‘I thought my legs would turn to jelly’: Reaction to day one of Leaving Cert and Junior Cycle exams (2024)

18:44

* Leaving Cert students had English paper one at 9.30am, where elements of the paper “may have startled some students”. Home economics began at 2pm, where “students left the exam hall happy”.

* Junior Cycle students had English at 9.30am, which was “challenging” in parts, and religious studies at 1.30pm

* “I thought my legs would turn to jelly”: It was a nerve-jangling experience for many Leaving Certs who had never sat a State exam before

* ‘Help them focus on the next challenge’: Exam survival guide for parents by Brian Mooney

* Leaving Cert parent: Alison Healy is driven to distraction thanks to her son’s habit of sticking Post-It revision notes everywhere

18:41

‘I thought my legs would turn to jelly’: Reaction to day one of Leaving Cert and Junior Cycle exams (1)

Last minute-tips

That’s it for now, folks - day one is finally over.

Tens of thousands of Junior Cycle and Leaving Cert students are back in the exam halls tomorrow. Hopefully, for many, that’s the worst of the nerves over.

For Leaving Certs, there is engineering (9.30am) and English paper 2 (2pm).

For Junior Cycle students, there is Irish (9.30am) and geography (1.30pm).

In the meantime, we’ve compiled some last-minute tips for students due to take on the final English paper tomorrow afternoon.

Good luck!

English, paper two: tips from Conor Murphy, an English teacher at Skibbereen Community College

  • Ignore poet predictions. The poetry question is worth 50 marks, the main text (usually Shakespeare) is 60 marks and the comparative 70. Keep this in mind when you study.
  • Narrow down the quotes you are learning off. Instead of having hundreds for the main text, look for a quote that will work for numerous elements. Look at a quote like the famous “get thee to a nunnery”. How many elements can this be used for? Hamlet, Ophelia, treatment of women, lust. This is why the quote is so often (over) used. Use this exercise as a way of revising Hamlet.
  • Similarly for the comparative, narrow down the scenes you are studying to scenes that can be used when talking about at least two of the comparative modes. Obviously these will include the opening and closing of the text. When you have these narrowed down, zoom in on specific elements (dialogue, images, stage directions). These are your specific pieces of evidence needed to illustrate your essays.
  • In general, test yourself on the various aspects of the course. Pick a topic and write down what you know, under headings. Use this as a way of revising and finding out what you need to study.

18:25

‘I thought my legs would turn to jelly’: Reaction to day one of Leaving Cert and Junior Cycle exams (2)

Student diary: Entering the hall this morning, I thought my legs would turn to jelly

Ratzinger Monteiro, a Leaving Cert candidate at Stepaside Educate Together Secondary School in Dublin, in one of our student diarists.

Like many of today’s Leaving Certs, it was his first ever State exam thanks to the cancellation of the Junior Cycle exams in 2021.

It was a nerve-jangling experience, he says, but he soon found his stride.

“Entering the hall this morning, I thought my legs would turn to jelly. But then I saw all my classmates and friends around me, and I thought: I’ve put the work in, I’ve got this,” he writes.

“I opened the paper and scanned it. Initially, nothing made sense and I felt a little overwhelmed, but then I calmed myself down and, bit by bit, read through English paper one.

“I answered a comprehension question on family connections and the natural world. I tackled a diary entry question, because I felt that it suited my writing style.

“I also wrote a personal essay reflecting on aspects of life that I find puzzling. A lot of things in life are puzzling! I wrote about death and how it can come when we least expect it, how we can find love when we least expect it, and how we are expected, at the age of 18 or 19, to make major life choices such as what college course to do.”

You can read his full diary here.

‘I thought my legs would turn to jelly’: Reaction to day one of Leaving Cert and Junior Cycle exams (3)

Leaving Cert home economics: ‘Students left the exam hall happy’

The higher-level home Leaving Cert home economics paper was connected to the real and lived experiences of people in contemporary society, teachers have said.

Peter McGuire has filed a detailed reaction piece here.

“It was a fair reflection of a living subject,” said Sandra Cleary, a teacher at the Institute of Education. “Students leaving the exam hall today will likely be happy, satisfied that whatever work they did will have been fairly represented. The paper rewarded those with a forensic engagement with past papers and the curriculum.”

Linda Dolan, Studyclix.ie subject expert and a home economics teacher at Mercy College, Sligo, said that the paper was fair, but challenging in parts.

“The anticipated topic of carbohydrates hadn’t reared its head since 2017, but appeared in question one, which would have left teachers and students relieved.

“The manufacture of food products was a common trend in this year’s paper as the manufacture of yoghurt came up in question three, and the stages in the production of oil was seen in the core question four. This focus on food production and technology was also popular in last year’s short questions.”

Leaving Cert home economics (higher level) section A

Leaving Cert home economics (higher level) section B and C

17:31

‘I thought my legs would turn to jelly’: Reaction to day one of Leaving Cert and Junior Cycle exams (4)

Junior Cycle English: ‘Challenging’ paper which explored a wide range of topics and skills

My colleague Peter McGuire has filed a reaction piece on English teachers’ to today’s Junior Cycle Englsh exam. You can read the more detailed version here.

Broadly speaking, Junior Cycle students faced a challenging start to the exams, with the two-hour English paper examining a wide range of topics and skills.

“As always students would have found the timing of the higher-level exam challenging,” said Laura Daly, Studyclix.ie subject expert and a teacher at St Benildus College in Dublin.

Kate Barry, ASTI subject representative and a teacher at Loreto Secondary School in Fermoy, said that the paper was in line with previous years.

“Students would be happy enough, and there was good choice,” she said.

