Friday 24 November 2017

Exam Diary: First-day nerves banished by paper full of mystery

Gavin Cooney

CRISIS, what crisis? At 9.30am yesterday, Leaving Cert students were faced with the beginning of the end as the exam began with English Paper 1.

The first morning is usually when the nerves and jitters are worst, and this year is no different.

The wait to get into the examination centre was torturous, as the minutes crept by excruciatingly slowly.

However, once seated, and the clock struck half nine, nerves were put to one side.

Each year, English Paper 1 has a general theme and this year is "mystery". Once the paper was handed to me, I immediately skipped to the essay titles. With the ideas forming in the back of my mind, I began to read the three texts, and decide which questions to do.

I was worried about the time beforehand, as just 170 minutes are available in which to write an essay, and answer the questions A and B. Considering the volume of reading that has to be done, I expected to be glancing at the clock with a mixture of panic and contempt.

However, I managed to save a little time as halfway through reading the first text, based on a woman defending the honour of cats, I quickly decided it wasn't for me.

I ended up answering question A on the third text. Generally, I found it fine, except for the third question, which was about style, and I found it difficult to pick out the required points.

I found all three B questions challenging, but I eventually settled on the B part of text two.

The task was to deliver a speech to members of the school book club, on the enduring appeal of the mysterious in books and films.

Drawing inspiration from various movies and television programmes (but precious few books), I got through it without too much hassle. With ink and energy levels low, I hit the essay.

Overall, there was a decent mix of options. After allowing ideas to stew in the back of my mind, I decided to do a short story in which a mystery was solved.

What was my mystery of choice? Of course, I can't tell, it would spoil the mystery.

The home economics exam was on in the afternoon.

A friend, Lauren, found the paper reasonable, albeit unpredictable as, among other things, a question on technology in the kitchen did not appear.

She found the compulsory question very manageable, although the selection questions were challenging.

Today, English will be completed with paper 2, where another mystery awaits. Surely it will be Boland's year?

Gavin Cooney is a student at Mercy Secondary School, Ballymahon, Co Longford

Irish Independent

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