50 days: tips and tricks for leaving cert languages

Photograph: Getty Images

Photograph: Getty Images


– Natasha Lynch Director of Essential French Cork. See essentialfrench.ie

Vocabulary is key: Vocab learning is often ignored by students yet is essential at this point of the year. For example, it accounts for HALF of the total marks of the Leaving Cert honours French paper – reading comprehensions (30 per cent) and listening exam (20 per cent).

What to do :

Start making a list of vocab that you are stuck on and start learning it DAILY. Short spurts of learning: max three minutes at a time - TV ad breaks are a perfect time to learn vocab.To make vocab learning more fun why not write a new word on the back of each hand daily – you will have the two new words learnt off by lunchtime every day!

Listening technique can help all areas of a language paper: The key to effective listening study is listening with a purpose.

What to do :

Choose a short section of text and make sure you understand it thoroughly. Listen to the section on the CD over and over (15 mins ) by listening and reading along with the text; listening and repeating what you hear on the CD; and finally listening and writing what you hear on a page. By using this three R study method you are appealing to all senses, you are more interactive with your study and this will improve all areas of the exam (vocab, grammar, listening) if performed daily.


- Éabha O Leary Fitzpatrick Essential Irish Tutor

Written Expression:

Build a thesaurus of words and expressions. For example, when asked to describe something, instead of using cur síos all the time, incorporate other words such as léargas, léiriú, cuireann sé ar ár súile for example. For interesting and enjoyable use suimiúil, spreagúil, spéisiúil, taitneamhach. Use different words that mean the same thing when referring back to the answer to highlight your level of vocab. If the structure of your sentence is grammatically correct, you are onto a winner.


Always make reference to poetry techniques. There is nearly always a question where they refer to or ask about techniques. Recognise the techniques in the poem and then explain how they portray the theme of the poem for example. One technique that a student could talk about is stíl thíosach, which allows the reader to read in-between the lines and gain a better understanding of the deeper meaning a poet is trying to convey.


– Natasha Lynch

Do not learn off chunks of material on different themes under any circumstances. Students are rarely asked a general topic so these general essays in text books are a complete waste of time. Instead create a WORD BANK – a brainstorming list of vocab on different themes.

All opinion pieces need structure – a start, middle and an end so choose TWO separate sets of these for the French exam, one for the 90 word opinion piece and one for the 75 word opinion piece. Perfect these as there is no excuse for getting these wrong and your work will look poor.

The 90 word narrative is rarely attempted. It is a beautiful question to answer most of the time. It is practically the same as the diary question but the structure (intro and ending) is different. Emotions and phrases used in diary work can also be used here so you are covering two question possibilities by practising both.

Never complete three opinion pieces if you are aiming for an A1. To be considered an A1 student your work needs to be varied and impressive in every single possible way. Answering three opinion questions shows that you are a one hit wonder – this will rarely impress. What we suggest is to do two opinion pieces and a diary question or a 90 word narrative question. In this way you are demonstrating two styles of writing.


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