Leaving Cert: ‘Essay the best thing I’ve ever written’

An ease among students exiting exam hall after opener, says Lucan Community College principal

“My personal essay was the best thing I’ve ever written,” exclaimed one enthusiastic Leaving Cert student to his friends as he exited the exam hall after English Paper 1 on Wednesday morning.

“Oh yeah? I’m sure it was,” the young man’s friend quipped back with raised eyebrows.

The response to the opening exam of this year’s Leaving Certificate was mostly positive at Lucan Community College in west Dublin where 146 students are sitting the State exams.

Among them was Niamh Sim (18), who is hoping to study nutrition, and said she was “pretty happy” with how the first paper had gone.

“I timed my paper well. I’m a panicky person so knowing how much time I had and following that really helped,” she said.

“For Question B I did the text for a podcast which I was happy with because it was directly about what sort of music you listen to and music is one of my biggest passions and I felt like I could write about it comfortably. I just thought it was a great question for me … I found that paper really nice, I really liked it.”

The Leaving Certificate and Junior Cycle exams got under way for more than 131,000 students on Wednesday, marking the first full return to traditional written exams after two years of disruption due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ronak Pathak (18), who is hoping to study architecture or computer science, described English Paper 1 as “good” and “not as stressful as I thought it was going to be”.

“Nothing came up where I felt like, ‘oh I can’t answer that’ but there was also no question that really stood out to me that I enjoyed,” he said.

“Overall, I think it was a decent paper that everyone could manage. One thing I struggled with was the timing. Even though we had loads of time for this exam, I still spent way too much time on my Question A.

“I got it all done in the end but I definitely could have timed it better.”

Yasmin Aminou (18), who would like to study a health or science course, said “getting the first exam out of the way feels great”.

“It was just that first obstacle and now that it’s over I’m feeling ready for the next one,” she said.

“I think the paper really connected well with the youth and I think we’re seeing more of that in recent paper … the paper was talking about music, poetry, books, stuff that we all take part in. It was really nice to see that and let our own interests shine through in the paper.”

Diane Birnie, principal at Lucan Community College, said there was “an ease” among students exiting the exam hall after the opening exam.

“Most students were coming out with smiles on their faces, and whether that was because of the exam or just glad to be finished it, I don’t know, but very few students left early so we’re delighted with that,” she said.

“Overall, I think it was a good first day … The last two years were a huge ask of all the staff members and teachers who had to produce assessments for their students, that was a big change from what we would have normally done.

“It’s lovely to have had our usual run-in with sixth years where teachers are their advocate, advising them what might come up on an exam and how to use their time appropriately.

“That advice had to be cut short in previous years because the teacher had this dual roll … I think everyone is appreciating the good routines we’ve been in for so many decades in our education system and being able to get back to that after two years of upset is brilliant.”

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times