Leaving Cert English paper one: ‘Fair, engaging and relevant’

‘Candidates should be extremely pleased with the nature of the questions as well as the choice in all sections’

The first ever State exam for the class of 2023 was fair, engaging and relevant, teachers have said.

Clodagh Havel, an English teacher at the Institute of Education in Dublin, said that the higher-level English paper was a fair paper with well-chosen and well-balanced texts that reflects the lives of today’s Leaving Cert students.

Gillian Chute, an English teacher and grinds provider, said that the paper was thoroughly accessible to all candidates.

“Candidates should be extremely pleased with the nature of the questions as well as the choice in all sections,” Ms Chute said.


The theme of the paper was “between two worlds”, and AI and technology were among the contemporary topics that appeared on it.

The lack of a descriptive essay in the composition was a surprise, but Ms Havel said that there was enough choice to ensure students weren’t caught out.

Ms Havel said that the Section A questions gave students a chance to get their bearings and settle into the exam, with students asked for insights into a given text.

“All three texts required candidates to explain three insights they gained into a character from the text, how reading novels can be an enriching experience and finally into the world of artificial intelligence,” Ms Chute said.

She added that all three written texts linked well to the general theme.

Ms Havel said that the clarity of the third questions allowed students to launch right into their chosen text and start analysing the types of language straight away.

“This saved them valuable exam time and is a nice nod to the stresses and strains of the exams, and the extra nerves posed by this paper being their first.

“The final question, a discursive essay, captures what would have been going on in conversations both in and out of classrooms. “The impact of influential individuals” for better or worse is something hotly debated, and this question really gave those socially minded students a chance to shine.”

Ms Chute said that the third text, asking students to write an article for the school website about the increasing role played by technology in schools, would be welcomed by many students as it was “an incredibly accessible task.”

Ms Havel said that the paper was clearly set by someone with their finger on the pulse of these students, not only in terms of theme and text choice, but also the pressures of the exam.

“The wonderful clarity and wealth of opportunities meant that every student would find something that fits,” she said.

Ms Chute described the ordinary level English paper as appealing, with plenty of options for candidates.

Lorraine Tuffy, Studyclix.ie subject expert and a teacher at Jesus and Mary Secondary School in Enniscrone, Co Sligo, said that the ordinary level paper had three enticing comprehension texts, and that students might have found the text on Banksy particularly interesting.

“Question B was more accessible and appealing than other years with options for writing a blog, a radio interview and a letter giving the students a great range of choice,” Ms Tuffy said.

“The compositions were straightforward and enticing.

“The personal essays would have appealed to many, particularly the essay where they were asked to describe some of the things in life that they were passionate about.”

The magazine article which asked students to discuss the influence of celebrity culture in today’s world, made for another great option, Ms Tuffy said.

Try this one at home:

– English paper one, higher level

It is Science Week and you have been asked to write an article for your school’s website about the increasing role played by technology in schools. In your article you should: describe some of the positive ways technology is utilised in schools today, discuss whether or not, in your view, technology can be a negative influence in schools, and speculate about the role you think technology will play in schools in the future. Your article may be serious or humorous or both.