Junior Certificate students pleased with ‘doable’ English paper

Junior Certificate students Ada Relihan, Gavin Riggett and Venita Sabaliauskaite from Mercy Mounthawk School in Tralee Kerry after the English exams. Picture: Domnick Walsh

Students emerged pleased with the Junior Certificate English exam today after sitting a paper described as general and doable.

The two-hour exam sprung a few surprises with the studied film module not turning up on the paper for the third year running.

Otherwise though, students had a fair chance to show off the work they had done through the year, according to Kate Barry, ASTI English spokesperson and teacher at Loreto, Fermoy, Co Cork.

The final exam is worth 90% of the overall marks for students, with the remaining 10% based on work done during the year.

Ms Barry said that her students were very happy with the paper. She said there were no nasty surprises and described many of the questions as “general and very doable”.

The questions didn’t catch anybody out and I think that is fair given that the course is very open.

One of the complaints that did emerge was that there was no discernable difference in the difficulty of questions on the higher or ordinary level papers.

Ms Barry said if anything, some of those on the ordinary paper were more challenging for students.

Specifically, she said the section on comprehension for higher-level students could have been more difficult. 

“We should expect more of a challenge at senior cycle, higher level. They should be reading at an adult reading level,” she said.

Ms Barry also said the students had the option of not answering a question on a Shakespearean play. 

She said the drama question on the paper was “quite specific”, asking for a moment when a character expressed a strong view.

She said, at ordinary level, some of the questions were more appropriate. She said that a piece on Sinead Burke was “thought-provoking without being off-putting”.

“One thing I would criticise in this paper is the use of multiple-choice questions with only three options,” Ms Barry said.

She said the lack of options meant students could simply guess the right answers, adding that there “should be at least five to minimise false positives”.

The letter to the principal question was a good test for students, as was the studied poem and questions about the radio.

Ms Barry said 2019 was an improvement on 2018 which was the first exam under the new curriculum.

“The questions are longer and the students are writing at greater length. In the first year of the new curriculum, the exam paper was like a form they had to fill out,” she said.

“As a lead-in to their exams, there certainly weren’t any nasty surprises. From my own point of view as a teacher, that would be very positive.

“However, I would be concerned at the lack of rigour in the paper.”

Ruth Hamilton, an English teacher at Jesus and Mary Secondary School in Enniscrone, Co Sligo, said that the paper was mixed for students.

Junior Cert students in Schull, West Cork waited patiently for their first exam to start. Picture: Andy Gibson.
Junior Cert students in Schull, West Cork waited patiently for their first exam to start. Picture: Andy Gibson.

She said that a poetry question that asked students to “stop and think” gave a wide range of options for answers.

“This would have allowed students to write about almost all of their studied poetry,” she said.

“Many students would have found question seven very difficult as it asked them to give a citation on a studied novel, something they would have been unlikely to have done before.”

She also expressed surprise that film was omitted once again, adding that students will have been disappointed by its absence for the third year running.

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