16:28

‘I thought my legs would turn to jelly’: Reaction to day one of Leaving Cert and Junior Cycle exams (5)

Leaving Cert English paper 1: ‘Accessible’ paper with universal themes

The reaction from English teachers to the first of this year’s Leaving Cert exams is broadly positive: most think it was accessible and that its inclusion of universal themes gave students plenty of scope to keep writing up to the bell.

Peter McGuire has filed a report here.

Kate Barry, a teacher at Loreto Secondary School in Cork, said the higher level paper gave students a lot of direction, compared to previous years.

“The question A comprehensions provided direction around marks and the amount of points they should give for each question,” said Barry, a subject representative with the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI).

Clodagh Havel, an English teacher at the Institute of Education, said some of these prompts were more specific than expected and may have startled some, but that students would have lots of room to explore and expand in their answers.

Laura Daly, a teacher at St Benildus College in Dublin and subject expert with Studyclix, said overall, students would have been very satisfied with its accessibility, said.

15:57

Great expectations for Junior Cycle students in today’s English exam

Dickens and Shakespeare made an appearance in today’s Junior Cycle higher level English exam, where students faced questions on Great Expectations and Timon of Athens...

... while it was all action in the ordinary level Junior Cycle English paper: students faced questions on Bear Grylls and Tom Crean

14:20

To bee, or not to bee: English paper one

Time was when only classic tomes appeared on the Leaving Cert. These days, judging by today’s English paper one, books on bestseller shelves are just as liable to appear.

Paul Murray’s acclaimed novel The Bee Sting popped up in today’s Leaving Cert English paper one (higher level), where an extract describes how the Barnes family’s teenage daughter, Cass, met her best friend, Elaine.

... the ordinary level paper, meanwhile, carries an extract from Elaine Feeney’s How to Build a Boat, which was longlisted for the 2023 Booker Prize

12:51

‘I thought my legs would turn to jelly’: Reaction to day one of Leaving Cert and Junior Cycle exams (6)

Leaving Cert English paper one: ‘Elements of the paper may have startled the anxious student’

Clodagh Havel, English teacher at The Institute of Education, says most students will have had lots of room to explore and expand on questions right up to the bell.

However, she said some who scanned the keywords of part B when choosing their texts may have felt a jolt as “dialogues” and “proposals” may not be styles they anticipated or prepared for.

“However, with a steadying breath and a quick contextualisation of their knowledge of the course, these tasks quickly opened up to them,” she says.

“The inclusion of diaries was an island of familiarity that would attract students of all ability levels. This was a very doable section but called for a calmer mind, not something that is always easy in an exam setting.”

Havel says the paper’s theme “connections” was universal enough to allow students to draw in a wide variety of experiences while also sufficiently rooted in their world to give them something that they “could really get their teeth into”.

“Each text had something in which students would likely be able to see themselves. Tensions between teenagers and parents will be shared by all, even if the specific topic of tattoos wasn’t,” she says.

Some students may even have been familiar with Text 2 - The Bee Sting by Paul Murray - which adorns many bookshop windows and bedside tables.

“Yet even for those who never experienced the text directly will find something universal and relatable: the dream of far away places. Young people, so connected with the wider world and on the cusp of a new phase of their lives will find something resonant here,” Havel says.

12:18

Exam weather: ‘It’s fierce warm, alright’

Meteorologists across the globe are familiar with the phenomenon of exam weather. And yet, it comes as a surprise every year...

Patiently waiting for #LeavingCert weather to kick in 🌞🤣 Best of luck to everyone who is sitting their exams today 🫶

Stream Bridget & Eamon on RTÉ Player 📺 pic.twitter.com/JNC0m6p8MQ

— RTÉ One (@RTEOne) June 5, 2024

12:05

‘I thought my legs would turn to jelly’: Reaction to day one of Leaving Cert and Junior Cycle exams (7)

‘It was smack bang in the middle of Euro ‘88. Naturally, the weather was amazing’

We’ve been asking entertainers, politicians and celebrities about their Leaving Cert memories.

Mario Rosenstock is our latest contributor.

He recalls the exams kicking off in less than ideal circ*mstances.

“It was smack bang in the middle of Euro ‘88, when Ireland qualified for their first major tournament ever,” he says. “And also, of course, naturally the weather was absolutely amazing. And, so, the two greatest things you can imagine in Irish life: Ireland qualifying for a major tournament, the sun splitting the stones and I’m in doing soiscéal Peig.”

11:48

‘I thought my legs would turn to jelly’: Reaction to day one of Leaving Cert and Junior Cycle exams (8)

Parents’ Leaving Cert survival guide: ‘Help them focus on the next challenge’

As any parent will tell you, the entire household that experiences the Leaving Cert.

If the exams go badly, mothers and fathers can sometimes struggle with how to best support their children.

Our columnist and guidance counsellor Brian Mooney has some handy tips here for parents here.

“Help them focus on the next challenge,” he writes. “It can be helpful to your son or daughter to review the paper or papers immediately ahead. Simple questions around the nature of the exams can be very useful in helping your son or daughter to focus on what’s next.”

11:45

‘I thought my legs would turn to jelly’: Reaction to day one of Leaving Cert and Junior Cycle exams (9)

And they’re off ...

Welcome to our live blog which will be charting reaction to this year’s State exams over the coming days.

It’s a nerve jangling time for students - especially for many Leaving Cert candidates who are facing into their first State exams following the cancellation of the Junior Cycle exams in 2021.

Peter McGuire interviewed the class of 2024 at Stepaside Educate Together Secondary School.

Five students from the school will, individually, share their exam highs and lows during the first week of the Leaving Cert exams in The Irish Times, as well as their hopes for the future.

Leaving CertificateExamWatchCAOJunior Cert

‘I thought my legs would turn to jelly’: Reaction to day one of Leaving Cert and Junior Cycle exams (2024)

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