Leaving Cert English 2016 - What did last year’s exam papers teach us - Part II
May 23, 2017
Leaving Cert English 2016: What did last year’s exam papers teach us? Part II
2016’s Paper 2 content was largely expected, but its questions were remarkably specific and detailed. It challenged candidates to display not only a wide knowledge of the prescribed texts, but the ability to give balanced treatment to a variety of aspects.
Consider the poetry section, specifically the question on the most anticipated poet, Paul Durcan. Students were asked to discuss three distinct aspects: ‘narrative approach’, ‘a variety of issues’ and ‘great emotional honesty’.
Meanwhile, WB Yeats did not appear, despite 2016 being the centenary of the Easter Rising. Despite this, however, the range of poets set was more or less as expected, but each question contained three or four distinct aspects. For example, ‘memorable characters’, ‘dramatic settings’, ‘meaning in life’ and ‘sense of disillusionment’ all had to be addressed in the discussion of T. S. Eliot’s poetry.
This suggests that even if you have a banker poet whom you’d love to make an appearance, you’ll still need to know that poet’s work inside-out; close readings and specific, detailed analysis of a poet’s work in response to the question asked are what the examiner is looking for.
On the other hand, the increasingly specific nature of the poetry section makes it more challenging than before, thus it’s likely to be more time-consuming. If you’re not particularly confident in poetry, and/or your favoured poet doesn’t appear, consider leaving poetry until last to maximize your marks elsewhere, in case you run out of time.
In terms of the Single Text, questions were in line with the remainder of the paper – familiar in content and wide-ranging in scope.
For example, in King Lear, candidates were asked not only to discuss the characters of Lear and Gloucester but also to evaluate them in terms of relative heroism. The tasks were complex, but not unfair.
Finally, in Comparative Study, the expected modes were examined. However, once again, the questions were less general than in recent years and close attention to the specific terms of each question was essential. Candidates were specifically directed to discuss characters, settings and moments of crisis, rather than invited to supply their own prepared material.
The comparative question remains arguably the most open and challenging across both papers. In Paper 2, it’s the one in which H1 candidates distinguish themselves from other candidates.