As many of you know, for the last two years I have been studying for my Leaving Cert exams. They finished on Thursday and I’m delighted to have survived the experience. Can’t wait to relax (and blog) a lot more this summer.
Here’s how they all went.
Wednesday was English paper 1. I’m not going to give a blow-by-blow account, but I wasn’t really fazed by the Heaney surprise. I had expected him to come up in the poetry, but hadn’t planned on relying on him as I figured it would be quite a hard question. I enjoyed the comprehension and Question B. I did my personal essay on “moments of uncertainty” and thought it went rather well, if a little rushed! It’s a bit scary sending off paper one because it’s so hard to know how you’ve done—there’s no right and wrong in English, really, and a lot depends on the corrector’s opinion.
I wait with bated breath.
Thursday came English paper 2, and not a sniff of Heaney…. Except on the unseen, which I think was probably a benefit as we’re all pretty used to his style. I’d studied Macbeth and did the question on his relationships being power struggles. I loved the question and think I answered it better than in the mocks since I remembered to refer back to the question at the end of each paragraph! For the comparative, I did General Vision and Viewpoint which used to be my least favourite mode, but I liked the question on the day and was pretty pleased with my answer, even if it was a bit lengthy. I was then delighted to find Dickinson on the poetry section as she’s my favourite poet and I got an A on her question in the mocks. Again I was tight for time at the end, but think it went rather well.
Friday was Maths paper 1. I tried my best at the higher level paper, and that’s all I can say about it! Overall, I was surprised and pleased at how much I was able to answer.
Monday was a busy day with Maths paper 2 and Irish paper 1. Again with the maths, all I could do was try my best! There were easy parts and hard parts as usual, but surprisingly I found it harder than the first paper. I liked the questions in the latter part of the paper on the economy etc, as I do business studies and understood it fairly well.
The Irish essay titles were great. I really think there was something for everyone. I did the essay title about the years of your youth being the best years of your life—disagreeing, of course, so I could rant about An Mean Comharsaide, An Coras Oideachas, An Cúlú and so forth! Thought it went really well. I’ve only studied Irish for six years so was delighted to have a solid oral exam and essay under my belt. PLUS I actually understood the listening test! All smiles on the way out of the exam hall.
On Tuesday came Irish paper 2 and Biology. Paper 2 was always going to be more challenging than paper one, but I found the comprehensions OK. Was pleased to see Dís come up as I’d done well on it in the mocks, even though I don’t recall ever actually reading the story! Next was, of course, An Spailpín Fánach. I thought it was OK but struggled to use lots of quotes in my answers due to the complex language. I hope I made up for it in connecting with the poem! I was as stumped as everyone else with the question on “poetic meter”. I just said something about how it was traditionally a song! My class did the dánta breise, and Fill Arís wasn’t too bad, but again I struggled with quotes and the translation section. Had really been hoping for Colmáin as on my mock paper, or even Caoineadh Art Uí Laoghiare as we studied that most recently!
Overall, the papers, my teacher, and the weighting of the marks made for quite a successful Irish exam. I think things will be OK.
Biology was a nasty piece of work if ever I saw one, and I was glad to see the population of Twitter agree. It’s not a subject I’ve ever wanted to do exceptionally in, and I hope that by having a go at most questions I’ll have scraped by. I think it goes in everyone’s favour that the whole paper is essentially made up of shorter questions, so you don’t have to remember reams like you do in History or English.
Wednesday was always going to be the worst day of my life: two very challenging subjects, both of which I wanted to do very well in, with about an hour in between. No thank you. French and history. Yuck.
I found myself really enjoying the French paper. I was able to answer most of the listening questions, with the exception of when a student in my exam hall hit his pen against the table—in an ostentatiously loud fashion—on the exact same sentence each time it was played! That 0.00089% of my mark will haunt me for eternity. I found the comprehensions easy enough to follow, and the written pieces gave lots of opportunity to show off what I knew: smoking, technology and whether teenagers have too much freedom were my choices, and I remembered to vary my tenses which I hadn’t done in the mocks! The oral had gone fairly well for me, but it’s such a vague layout that one never really knows until results day!
History was a bit of a pig’s ear, as they say. I had studied hard at it and was confident that I knew my stuff, but got stomach pains in the exam which made it hard to concentrate. I also think I was just really tired, simple as that. The first blow was when the Belfast Blitz came up as the DBQ, when I’d spent so much time studying the Treaty Negotiations… but in the end, I think that worked out to my advantage. I often ramble in essays, so limited knowledge meant I was able to just include the plain facts in what I thought was a very nice contextualisation question about the impact of the War on Belfast.
The Northern Ireland section questions were ghastly, considering most of what my class studied were based around the case study questions and their relative chapters. I cobbled an essay together on cultural and religious identity, which heavily featured (surprise, surprise) the Apprentice Boys. I left that one ‘til last but unfortunately was fretting about it throughout the rest of the paper. For my European question I was delighted to see the Jarrow March come up, and I did the question on the Moon Landing for US history, which went so well in my mocks.
I had lots of knowledge but somehow just didn’t like the way the exam went. I think it was nerves and exhaustion, but I just seemed to be writing rubbish and didn’t get time to plan things or check them through. I was pretty upset about it when I got home, but as I went through the paper with mum and dad, we all concluded that I had actually written a whole essay full of facts for each question—which can only be a good thing! I’m very proud of my coursework which is worth 20% of the final grade, so I remain hopeful. What I will say in my favour was that I wrote a huge number of paragraphs, around ten for each essay. Since the cumulative mark can be out of twelve for each paragraph up to a total of sixty, a large number of paragraphs is a huge bonus.
Thursday, and it was all over in a flash with my last exam, business studies. I have to say, I was over the moon with how it went. We’ve had the course finished for ages, and my only problem in the mocks really was that I didn’t write enough. Some lovely questions came up and this time round I was writing right up to the end of the exam. I think that probably went the best out of all of them. Finishing on a high!
So this is the last you’ll hear about my exams, because I’m totally ready to put them all out of my head for the summer—save for a top secret project I’ll be working on! I’d be interested to know how your exams went if you did any, so please do let me know in the comments below!
Hope you all enjoy your well-earned rest as much as I am.
Catherine Ann xxx