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Leaving Cert post-mortems: students unhappy at ‘tricky and muffled’ French aural exam

The written paper was generally well-received by students

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Study: Sarai Cruz and Mahnor Sherwani of Dominican College Sion Hill in Blackrock, Co Dublin, yesterday. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Study: Sarai Cruz and Mahnor Sherwani of Dominican College Sion Hill in Blackrock, Co Dublin, yesterday. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Study: Sarai Cruz and Mahnor Sherwani of Dominican College Sion Hill in Blackrock, Co Dublin, yesterday. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Students were not happy with the listening test in the Leaving Cert French exam, but there were no complaints about the written papers.

Siobhán O’Donovan, an Association of Secondary Teachers’ Ireland (ASTI) subject representative, said higher level students had reported the “speed at times was very fast and there seemed to be a lot of extraneous material that they had to sift through to”.

Also speaking about higher level, Corinne Gavenda, of The Institute of Education, Dublin, described the aural as “harder than usual” and said “students would have had to pick up very specific words to find their answers”.

There were expressions with which students may have struggled, while the pronunciation of an important word, bricole (DIY or odd jobs), “was not clear”, she added.

Liz Lyne of frenchnotes.ie and CBS Sexton Street, Limerick, agreed the aural was difficult in parts and would have presented a challenge to ­students, across both levels.

“Most of the students who came back with commentary found the listening ‘tricky’, ‘horrendous’, ‘muffled’ in parts,” she said

Speaking about the written paper, Ms O’Donovan, who teaches at Patrician Academy, Mallow, Co Cork, described it as “very relevant overall”.

She liked that it continued the trend of linking up with material prepared for the orals, such as a question where students were asked to write an email to a friend about the impact of lockdown on keeping fit and sporting activity.

Meanwhile, for those sitting History in the afternoon, the ‘race against the clock’ associated with the higher level paper was removed this year, and lessons should be learned from that, according to one teacher.

Susan Cashell, of The Institute of Education, Dublin, said it was the first time students would have gone into the exam where time was not major issue. It would make students’ study of history and their exam experience less fraught if the choice/time allocation experienced this year became the norm, she said.

Normally, students have to answer a Documents Based Question (DBQ) and write three essays, but this year it was a DBQ and two essays.

Philip Irwin, an Association of Secondary Teachers’ Ireland (ASTI) subject representative, agreed that the extra time for each question provided an opportunity to write more considered responses.

Mr Irwin, of The High School Rathgar, Dublin said overall it was a “fair paper with good choice and good mainstream questions” that students could “get their teeth into”.

He said candidates would have welcomed the DBQ topic of the Montgomery bus boycott of 1956. Both Mr Irwin and Ms Cashell liked the wording of the contextualisation question, where students were asked “to what extent” the boycott had brought about change. Ms Cashell said it allowed students flexibility. Mr Irwin said it provided an opportunity to write about the US civil rights movement.

In the Irish History section, Mr Irwin said that while the option on treaty negotiations was a long question, it was “a good one”.

He commented on the “broad” nature of a number of questions – including one on the impact of World War II in Ireland, and another on life on the Home Front in World War II – which “students had time to answer”.


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