Irish is a pleasant language to learn. However, it is not easy to learn. Many students in Ireland begin their studies in Irish from junior infants in primary school, which is when they also start their studies in Maths and English grammar. Like these subjects, many students continue their studies of Irish in secondary school with some continuing to pursue it in university. Comparing Irish to such subjects, several students find Maths easier to excel in than Irish, with many of them describing themselves as ‘just not a language person.’
Palpably, Irish is harder to learn than many other languages. I started studying Irish in junior infants at primary school and I started studying French in secondary school, but by the time I was in Leaving Cert, having studied Irish for about 12 years and French for only about 5 years, I found French easier, and I was better at French. However, this does vary for other people but overall, it does happen to a lot of other students like me.
Irish is a convoluted language with many rules and exceptions to the rules, and even the way the sentences are structured is peculiar. Irish is not a language that most Irish people grow up knowing fluently, rather, it is a language that is gradually learnt over time. As it is generally learnt over time and is also on the Leaving Cert, there are certain things that students must know in Irish before they sit the Irish Leaving Cert exam, and these requirements are assessed in the exam.
This article will highlight how to adequately prepare for the Irish Leaving Cert and the topics that come up in the exam. If you want a general overview of the exam itself, read the guide to the Irish Leaving Cert.
Why Study Irish as a School Subject?
An understanding of the Irish language fluently carries with it many benefits. The Irish Times mentions that it might even be ‘a periscope into our psyche and our souls.’ Being able to speak Irish fluently will further strengthen your position if you are running for a high-ranking position to be a representative of the country, such as a TD, president or minister. When filling the vacancy for ministers of the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs, it was filled by people who do not speak Irish fluently, which is not as common. This resulted in an uproar because much of the people in Ireland felt that the positions should have been filled by people who speak Irish fluently.
Therefore, being able to speak Irish fluently will avoid such unnecessary commotion. This scenario does illustrate the fact that it is possible to be appointed to high positions of power without speaking Irish fluently. However, being able to speak Irish fluently will strengthen your campaign for that position. Moreover, some fluent Irish speaking people feel like being able to speak Irish fluently enriches their sense of identity. The journey of learning Irish will enable you to delve into the culture and discover the beauty of it.
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 part of the exam that half the marks for the entire exam are allocated for, namely being the written exam. It does not even need to be said before students realise that this is the biggest aspect of the exam, as well as the most significant portion of the exam in terms of marks.
The Irish written paper is very structured to the point where students know what to prepare for and how to prepare for the written paper. Notably, there are two papers in the written aspect of the exam: Paper One and Paper Two. Each paper is sat on different days, normally being two consecutive days. Paper One carries the lesser marks of 160, while 200 marks are allocated for Paper Two. Paper One includes the listening exam that consists of 60 marks. Therefore, the written exam consists of 300 marks in total.
What Topics are Covered in the Irish Leaving Cert Written Exam?
Both at Higher and Ordinary Level, on Paper One, you will find the listening exam and the ‘ceapadóireacht’ which is the ‘composition.’ The written composition carries 100 marks. At Ordinary Level, students must answer any two questions from A, B, C or D. Notably, if there is more than one question under any of the letters, students must only pick one and then move on to pick a second question from another letter. Answers must be about a page long for each question. A is a blog or continuous passage, B is a story, C is a letter or email, and D is a conversation.
For Higher Level, students must answer any one question from A, B or C. A is an essay or newspaper, B is a story, and C is a debate or speech. Students are instructed to write between 500 and 600 words. A lot of Higher Level students prepare to answer the essay question as it is quite predictable. About 2 hours is used to answer the question(s) on Paper One. A broad number of topics can appear on Paper One but luckily, students have a wide selection of questions to choose from.
Topics that appear include the life of young people, the healthcare system, music, the education system, Irish as a language, the environment and climate change, a season or day of the year, politics and current affairs, social issues, sports, etc. Regarding Paper Two for Ordinary Level, there are two reading comprehensions and questions on two stories and two poems from the course or even outside the course. Each reading comprehension is worth 50 marks, making 100 marks in total. The story is 50 marks, and the poem is 50 marks. The story section could include questions on the short film.
For Higher Level, there are also two reading comprehensions worth 50 marks each to make 100. Question 2 is the story, drama or short film on the course, or a general question if choosing something outside the course, worth 30 marks. Question 3 is the poetry questions from the course, or general ones for outside the course, worth 30 marks. Question 4 is on the literary reading or a short unseen poem, worth 40 marks. Topics regarding Paper Two is not broad as the questions are specific to the poems, stories, film, or drama. It could be on the characters involved, literary techniques, the insight we get from it or a thematic question.
Is there any Advice on Succeeding in the Leaving Cert Irish Written Exam?
Starting with Paper One, it is beneficial to learn off a bunch of essays and phrases for the essay if you are doing Higher Level. If you do not use them for the essay, you can use them in the oral exam. When I did the Leaving Cert, I decided I would do an essay, so I was able to learn off many phrases that I could apply to several essay topics and phrases that were specific. I was able to predict likely essay topics that did come up. Although, predicting is quite controversial. However, it is good to know what you will likely do in the exam at both levels.
Therefore, if you want to do a debate, know the structure for one, like the introduction and conclusion. The same applies to a letter, debate, and various things that come up. Likewise, I knew I would do an essay and prepared myself to write one. Pick the choice where you are most knowledgeable regarding the written composition. So, when I was doing my exam, I was faced with a few essay options but picked the one where I had the most vocabulary.
This leads me to the most important advice for the written composition which is to learn vocabulary for specific topics because learning general vocabulary will not get you anywhere for the written composition because the topics are very specific. Moving onto Paper Two, make sure you know the poems and stories on the course very well. It is best to answer the questions on the ones from the course because the questions for poems, stories and films outside the course are very specific and might not suit the poems and stories you had in mind.
Learn essays and vocabulary on the questions that have come up in the past regarding the poems, stories and films. Know your verbs well as they are useful for the written exam and most importantly, practise past papers. This is very useful for the reading comprehensions, so you will know how to answer them. There are many other resources that will also help to answer the questions.
Practising for the Irish Written Exam on Superprof
Finding a suitable Superprof tutor that suits your teaching style might just be a click away. You can write a letter with your Superprof tutor to improve your written Irish and a letter comes up in the Ordinary Level paper. You can even practice and expand your vocabulary regarding specific topics that come up in the exam. You can practice reading comprehensions with your tutor, especially the part that requires students to identify a verb in a particular tense. Write an Irish letter with your Supeprof Tutor Today!