The Irish junior cert is like a rite of passage for many students. Aimed at students from 12 to 15 and also known as the post-primary period where students encounter their first official academic evaluation, it's no wonder they find this time in their academic lives stressful.

Junior cycle English can be particularly challenging, with the new junior cert curriculum playing a major role in what students look at when trying to earn the best marks in their junior cycle English assessment.

One of the big sections of the Junior Cycle English examination is the essay side, with writing being a big component of the evaluation. If you are worried about writing the essay and making sure it is aligned with the overall marking expectations, fear not, we've got the best tips and tricks to make sure you succeed in getting the best possible mark. Keep reading.

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What is the junior cert English marking scheme?

As you probably know, the evaluation system for the Junior Cycle English has changed in the past years, with several changes being made to accommodate the new curriculum.

According to official sources and given the fact that English is the first subject being examined in the reformed Junior Cycle programme, a revised grading system will apply in English in 2017 which will be rolled out to other subjects as other reformed subjects come on stream.

In the Junior Certificate, candidates will continue to achieve grades of A, B, C, etc. to NG based on marks achieved, a total of 7 grades. In the Junior Cycle, the achievement will be indicated using the grade descriptors of Distinction, Higher Merit, Merit, Achieved, Partially Achieved, and Not Graded, a total of 6-grade descriptors.

Check out these English resources!

Essay evaluation in the Junior cert English

girl studying in library
This is the first of many exams. Source: Pexels

Writing an essay is a fundamental part of the English Junior cert, one that will show teachers and evaluators how well your dominion of certain topics and level of expression in the English language is.

The essay is evaluated in the following way:

For Teacher Annotations.

  1. Genre awareness and control/creativity: The student shows good awareness of the chosen genre and makes the piece personal and descriptive. There is a reasonably good structure, though at times the control of the genre slips and it becomes more factual than personal.
  2. Writing competence and word choices: The language attempts to create pictures of the people and the place and achieves this well at times. However, there are quite a few sentence fragments and some lapses in grammar and spelling. Nonetheless, the colloquialisms employed and the conversational tone suit the topic quite well.
  3. Awareness of and shaping for receiver/audience: The student has written for his/her own peer group and
    shows a reasonable awareness of the audience. Whilst there are some engaging reflective moments (‘staring at the
    freshly cut grass’), at times the piece drifts into quite a functional outline of the club’s five-year plan.

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For features of quality:

  1. Exceptional: The student’s text shows creativity and command of the chosen genre. The writing is highly competent, marked by original ideas, and imaginative word choices are perfectly suited to the purpose of the text. The work is fully shaped for its intended receiver/audience.
  2. Above expectations: The student’s text shows a very good control of the chosen genre. The writing is consistently competent, and effective word choices are very well matched to the purpose of the text. The work is clearly shaped with the receiver/audience in mind.
  3. In line with expectations: The student’s text shows good awareness of the chosen genre. The writing is generally competent, and word choices match the purpose of the text well. Content and development of ideas reveal consistent
    awareness of the receiver/audience.
  4. Yet to meet expectations: The student’s text shows little awareness of the chosen genre. The writing lacks competence, and word choices may be inappropriate to the intended purpose of the text. Content and development of ideas reveal little awareness of a receiver/audience.

As you can see, there are various aspects to consider when writing your essay. You need to be well-rounded in the genre and able to use words and vocabulary that suit the topic and context that you are talking about. Considering your audience is also quite important, as this will shape the purpose of your essay and how it is structured and written.

All of these details will be taken into consideration by the evaluators so, before you even start taking the exam, it's important to have a gameplan of what you are going to talk about in your writing and how you will approach the subject and vocabulary.

This can be a daunting task for some students so we've compiled some tips to write the best possible essay below...

Go to our English media guide for students. Learn how to take good notes.

Tips to write a good essay for the JCT

young girl writing essay
Learn to write the best essay. Source: Pexels

For some students, the idea of tackling the English essay component can be quite overwhelming. Truth be told, there is no fixed formula that you can use when writing your essay: it's not a matter of memorizing data or learning a method. What you really need to do is have a good level of background knowledge on current affairs and a solid grasp of critical thinking skills.

But that doesn't mean that everything is lost. On the contrary, there are some excellent tips and hacks you can use to make your essay writing skills shine. What are they? Keep reading to learn more!

  1. Define your Topics of Interests: no one can be an expert on every topic. Politics, science, economy, sociology... there is just a lot to choose from. What we suggest is narrowing down the topics you will master so you can work on being as well versed as possible on said topics. A good idea is to ask yourself: what kind of topics do you gravitate towards? Following your interest will fuel you through the readings later. After that, you can do some research in the media, online, and by going to the library.
  2. Keep up with local and global news: you will need some basic knowledge and good vocabulary in order to write your essay. One no-hassle way to catch up with current affairs is to download news apps. You can check out multiple news and information sources around the world and see how professional writers are creating their own pieces and what vocabulary they use.
  3. Borrow English Essays from Top Students: it's not about replicating or copying what they are doing, it's mostly to understand how a good essay is structured. By studying what makes a top student’s English essay stand out, you can learn how to craft a strong topic sentence, the phrases you can use to strengthen your arguments and counter-arguments, and how to have a solid conclusion. Even if you are to write your own essay about a completely different topic, the same skill sets can still be applied.
  4. Define your argument: As you plan and prepare to write the essay, you must consider what your argument is going to be. This means taking an informed position or point of view on the topic presented in the question, then defining and presenting a specific argument.
  5. Use evidence, reasoning, and scholarship: in order to convince your audience of your argument, you must use evidence and reasoning, which involves referring to and evaluating relevant scholarship.
    1. Evidence provides concrete information to support your claim. It typically consists of specific examples, facts, quotations, statistics, and illustrations.
    2. Reasoning connects the evidence to your argument. Rather than citing evidence like a shopping list, you need to evaluate the evidence and show how it supports your argument.
    3. The scholarship is used to show how your argument relates to what has been written on the topic (citing specific works). Scholarship can be used as part of your evidence and reasoning to support your argument.
  6. Write clearly: make sure your essay makes sense to you when you reread it and that the structuring of the sentences and paragraphs makes sense.
  7. Cite sources: remember to use the asked format when citing where the information you are writing came from.

Check out these English past papers.

Find support with a private tutor

If you are still feeling doubtful about your essay writing skills, there is one extra resource you can look to before writing your essay: signing up for some private lessons with a tutor.

In Superprof we have a wide network of specialized private tutors who are open to working with students in their junior cycle to help them reach their goals.

Finding a tutor is quite easy but it will be up to you to make sure you reach out to the best possible tutor for you. This is because all of the tutors' profiles are extremely diverse and you will need to make sure you find your true match.

Once you find them, the rest is smooth sailing and they could be just what you need in order to write that superb essay in your examinations!

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Andrea

Communications consultant and content creator. Foodie, traveller and music lover.