Pupils' novel approach: skip the book, watch a DVD
HIGHER level Leaving Certificate Italian students prepared for an essay on a prescribed novel without actually reading the book in the foreign language.
A number of last year's students took the easy option by reading an English translation of the book -- or by simply watching the DVD.
The novel was 'Io non ho Paura', which as those who only read the English version will know, translates as 'I'm Not Scared'.
Among the 223 higher level Italian candidates were some young people who went into the exam without ever reading the book in the language they were studying.
The conclusion was reached in the Chief Examiner's report.
In section B3 of the exam, candidates were given a choice of essays to write about the book and were asked to include "accurate references to the novel" to support the points they made.
But the Chief Examiner notes "some minor inconsistencies between the novel and the DVD, and some candidates gave answers which reflected what they would have seen in the DVD rather than what they would have read".
"Also, the character Il Teschio was referred to by a small number of candidates as 'Skull' which only appears in the English translation. From the evidence of some essays, examiners noted that it appeared that some candidates had only read the translation or had seen the DVD of the novel.
"While it is helpful and to be recommended that candidates become acquainted with the novel in these ways, they cannot replace the actual reading of the novel in Italian," the report states. Not only did some students not read the Italian version of the novel, but all 90 candidates who answered this question took the option of writing their essay in English or Irish, rather than Italian.
Section B3 gave candidates three choices: tackling an unseen Italian literary passage; answering questions on a passage from the novel; or writing an essay based on the novel.
The examiners note that the number of candidates who chose the unseen literary passage has been decreasing in recent years -- down from 64pc in 2006 to 33pc last year.
At the same time there was a big jump in the number of candidates choosing the essay on the prescribed novel. While 33pc of candidates did the essay in 2006, this rose to 40pc in 2009.
Notwithstanding an all-English approach to the question by some students, the examiners report that "overall, the standard of essay writing was higher in 2009 than in the previous years".