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Leaving Cert English 2016 - What did last year’s exam papers teach us Part I

May 22, 2017

Leaving Cert English 2016: What did last year’s exam papers teach us? Part I

Paper 1

2016’s paper was described as being ‘all students could ask for of an English Language paper’. It was ‘lively and imaginative’ and rewarded candidates for close study of the language.


Simultaneously, it invited them to reach beyond their prepared material into creative expression and exploration, consistent with the paper’s general theme of ‘Journeys’.

Set in a year that marked the centenary of 1916 and the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, the paper was expected to have some historical character: these expectations were creatively managed by making Journeys not only historical, but also geographical, intellectual and aeronautical, the general theme.

Should we expect anything based on it being 2017?

Not that we can think of; but perhaps you and your classmates can come up with something.

Paper 1 was also described as one including a colourful range of genres in the selection of the texts presented for analysis: an extract from Irish writer Sara Baume’s debut novel, a speech by Barack Obama on space exploration, and an extract from a book on Shakespeare’s universal appeal, which established interesting links with Shakespeare plays set for Paper 2.

The questions set on these texts were described as being ‘more stimulating and more-ranging than in recent years. Questions on style drew fairly on a candidate’s knowledge of aspects of genre.’

This genre variety and colour is likely to continue in 2017. Expect a broad range of texts in Question A. Our outside bet is something regarding Mike McCormack’s novel, Solar Bones – the 2016 success story equivalent of Baume’s Spill Simmer – and something on the US elections and/or Brexit.

Paper 1’s reference of Shakespeare also meant Papers 1 and 2 were more dovetailed than usual.

Again, it seems likely that examiners will want to continue this integration of both papers in 2017, but how they will go about this is difficult to predict.

Question B, meanwhile, was described as being more imaginative than in recent years, and also more helpfully detailed in the descriptions of the tasks, task including a speech announcing the results of a poster competition, a pitch for a film-making competition, and a blog criticising the amounts of public money spent on space travel. 

In short, practice your speech-writing, pitching, and blogging. One of these skills is bound to come up again.

And there was no surprise in the compositions section, with the expected range offered. Each task was considered well thought-out, carefully expressed and stimulating.

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