers poured into the centre. As the clock neared towards 9:30, I decided to make a basic plan of action for my first exam – English Paper I. I decided that my first priority was to get Section II out of the way, seen as it’s worth the most marks. Luckily enough, I was blessed with a creative mind from a very young age and so I knew my best shot would be to write a short story. Then, I chose to continue on to part B of Section I and finally, I would finish with the Comprehension. I love it when a plan comes together. With that plan in mind, I felt anxious to get going and, sure enough, 9:30 came and there was a flurry of rustling papers in the exam centre. I kid you not, it sounded like a flock of pigeons taking flight!

With my plan of action in mind, I decided to do Question 1 in Section II. The question was focusing on a problem the main character had to go through and then how they had to change throughout the course of the events of short story. For me personally, I decided to write an epilogue-like ending of a book that lead onto a sequel. Each problem my character experienced were in the past and yet, they still had many more to overcome. I was incredibly lucky that my hours in bed, where I was trying to sleep last night but instead thinking of intricate plot lines had not gone to waste.

As soon as I had written over four pages for my tale, I decided it was time for me to move onto the next thing. For my Question B of Section I, I chose to do Question B from Text 1. It suited me down to the ground as it was about writing a letter to the Principal of the School on behalf of the Student Council in order to reason with the Principal and their choice to get rid of a Graduation Ceremony for the students graduating in 2015. Now, as many of my close friends know, this was a question close to my heart, as I have written a letter to my school’s Principal in the past and it sounded like something the Principal may have threatened to do in the past. Therefore, this Question B suited me down to the ground and I used my own past experiences of being on the Student Council to help me make it more reasonable and relatable. I was not surprised either when I learned my friend and current Chairperson of the Student Council did likewise. We had a right old laugh about that afterwards as we both had a good idea of what each of us had specifically written. It’s always nice to leave your exam centre in chortles of laughter.

Finally, I finished off my exam with the Comprehension. I immediately rushed to start reading Text 2 as I realised I was short on time and I finished off answering the questions in the nick of time. It turned out that I actually quite enjoyed answering on Text 2 because I love to read anything scary and I thought it was a unique moment where I could understand the thought process. Was it just me that found the first book cover image scarier than the first and the second more childlike for part (iii)?

All in all, for my first “proper” exams they haven’t gone too bad so far. Dare I even say it, I found Paper I fun? The topics intrigued me and even inspired me. It was a somewhat nice paper to get on the first day too. Here’s hoping that Paper II will run just as smoothly and that Ní Chuilleanáin and Montague will come up on the Poetry Section! Well done to everyone who got over the first hurdle too; we’re well on our way to enjoying the long summer!

Rob – Higher Level

We sat down way too early for English paper 1, the feeling of anxiety and expectation growing as the clock reached 9:30. On turning the paper over, I read the Question Bs and the essay titles.

I had been hoping for an article or a speech and though the titles were okay, nothing really stood out for me. Reading through the Question As I liked Text 1, a speech by Bono at the University of Pennsylvania, I decided to go with Question B from text 3, an introduction to a book about the importance of old people.

I found both the Questions A and B that I answered to be very doable. While I haven’t written an introduction before in an exam, the topic was not too difficult. I enjoyed Bono’s speech, as an exam text it worked well and as a speech it was very inspiring and engaging. I am not as happy about the composing part of the paper. I enjoy writing short stories, while the speech at a UN youth event jumped out at me. I decided to go with the second short story, involving a “gradual reveal of a big secret”. Midway through my essay I realised I hadn’t been developing the story and it was looking like a personal essay. I tried to rectify this, but ran out of time on my final paragraph. I also found the “gradual” part of this story to be challenging. It would have been much easier to just describe one big reveal in a climactic manner.

Overall, I feel okay about Paper 1. It was fair. I most definitely wasn’t delighted with it but it was approachable and interesting. Now the panic and cramming can begin for Paper 2, something I think Paper 1 had been shielding. Come on Montague!

Lorraine – Higher Level

Well, That’s English Paper 1 down! I have to say I wasn’t nervous at all this morning or to be honest, at all this year! Paper 1 is generally a nice paper to start with because there isn’t an awful lot you can do for it!

