‘It just feels like a summer exam’: Leaving Cert students take first ever State exam in their stride

Students who had Junior Cert cancelled due to the pandemic pandemic sit State exam for the first time

The Leaving Certificate is “not as bad” as it is made out to be, Chelsea Olumba (17) said after sitting her first ever State examination on Wednesday.

Like thousands of others going through the assessment ritual, marking the end of secondary education, this was Olumba’s first experience of doing a State exam paper due to the cancellation of Junior Cycle exams during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It really just feels like a summer exam,” said the student at Kishoge Community College in Lucan, west Dublin – expressing a view shared by many of her classmates.

“It’s probably more nerves when you’re thinking up to the exam, you’re like, ‘Oh I have to do well, I have to do well,’ but honestly if you take a minute of a breather before the exam and you just think, ‘I’m going to sit this exam and try to write everything I know’, it’s really not that bad,” Olumba said, emerging from the exam hall after sitting English paper one.


“I don’t feel like with a Junior Cert it would have changed today... I feel like we’re ultimately going to come out with the same outcome.

“It’s just all about how much work you put into it and just believing in yourself at the end of the day,” said Olumba, who has been accepted on to a PLC course (Post Leaving Certificate) which she hopes will get her on to a course for physiotherapy.

About 180 students in Kishoge Community College sat English paper one on Wednesday.

For Oran Smith, who wants to do agricultural studies, waking up in plenty of time for the exam was a help. “I got up at 8am and I said I might go back [to bed] for 20 minutes but I said I’ll just get up, so there’s no worry or stress on me,” Smith said.

Happy with how the paper went, he said he knew “straight away” that it was going to be a good paper when he seen the first question was about football, which he loves, alongside farming.

Danyelle Isip was also happy with how the exam went, and hopes to go to Technological University Dublin to study architecture.

“I kind of like stressed over nothing because last night I was studying too much about paper one, but mostly I was studying paper two for tomorrow, but paper one was not bad, because I knew what to do,” Isip said.

English paper one is a good exam to ease students into things, according to Esther Nkechi (17). “I’m happy we started with this exam, because I feel like this is a great one to just get all the nerves out. If we had to start with like maths or something, I think that would’ve been like 100 per cent [a flop],” Nkechi said with a laugh.

Nkechi hopes to study biological and chemical science in either University College Cork or Dublin City University, and was looking forward to not having to do “maths or English again, because I couldn’t do it. I’m happy you get to do what you like after you get through this”.

Ellen O’Donoghue

Ellen O’Donoghue

Ellen O'Donoghue is an Irish Times journalist