Junior Cycle English: Mixed response to ‘creative’ and ‘challenging’ paper

‘The terminology in certain questions was a bit technical and may have challenged some students’

The first Junior Cert exam has received a mixed response from teachers. While students were asked clear questions on a variety of topics, some were criticised as technical and out-of-place.

Aoife Daly, subject representative for the Teachers’ Union of Ireland, said that there was a great emphasis on the creative elements of the English course.

“It should appeal to the imagination of all students and allow [them] to give creative responses, especially with regard to the film and poetry questions,” she said.

“The terminology in certain questions was a bit technical and may have challenged some students; however, if the students took time to read the questions carefully they would have been well-equipped to answer the task at hand.”


Lorraine Tuffy, Studyclix.ie subject expert and an English teacher at Jesus and Mary Secondary School in Enniscrone, Co Sligo, said that candidates may have found the first page of their paper confusing, with the film question prompted by a series of tweets from Pixar character Buzz Lightyear.

“While the approach to questions will have seemed abstruse, the tasks themselves were certainly manageable,” Ms Tuffy said.

“Ultimately students were asked to consider characterisation and the ending of their studied film. Some students will have found the phrasing of questions in this section challenging. They were asked to explore how the use of visual striking images engages the viewer. While candidates will be well prepared to discuss key moments of their studied film, they may feel derailed by the approach of this question.”

Kate Barry, subject representative for the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland and a teacher at Loreto Secondary School, College Road in Fermoy, Co Cork, said that the paper was candidate-friendly, although some students may have been unclear what was required of them when asked to write a talk.

Ms Barry was a fan of the unseen poem, “An Apology” by Roger McGough, but Ms Tuffy was not.

“[It] explores a marriage proposal and failed engagement. The questions asked students to narrate the experience from the ‘woman’s perspective’ – a bizarre, ill-fitting challenge for even the most creative writer at 15 years old,” Ms Tuffy said.

Ms Barry said that, given the amount of material covered over three years for a two-hour exam, students were confined to writing either about a novel or a play, despite having studied three texts in depth.

On the ordinary level paper, Ms Barry and Ms Tuffy said that students were asked challenging grammar questions.

Ms Tuffy said that a diary entry, studied poetry questions and a radio script advertising their studied film, were manageable.

“Overall it was good and the poetry question allowed students to choose any poem they had done,” Ms Barry said.

Try this one at home:

Junior Cycle English, higher level

Narrative poems often tell interesting personal stories. Choose a poem you have studied that tells a personal story. (a) Outline what happens in your chosen poem and explain what the poem reveals to you about people. Support your response using suitable quotation [sic] from the poem. (b) In your view, does the poet use imagery effectively to tell the personal story? Explain your answer using suitable quotation [sic] from the poem.