Dispatches from the Exam House

ExamWatch: Catherine Vance from Dunshaughlin Community College had a sunny afternoon outside after the toil of English 1

Fri, Jun 7, 2013, 18:55

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that: A. You should never start an essay like this and B. the build-up is always worse than the reality. (Unless it’s something you’re looking forward to and then the build-up is always better. Sigh.)

Now that the first exam is behind me I’m actually beginning to think I might be able to cope with this.

It helped that English paper 1 was such a lovely paper. Not at first glance but upon second reading it became clear that I had plenty to write about.

It also helped that I had the afternoon off to sit in the sunshine and eat barbecued chicken while my poor little sister headed in to sit English paper 2. Who’d be a Junior Cert, eh?

Civilised life
The Leaving Cert timetable is much more civilised. Millie, the border terrier, is sniffing around for some barbecue action and I haven’t the heart to say no because she and Rosie (our Jack Russell) have been quite outstanding over the past few months. They’ve taken turns to guard my sister and me as we study. It’s amazing how they sense that something important is going on.

Generally life in an exam house hasn’t been too bad, except on days when my sister and I both take a strop. Fortunately we don’t have matching tantrums all that often.

Creative writing is my favourite activity – I’m hoping to finish a novel this summer – so the first exam of the Leaving was always going to be one of the better ones for me. It’s Friday that looms like a pile-up on the motorway as I hurtle towards financial mathematics and other unpleasant destinations.

No hidden messages
I have no plans to study English this evening, the sun is out and the coals are hot. However, I will dedicate the morning to poets and Macbeth for English paper 2. I would love to see Wordsworth or Shakespeare – they have no hidden messages lurking about their poetry. Gerard Manley Hopkins is an entirely different story. Much more difficult. He is a Jesuit though, like the Pope. I hope the examiners didn’t get a call from the Vatican this year.

The atmosphere at school was very good today – despite the building works as they tear down the old Dunshaughlin Community College and get started building a new one. We must have left it in an awful state.

Once we got in to the rhythm of the exam you could hardly hear the jackhammers any more. As my friends and I staggered out of the first paper into the early June sunshine, the judgment was unanimous. The paper had something for everyone.

As soon as I got in, Dad was on the phone from work in Dublin to find out how we got on. We are not the kind of students who grunt “fine” and retreat into our smelly rooms. I like to talk and so does my sister. I think he was sorry he rang.

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