Leaving Cert English Paper 2

Hugh - Higher Level

So, the dreaded paper 2. My single text was Hamlet; comparative texts were “Dancing at Lughnasa”, “Casablanca” and “The Kite Runner”. In terms of poets I prepared Heaney, Larkin and Plath, in order of preference.I answered on part 1 of the Hamlet question which required a discussion of “Hamlet’s madness, whether genuine or not, adds to the fascination of the character for the audience.” This meant combining previous essays on Hamlet’s madness and his appeal and was relatively manageable. The second part required a discussion of techniques employed by Shakespeare to convey a world of corruption; in short it was a horrible question that most students seem to have run a mile from.The comparative was interesting this year, with a much more prescriptive set of questions than previous years. That said the first question which dealt with how the reader’s attitude to a central character can shape the general vision and viewpoint wasn’t that bad in hindsight, it just required tweaking of material most students would have covered at some point.  Part two of the general vision and viewpoint was an “aspects of narrative” question, in other words literary genre dressed up as general vision and viewpoint. This sort of question seems to be the way the comparative is going, it caused a slight hiccup the last time it came up but hopefully people were able to handle it because after the prescribed poetry shock “I’m getting to it” we needed something to keep us going! Unseen poetry asked for an interpretation of the title “The Beautiful Lie” and to choose one image that appealed to you from the poem. The second part was a straight-forward personal response question.Prescribed poetry was the biggest shock since the “Boland episode” of 2010. Most students had anticipated Plath and Heaney, Heaney hasn’t been on for nearly ten years everyone said, Plath is definitely due to come up. Unfortunately far too many people fell into the trap of just preparing the two most anticipated poets, in the end neither of them came up and we were left with a choice between Thomas Kinsella, Adrienne Rich, Phillip Larkin and Patrick Kavanagh.  The questions themselves were again much more prescriptive than previously. Overall this was a much more difficult paper than we would have seen about 10 years ago, with prescriptive questions almost eliminating the possibility of just producing a learned off answer and an unpredictable prescribed poetry section. In short, the minister got his way; the exam is no longer “student friendly” the S.E.C. has put an end to “playing nice” with students.Now on to Maths!


Katarzyna - Higher Level

Well... English is finally finished. My arm is very sore but I suppose that it is a good sign as it shows that I gave it my best shot!Yesterday, I listened to the radio and all the students that were questioned expressed their hopes that Plath would come up. My friends were almost certain that Plath and Heaney would be on. So today when I got the paper, the first thing I looked at was the prescribed poetry. Kinsella, Rich, Larkin and Kavanagh. I looked around and was horrified by the responses of some of the students sitting near me. However, I was lucky because I love Adrienne Rich but I felt so sorry for those that miserably stared at the paper as if they couldn't believe their eyes. The poems that I referred to in my answer were "Aunt Jennifer's Tigers", "Storm Warnings", "Living in Sin" and "Power". The question was quite nice and suited the poems that I had learned.Then I moved on to unseen poetry which was very nice. The poem was called "The Beautiful Lie" written by Sheemagh Pugh. It was a very accessible poem and the questions were also fine.Next, I looked at the single text. I studied "Dancing at Lughnasa" written by Brian Friel. The two questions were quite fair, but the second about the male characters in the play suited me better. I discussed Gerry Evans, Father Jack and Michael Mundy. I did not fully agree with the statement and I gave my personal opinion on each character. I studied this play a lot and I really knew it inside out so hopefully I will have done well in this section!Lastly, the comparative. 'General Vision and Viewpoint' and 'Literary Genre' came up. I answered Question 1 on General Vision and Viewpoint. The question asked us to discuss how the attitude towards the central character shapes the General Vision and Viewpoint of the texts. The texts that I had studied were "Inside I'm Dancing", "Hamlet" and "Oedipus the King". The question was very fair and I was glad that I managed to answer it in the time left. Timing was very tight and I wish that I had a little bit more time to think. I can't write really fast and an extra half an hour would definitely have taken some of the pressure off. However, I still think that over all it was a nice paper, with the exception of the poetry, which disappointed many people.It's done now. We'll never have to do it again. Recently I learned that it is better never to look back so if any of you are disappointed, don't let this one paper influence the rest of your exams! Best of luck to all sitting maths and geography tomorrow!


ISSU Commentary - Dylan

I think the exams have started off well. With no hiccups on the distribution of the paper one or two, most students found the higher and ordinary level papers fair, although most students were expecting Plath to appear on paper two which may  well have caused difficulty for a large number of students. On the whole, there seems to be a trend towards more directed questions to prevent students using prepared answers in anticipation of more general questions.  While this presents a greater challenge, that challenge is experienced by all students so hopefully across the board people will still get the grades which they are aiming for.

Please note: blog posts reflect the opinion of the author and not necessarily the opinion of the Irish Second-Level Students’ Union. Blogs are updated daily by 6.30 pm on scheduled examination dates.