Wednesday 22 November 2017

The Leaving Cert seemed like a huge monument ... it's nice to see it crumble

'Two years ago, the Leaving Cert seemed like an impossibly huge monument, but now it’s a sad, crumbling hunk of stone'
'Two years ago, the Leaving Cert seemed like an impossibly huge monument, but now it’s a sad, crumbling hunk of stone'

Dearbháil Clarke: Exam Diary

It's odd. These exams are forever touted as The Most Important Exams in the World, the deciding factor of our academic careers, but the only thing they've taught me so far is how little they matter in comparison to everything else.

Upon entering fifth year, I was determined to strive to my academic potential. By the end of fifth year, I was a worn-out, anxious mess.

At the start of sixth year, I picked myself up and resolved to aim high. Now I'm sitting thoughtfully at the end, wondering if that really matters at all.

Please don't take me up wrong.

I firmly believe that we should work to the best of our abilities at all times, and gladly take every opportunity we're given - if only to develop ourselves as people.

But we shouldn't chew our nails and wonder if we could do better. We shouldn't dwell on slip-ups, or lament lost opportunities. We shouldn't blow up the little Leaving Cert - or any one event - into the Deciding Factor.

We certainly shouldn't take pictures of our study books all piled up and post them to social media with the caption: "I have to learn all of this in X amount of time!"

Life is not about showing our burdens to garner sympathy.

It's about facing them and chipping away at them, piece by piece, day by day.

Two years ago, the Leaving Cert seemed like an impossibly huge monument, but now it's a sad, crumbling hunk of stone.

I'm far more interested in what lies behind it: a sprawling future, with new challenges and many more things to learn.

This was the sort of thing running through my mind as I bumbled through Ordinary Level Maths Paper Two yesterday morning.

It was the simplest, kindest paper I've ever come across, and I will hear no Twitter complaints to the contrary.

One of the questions was to draw a circle. We drew a circle. You will not fail.

I heard from some glum peers that the higher level paper wasn't quite as forgiving as all that, but I have faith in your eldritch abilities to calculate.

Similarly, there were very few complaints about Irish Paper One. The listening comprehension was universally quite understandable, and the essay topics were all either topical or generously broad. I was utterly chuffed.

I took the popular choice of an essay on the problem of alcohol and drugs in Ireland.

In case you're not familiar with it: the Irish curriculum is wholly and mind-numbingly bleak. As a result, I had a whole plethora of phrases and vocabulary prepared on teenage binge-drinking, on alcohol-fuelled violence, on drug dealing and crime.

I felt quite sadistic; inwardly rejoicing as I constructed the most disheartening essay in the world.

I tried to save it with some possible solutions and my hopes for the future, but it was too late. I can see my examiner wilting already.

Right now, I'm sipping tea and eating fresh raspberry bakewells, and nothing seems very bleak at all.

There are bigger and brighter things on the horizon, friends. Keep your chins up.


Dearbháil Clarke is a pupil at Meán Scoil Mhuire, Longford.

Irish Independent

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