Irish is generally the third most sat subject out of all the possibilities of subjects to take for the Leaving Cert Examinations. For example, in 2019, 45,500 candidates sat the Leaving Cert Irish exam out of a total of the 58,787 students who sat the Leaving Certificate examinations in any subject. 23,176 students sat the Irish Leaving Cert at Higher Level, while 22,324 candidates chose to go for Ordinary Level.

Strikingly, these figures show us that over 77% of students took Irish for the Leaving Cert. However, if you went to secondary school in Ireland, these figures would not shock you because, in a given class set, almost everyone will be doing Irish for the Leaving Cert. These figures were certainly proportionate to the number of students that did Irish in my secondary school.

Gaeilge, which is what the language is often referred to, is a subject that most students in the Irish education system start studying from primary school all the way up to secondary school, as it is generally a compulsory subject for students to take. Some even choose to pursue it at third level in conjunction with another subject because Irish can be taken as a major or minor subject in university. As a result of the abundance of students that sit the Gaeilge Leaving Cert exam, there are varying levels of abilities involved in the Irish Leaving Cert.

Undoubtedly, the Leaving Cert is a competition between students regarding who will get the highest number of points to secure their place in their dream course. Therefore, there is a certain amount of pressure there especially when you are a non-native Irish speaker doing an exam against people who are fluent in Irish. Therefore, this article will direct you on tips to do well in the Leaving Cert Gaeilge Exam.

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Why Study Irish as a School Subject?

Clearly, there is no wonder why a striking 77% of Leaving Cert students sit the Irish Leaving Cert exam. Many students would still opt to sit Irish for the Leaving Cert even if it was not a compulsory subject. According to the Irish Times, a majority of third-level students surveyed by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) favoured retaining Irish as a compulsory subject for the Leaving Certificate.

Over two-thirds of the participants in the survey even said that Irish should be fully compulsory as a school subject while just 5 per cent said an emphasis was placed on teaching Irish as a living language outside of the classroom. I agree that not enough emphasis is placed on the importance of Irish as a living language outside of the classroom and that this emphasis needs to be increased because several students do not know the benefits of understanding Irish at a fluent level.

First of all, it opens up many opportunities for students. For starters, being able to speak the official languages in Ireland looks attractive on a curriculum vitae, which opens many job opportunities. Also, there are many scholarship opportunities for you to avail of if you are able to speak Irish fluently. Trinity College even gives an award for being able to speak Irish fluently in which candidates that meet this criterion can apply for. This scholarship rewards such students with accommodation and if you live in Dublin, you will know how expensive student accommodation and accommodation in general is.

Furthermore, many secondary schools even give awards for speaking Irish, which was also the case for my secondary school. These are just to name a few of the many benefits associated with choosing to sit Gaeilge for the Leaving Cert Exam.

Get ready for Irish Exam
Read on to learn more about the listening exam. Source: unsplash.com.

How is the Irish Leaving Cert Exam Divided?

Firstly, there are three components to the Irish Leaving Cert and Junior Cert Exam – the oral, the written and the aural, also known as the listening part. Notably, the Leaving Cert Irish oral exam is 40%, while the aural exam is 10% and the written part is 50%. This article will be focusing on the aural exam. The 10% allocated to the listening part of the exam seems really small compared to the exam as a whole.

However, in the Leaving Cert exam, every mark is important and can make the difference between a H1 and a H2, or a H2 and a H3, which has a massive difference in terms of CAO points. Moreover, the aural exam is generally considered the hardest part of the Gaeilge Exam. The good thing is that improvement for the aural is really attainable and very possible. In fact, there are many ways to improve your grade for the aural exam in anticipation of the Irish Leaving Cert Exam and there are several resources to help.

What Topics are Covered in the Irish Leaving Cert Aural?

Notably, the Irish listening exam is marked out of 60. The aural is the first of the written components of the exam and is conducted after the oral is completed. Essentially, the written exam is divided into Paper One and Paper Two, so the aural exam is on Paper One, which carries 160 marks in total. The aural itself goes on for about 20 minutes. The aural exam is divided into three sections: Cuid A, Cuid B and Cuid C. Each section are then sub-divided into two sections. For each cuid, you will hear the sub-divided sections twice, then all the way through, then lastly with breaks like the first time. You will know when the speaker is finished with each section because there will be a long beep.

Cuid A is normally an advertisement, which could cover a range of topics, such as an advertisement for a Gaeltacht (normally a summer school that teaches Irish), or it could be an advertisement for a school. There are so many things that could be advertised under Cuid A, which makes it hard to predict. Cuid B takes place in the form of a conversation between people, where they could be talking about anything like school life, going out, sports, a TV show, etc. For this reason, any topic can come up. Finally, Cuid C is usually a piece of news, something that is dramatic or exciting. It could be about an accident, an acceptance to an institution, an achievement, a sports announcement, etc.

Overall, it is evident that the topics that come up in the aural exam are unpredictable because of how diverse it is, which is why it is necessary to familiarise yourself with Irish words. The potential topics are broad but are quite repetitive from past papers, so it is a good idea to practice listening exams from past papers.

Improve for Gaeilge Listening Exam
Improve your Irish listening skills! Source: unsplash.com.

Is there any Advice on Succeeding in the Leaving Cert Irish Aural?

Essentially, the aural exam questions normally start with question words such as ‘cá, conas, cad, céard, cé mhéad, cé, cén, cathain, cén fáth.’ In that order, these words mean ‘where, how, what, what, how much, who, which, when, why.’ If a student did not know the meaning of the question word, then they could get an answer wrong. A question could ask what time a meeting starts but a student might write where and what time the meeting starts to be on the safe side. However, they would be deducted marks for excess information. For this reason, know the meaning of questions words because you will find some of them on the paper.

Secondly, it is beneficial to underline keywords and verbs from the question because students must give their answers in Irish in the exam, which can be a good thing. After all, you do not necessarily need to know the meaning of the answer you are writing. So, if the question asks about the occupation of the speaker’s mother, the answer could be the mother is a doctor and then the speaker moves on to talk about something else. Therefore, you would look out for the word ‘máthair’ meaning ‘mother’ and write that sentence as the answer, which is likely to be correct, especially if the speaker never mentions ‘mathair’ again.

Also, you should scribble down the words you hear if you are not sure of what the speaker is saying instead of dwelling on that question which leads you to miss the other answers. I remember struggling to grapple with the dialects, but I kept listening to them to understand them better, especially the Donegal accents and with time, I noticed a pattern in the way that different dialects pronounced certain words. Past papers are useful for this. Lastly, familiarise yourself with place names, especially the ones that come up often like Loch Garman, as well as words in general because you can lose marks for bad spelling, even if the answer is right.

Leaving Cert Aural Prep
Use a Superprof tutor to achieve better grades for the aural exam. Source: unsplash.com.

Practising for the Irish Aural on Superprof

There are so many tutors on Superprof willing to give you more tips to succeed in the Irish aural. Some of the tutors on Superprof even come Gaeltacht areas. The tutors have different abilities in the Irish language and different methods of helping students improve their comprehension and listening skills of Gaeilge. They can speak Irish to you, and you would translate it back to them or you could go through Irish questions with them to help you succeed in the Irish Leaving Cert aural. Also, they can guide your learning of Irish according to the curriculum. Try to discover how to better your listening skills in Irish with the help of a Superprof tutor.

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