I got into the school this morning and I was greeted by lots of very nervous students. I went into my exam room and signed the roll book and boom I was ready! When we got the exam I straight away glanced at the Compositions and I couldn’t help but smile- I had a story that I could tweak into the first title. Relieved, I went back to the Section A. The theme was Challenges which I was happy with because I was worried it would be equality which can be difficult. The first comprehension was about Bono and the second B part was writing a letter to your principal about him not allowing CLASS of 2015 to have a graduation ceremony. I chose this as my B first because the others looked fairly difficult and B is not my strong point. I started answering A then and it was about a ghost writer. I thought I did a good enough job on these. With the composition, there were two short story questions which was great for me but if you had of done a speech I think it would have been tricky as there was only one option!! I did mine about a main character who has to overcome a challenge and show how’s it transformed them! I really hope it went ok! From talking to everyone, everyone seems happy enough! Overall, I think it was a good enough paper and I’m pleased with how it went. I can’t say I’m ecstatic but I never am after Paper 1! Fingers crossed for the role of women in Othello tomorrow and a bitta Montague!! 😀

Joanna – Higher Level

Day one – English paper 1

You can’t open the exam paper until the examiner says you can, but the ink on the inside goes through a little and you can make out the picture before you turn over the page. When I got my paper I thought to myself, that’s a weird looking woman. I was anticipating something about human-rights or about equality and guess what, it was Bono and a speech he gave to the UN or something. I was delighted, but rather than jump straight in I decided to check the essay questions. I had a short story in mind going into the exam and two of the composition titles suited it. Grand. Then I checked the part B’s and I was so disappointed when the part B under the Bono comprehension suited me best. That meant I couldn’t do that comprehension and had to choose one of the other part A’s. I got a bit thrown because I didn’t know which to choose and the hall seemed so loud with rummaging and turning pages… I took a deep breath and looked at the other part A’s. The first of the two were about ghost literature writing (not really an interest of mine) but the questions looked very similar to past examples I had practiced so I decided to give it a go. I ended up really liking it actually, and my letter for the functional writing asking to have the sixth year graduation back went well too. I had an hour left for the composition, which was tight enough, but I managed to mould my essay into the fourth title, an ending in my life that I consider important, and before I knew it, I was just starting my concluding paragraph when the examiner called out that these are the last ten minutes and no one can leave. That’s when I realised just how stiff my entire arm was, but I kept going and put down the last full stops just as we were asked to put our pens down. It was over. *sigh*

On the side, I must say, deciding to cycle in to the exam in the morning was a great idea. Not only did I avoid having to drink a coffee in the morning, the whole effort of getting changed and then getting on the bike loosened up my arm and the fresh air helped to relax a bit. Now, time to get some early dinner, rest and then get stuck into the selected pile of Othello, Poetry and Comparative notes waiting for me in my room. Best of luck to everyone and congratulations on surviving day one! 🙂

Isabelle – Higher Level

The theme of this year’s English paper one was “Challenges”, something pretty universal, that most Leaving Cert students can relate to going into their first exam. The choice of Question B’s wasn’t my favourite, (I would have liked a nice diary entry!) but I went for the letter to the Principal in the end, which was fairly straightforward!

The Question A I went for was one about an article discussing the problems authors face writing Ghost Novels in a time where people don’t believe in Ghosts. I actually found the article quite interesting and so it wasn’t too difficult to write about. The 20 mark question wasn’t about style, but instead about the images that accompanied the text, which I hadn’t prepared too much on, but I thought it went quite well overall. Finally the composition -being someone who’s quite active in debating and Model United Nations I was praying for a speech and my prayers were answered! There was a lovely question asking you to write a speech to be delivered at the United Nations Youth Conference in which you consider some of the causes and possible solutions to what you see as the defining struggles in our age. This question was right up my street and so the rest of the exam flew by – here’s just hoping paper 2 is kind to us tomorrow!

Asha – Higher Level

English Paper 1

I still don’t think it quite hit me that I was doing the Leaving Certificate until I opened the paper and started breezing through the reading comprehensions to find the one that I liked best.

It didn’t take more than a paragraph of the first to realise that I certainly wasn’t doing that one. Likewise the question B simply didn’t appeal.The next two had me stumped a bit. Once I made the decision to do the question B from text 3 that decided the matter. I quite enjoyed the piece on ghost writing and the challenges of it in a modern society. I quickly made links with other references to this in pop- culture. It was engaging although my performance is another question entirely as the comprehensions have never been my strength.

I answered the question B on old people. I thought it interesting but I think I missed out on answering the first part of the question about the influence of older people on younger people. The second part was easy enough. It was a fair question overall, even though book intro’s aren’t something that we really covered. It was a bit of an article in the end I think or at least that’s how I wrote it.

As for the composition, there was never any question of my doing something that wasn’t a personal essay which narrowed my options down to one. That was slightly disappointing however I digress. It was a workable title on our response to an ending or a number of endings. Fitting given that this was the beginning of the end. I managed to eek out 4 pages which is more than I’ve ever written for one essay so I was suitably impressed and had five minutes to spare. I regained all feeling in my hand shortly after.

Please note: Blog posts reflect the opinion of the author and not necessarily the opinion of the Irish Second-Level Students’ Union.