Leaving Cert English can be one of those subjects that send students into a cold sweat. It’s one of the three mandatory subjects, so even if it’s not on your list of favourite subjects, you still have to do it. It's not all bad news, however, as there are lots of resources available to you to help you!
It is also quite a transparent subject, meaning you can have an idea of what questions are going to come up before you sit the exam! The layout rarely changes! The hard work will be done in the years leading up to the exam, and this helps spread the word loud and ease the pressure!
Keep reading to learn more about the paper, and what to expect!
We have a series of informative articles about English on our website! Want to get the edge when you are studying or are you just looking for some tips? Check out the Superprof guide to studying English!
What Should I Expect from the Leaving Cert English Exam?
The Leaving Certificate is a two-year study programme and while it may seem like a massive undertaking, it can essentially be broken down into two main parts - comprehending, and composing.
The syllabus also classifies language into five general headings, and then these headings can be examined and assessed under the two main parts mentioned above. So, let's take a look at these 5 headings!
Need an extensive breakdown of both English papers? Why not read our guide to the topics covered in the English leaving cert!
The Language Of Information
This classification is any text that relays information, it is known as informative writing. It would include things like reports, records, memos, and documentaries.
If we look first at comprehending, you should be able to summarize the information, specify relevant details, assess the text for language, structure, layout, and if the information included is adequate or not.
For the composing part, students should be able to compose reports, memos, news reports, media scripts, and notices. You should be able to structure them properly in terms of sentence structure and the general layout. The more of these that you read, the easier you will be able to recognise this kind of writing!
The Language Of Argument
The language of argument is any text that puts forth an argument. These texts should show reasoning, either deductive or inductive reasoning. These texts are typically seen in journalism, philosophy, legal writing, and scientific essays.
You should be able to give a summary of the stages of the argument, and the conclusion. You should also be able to assess the argument, decide if it’s valid, identify examples in the text that show this, and identify any assumptions, and presumptions in the text.
You’ll also be able to compose your own theory, or hypothesis, justify why you agree or disagree, and give an overview of your thoughts.
The Language Of Persuasion
This classification is texts that persuade you to take a particular action or change your point of view. These texts include things like political speeches, some forms of journalism like op-eds, and advertising.
To see if you can identify this style, you should be able to identify what devices are being used to persuade the reader, assess if these devices work, identify the intended audience, and outline who the text would benefit from. Essentially, who is the text talking to, and what are they saying that is persuasive.
You should also be able to compose persuasive newspaper articles, adverts, and PR type statements. Practice makes perfect!
The Language Of Narration
The language of narration classifies texts with a narrative purpose. This includes things like novels, short stories, dramas, films, travel books, biographies, and autobiographies. Basically any text with the purpose of telling a story.
You should be able to show your understanding by demonstrating an ability to analyze and justify your reaction and thoughts on a narrative text. You should also be able to identify significant devices within the text and assess the impact these have on the story. You’ll be able to outline the narrative structure, identify different characteristics, and language, and critically analyze and compare different narrative texts using different categories. You’ll also compare different texts under the same theme, and assess how the texts use the theme or address different aspects of it.
For composition, you should be able to compose anecdotes, short stories, brief autobiographical sketches, scripts, dialogues, and fables.
The Aesthetic Use Of Language
The aesthetic use of language includes texts that are for aesthetic pleasure. It includes texts like fiction, drama, and poetry.
For the comprehension tasks, you should be able to understand how to approach each example text. This means that you would approach a poem differently from a short drama, as one is supposed to be acted out in front of you and the other is not. You’ll also develop your own responses to the texts, and justify why you feel that way. You should be able to compare, contrast and assess texts.
In the composition tasks, you should be able to compose your own pieces of aesthetic writing, create alternative scenarios of a text, and write an analytical essay relating to one or more texts that you’ve studied.
What Texts Are Studied on The English Paper?
There isn’t really an easy answer for which Leaving Cert English texts you’ll be prescribed. The Department of Education releases a list of texts, and different schools can choose different texts, plays, and poems from the list.
Higher Level Leaving Cert English will have a text to study on its own. The list of texts may change from year to year, but one text will be selected by the school. There will also be three other texts for comparative study- a novel, a drama, and a film. The texts will be studied under three modes of comparison, and these can change from year to year. One of the texts studied must be a Shakespeare play. Higher Level students will also study eight poets, with at least six poems from each poet.
Ordinary Level Leaving Cert English also has a text for study on its own, though there tends to be a wider list for the school to choose from. Three more texts will be chosen for comparative study - a novel, a drama and a film. A play by Shakespeare can be chosen as one of these texts, but it’s optional. Ordinary Level Leaving Cert English will also study thirty-six poems from a wide selection of poets.
Do you need some extra resources and study aids? We have compiled a list for you to make it all easier. Just click the previous link to see it!
What Types of English Papers Can I Choose From?
The Leaving Cert English exam is a written exam, split into two papers. Paper 1 is a test of your comprehension and composing abilities. The paper will include three texts, all centred on a particular theme. You should be able to identify the purpose of the text - information, argument, persuasion, or narrative. After each text is two questions, you’ll need to answer Question A and Question B. You can’t answer both questions on the same piece of text.
The next part of Paper 1 is composition. You’ll be given a choice of formats. Higher Level Leaving Cert English students have a choice of three formats, while Ordinary level students have a choice of two. You have 2 hours and 50 minutes to complete this paper. Paper 1 is worth 200 marks - 50 marks for Question A, 50 marks for Question B, and 100 marks for the composition.
Paper 2 focuses on the single texts, the three comparative study texts and the poets, or poems prescribed for your leaving cert English course. Higher level students will also have a previously unseen poem as well. Ordinary level students will have studied the unseen poem during the two-year course. You have 3 hours and 20 minutes to complete this paper. Paper 2 is worth 200 marks - 60 marks for the single text, 70 marks for the comparative study, 20 marks for unseen poetry, and 50 marks for prescribed poetry.
How Should I Study For The Leaving Cert English Exam?
Many students think that it’s only possible to study for paper 2, but this isn’t strictly true. It’s also possible to learn how to study for leaving cert English paper 1, as well.
Obviously, you won’t know which sample texts or topics will come up on your exam, but you can practice. You can try past papers, answer sample questions, and test yourself on recognising different formats, and if a sample is written for information, argument, persuasion, or narration. You can also practice writing essays, stories, letters, and speeches. Practice two or three pieces of writing for each of the classifications.
When you’re thinking about how to study for leaving cert English paper 2, don’t just think about what topics you would like to come up with on the exam. Prepare quotes for all of the themes for your leaving cert year. There are other tips that can help you study for the examinations.
It is important to try out a number of study techniques to see whats works for you! Why not have a look at the Superprof list of study tips that suit all kinds of learners!
How Should I Prepare Before the Exam?
Being prepared is key to doing well in Leaving Cert English, but sometimes, there can be things outside of your control. It can be difficult to be prepared if there’s a disconnect between you and your teacher. It may be that you learn in a different way compared to how the teacher teaches. It could be that your teacher doesn’t have the time to focus on one student. It could just be that there’s a bit of a personality clash between you. These things can happen, and they can make keeping on track in class difficult, if not impossible.
If this sounds in any way familiar to you, you should look at other resources that can help you. There are so many different online resources that may be helpful, but you should also think about finding a tutor who can give you 1 to 1 support, and really make sure that you’re prepared for your leaving cert English.
Having your own English tutor could offer some priceless help, and you can find a number of experienced and affordable tutors near you on our Superprof database, with some as low as 10 euro per hour!
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