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‘With fewer questions set for us, in an exam of the usual length, I’d like to issue a formal apology’

Shona O’Kelly


Exam Diary

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Principal Pat McKenna and teacher Keith Howley preparing Pobalscoil Neasáin in Baldoyle, Dublin, for the Leaving Cert exams. Photo: Mark Condren

Principal Pat McKenna and teacher Keith Howley preparing Pobalscoil Neasáin in Baldoyle, Dublin, for the Leaving Cert exams. Photo: Mark Condren

Principal Pat McKenna and teacher Keith Howley preparing Pobalscoil Neasáin in Baldoyle, Dublin, for the Leaving Cert exams. Photo: Mark Condren

I’m almost there. With Biology done and only four more exams to go, I have finally crossed the halfway point in the odyssey that is the Leaving Cert.

What a milestone. I would have been celebrating last night: if only I didn’t have to brush up on French for today.

Irish Paper 2 was yesterday morning’s exam.

I didn’t sit it myself and, instead, invested my time in learning Darwin and Wallace’s Theory of Natural Selection. I’m sure I had more fun, regardless.

The Irish paper consists of two reading comprehensions, a poetry section, a prose section, and a section on one extra text. Most students study An Triail.

The Covid assessment arrangements this year meant students only needed to answer one reading comprehension.

As well as that, they only needed to answer poetry or prose, not both. This year’s paper was very topical.

The first reading comprehension was based on the late John Hume, and the second was based on the non-pandemic-related events of 2020. Everything except Covid-19, for once.

For the prose section, I’m sure most students chose the question on Oisín i dTír na nÓg.

Every Leaving Cert student’s dreams materialised when Géibheann came up in the poetry section. This is widely accepted to be the easiest poem on the course.

The An Triail question was lovely and broad, but a few tricky pieces of vocab in the question may have caught some people out.

Overall, it seems to have been a pleasant paper, certainly rewarding for those who put the work in.

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Biology, on the other hand, was not as pleasant an experience.

The paper itself was fine. There weren’t too many tough questions and the predicted topics of genetics, ecology, and human reproduction all came up.

However, there was too much time, if that is at all possible.

The exam changes this year meant students needed to answer far fewer questions than normal.

Yet, the exam length stayed put at three hours. It felt like an eternity.

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful for the accommodations made for us. They definitely worked in my favour. I just pity the examiner who has to mark my paper.

With the extra time, I managed to answer almost double what was required.

I’d like to issue a formal apology to the poor soul who is tasked with the job of correcting all of this extra work.

I’m sure half of it doesn’t even make sense.

As never-ending as those three hours seemed, it allowed students to really focus on their best questions and show off the study that they had put in.

Even better, the ability to answer extra questions left students feeling much more confident coming out of the exam.

The general consensus is that it was an easy paper, with the changes made.

So, that’s Biology done.

Au revoir!

Shona O’Kelly is a Leaving Certificate candidate at Presentation College, Athenry, Co Galway


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