Sunday 25 September 2016

Exam Diary: Exam is over, so I can finally love Irish for the beautiful, poetic language that it is

Dearbháil Clarke

Published 10/06/2015 | 02:30

Leaving Cert diairist Dearbháil Clarke
Leaving Cert diairist Dearbháil Clarke

I'm exhausted. The sort of exhaustion that makes you feel clear-eyed and mildly disconnected from the task at hand.

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The sort of exhaustion that makes you space out and start wondering about the big questions when you really should be concentrating on the little ones.

I've never before been so unfocused and relaxed in an exam to be able to take a few moments to squint my eyes and wonder what the word for 'sadism' in Irish is, or go completely blank and try to figure out what exactly happens in the dark stage of photosynthesis through logical deduction, but then came yesterday.

I was awake all the night before in a funk, wishing vainly that we had some sort of continuous assessment in place instead of the lightning-flash Leaving Cert.

I've worked ceaselessly over the last few years to get my mediocre Irish up to scratch, and I've absorbed every bit of biology I could out of a boundless love for the subject, but I knew that my result wasn't going to reflect that. I'm terrible at swotting up the night before an exam, and always have been. The momentous nature of the thing gets into me, and I panic.

The Leaving Cert rewards a very specific type of person: an academic, level-headed, ambitious person who doesn't mind repetition and who has the emotional control of a yogi. I have very few of those attributes.

So I reminded myself that it's not all that important in the end, downed a tankard of coffee and stumbled into Irish Two. Another fair exam!

The questions were all accessible, if bland. I'm sure that my boredom was seeping into my work towards the end. I'm doubly sure that my knowledge of Irish grammar was seeping out of my brain at the same time.

Despite my cramping hand, I felt a momentous sense of relief when I finally sealed that booklet up. I will never, ever have to struggle with that pessimistic curriculum and those endless grammar rules again. I can finally love Irish for the beautiful, poetic language that it is, and forget the panic of trying to write detailed analyses of Irish prose when you can barely string a proper sentence together.

Biology, on the other hand, was a wonderfully engaging paper. Biology is by far my favourite Leaving Cert subject, because the papers consistently try to help you engage with the material - instead of letting you woodenly regurgitate whatever you've learned.

This year's paper was an excellent example of that, with several questions that really made you think critically. Even in a horrendously sleepy state, that's an approach that I can get behind. It was a long and challenging paper, yes, but it was an enjoyable challenge - unlike the frantic and illegible scribble-fest that was Irish Paper Two.

Today I have a 'break' - by which I mean I'm cramming as hard as I can for Art History tomorrow morning. There's another subject that's a lot more enjoyable in theory than in practice.

The very best of luck those tackling French and History today.

Dearbháil Clarke is a pupil at Meán Scoil Mhuire in Longford

Irish Independent

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