Reaction to today’s Leaving Cert and Junior Cycle papers

135,000 begin their written papers for the State exams

Generic Leaving Cert


Last-minute exam tips

So, day one of the State exams is finally over.

For students, hopefully, a solid start will have gone a long way to calm the nerves. We wish you all the best over the coming days and weeks.

Up tomorrow for the Leaving Cert is engineering (9.30am) & English paper 2 (2pm). For Junior Cycle students, it’s Irish (9.30am) & geography (1.30pm).

We’ll be back here tomorrow - and Friday - with more live exam blogs, so be sure to check back in.

Meanwhile, check out our last-minute tips for English paper 2, below, and for more subject-by-subject advice, check out this piece.

English paper 2:

Relevance and timing are crucial if students are to do well in this paper.

Underline the key words of the set question. Write two to three synonyms over these words to avoid repetition of key terms.

Ensure that you write a title sentence at the start of each paragraph using the key words or synonyms. All material written must be relevant to the set question and supported with suitable quotations. You will not get marks for writing material outside of the bounds of the question.

You must be ruthless with timing. Look at the marks for each section and subtract five minutes to get the ideal time. For example, your single text is worth 60 marks so 55 minutes should be spent on this section, and so on.

Predictability is no longer a feature of the English paper, but Paula Meehan is new to the syllabus so should not be ignored.

  • Tips by Gillian Chute, English teacher and provider of online grinds at


* Leaving Cert: A positive reaction to Leaving Cert English paper one, with teachers describing it as a “fair paper with well-chosen and well-balanced texts that reflects the lives of today’s students”. The afternoon home economics paper was described as topical, but tricky.

* Junior Cycle: A mixed response to Junior Cycle English, with one teacher describing parts of it as “more challenging than the Leaving Cert”, while the religious education paper was considered fair.

* A record number of students – more than 63,000 at Leaving Cert and 71,000 at Junior Cycle – are registered to sit their Leaving Cert and Junior Cycle exams from today due to a demographic bulge.


Exam reaction: Junior Cycle religious education

The Junior Cycle religion paper was topical and fair, with environmental concerns featuring prominently on the paper. Peter McGuire has gathered responses to the exam here.

The religious faith of footballer Mo Salah and boxer Katie Taylor featured alongside questions on how family and friends can influence religious faith, while another question asked students about the challenges of living according to the values of their religion.

Check out the exam paper, below.

Want to try a question at home? Here’s one from today’s paper:

Croagh Patrick is a place of religious importance for a community of faith in Ireland. Name another particular place in Ireland that has religious importance for a community of faith associated with one of the following religions: Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism


Leaving Cert home economics: topical, but tricky, questions

Students are just out of the exam hall for the afternoon Leaving Cert home economics exam. My colleague Peter McGuire has gathered teacher reaction to the paper here.

The consensus is that well-prepared students will be pleased with a challenging higher-level home economics paper that featured accessible terminology but some tricky questions.


‘My local pharmacy is packed with us. We are inquiring about hay fever, allergies, vitamins to boost energy, pillow sprays to induce calm and hence sleep’

Orla Clifford is one of the tens of thousands of Leaving Cert parents enduring the trials of exam season.

From the frontline of her local pharmacy, she writes: “I even saw a dad in the pharmacy the other day, urgently outlining that a “mouth ulcer” had arisen for his son who was studying for this most important State exam. Such was his level of upset, I felt the pharmacist should have given him a Xanax along with the Bonjela.”

You can read her column here.


First look: Leaving Cert home economics papers

The higher level Leaving Cert home economics paper has just landed.

It’s a broad-ranging paper which covers everything from mortgage rates and food poisoning to energy saving and poverty in Ireland.

We’ll have reaction from subject experts shortly.

Section A:

Sections B & C:


If you think it’s hot in Ireland...

We’ve had some pretty good exam weather of late. But spare a thought for 100 students from Libya who were among the 60,000 Leaving Cert students who sat down to English paper one this morning.

These students - 37 girls and 63 boys - took the same exam papers at the same time as their Irish counterparts - although they were sweating over their Shakespearean sonnets in sweltering conditions.

Why? There is a long-running arrangement with the International School of the Martyrs (ISM) in Tripoli where students have access to the Leaving Cert. It is the only place outside the State where the exams are held annually - although the exams have been held in Malta more recently due to the turbulent political situation.

It is largely thanks to Brendan Coffey, a former lecturer in communications at Athlone RTC - now Technological University of the Shannon - and a former principal of ISM.

“We gained approval to run the International Baccalaureate but we didn’t take it up as it was very expensive,” Coffey told The Irish Times back in 1997. “We then approached the Department of Education about the possibility of taking Junior and Leaving Cert. They considered it for a while and eventually agreed.”


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

This morning’s first Junior Cycle exam was either a creative tour de force, or challenging and technical, depending on who you talk to. My colleague Peter McGuire has filed a reaction piece here.


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

My colleague Peter McGuire has spoken to several English teachers to get their reaction to the first English paper earlier. He has filed reaction here. The consensus is that it was “fair, engaging and relevant”.


Conor Murphy, an English teacher based in Skibereen Community School, wasn’t best impressed by the Junior Cycle English paper either.

He says the Junior Cycle was “far more challenging” than the Leaving Cert equivalent, while students who studied a documentary in the film section may have felt hard done by.

Murphy also felt a move towards highlighting the rules of story-telling in the Junior Cycle promotes an almost mathematical approach to English. “That worries me,” he says.


Junior Cycle English (higher): ‘A bizarre, ill-fitting challenge’

Commenting on the Junior Cycle English paper (higher level), Lorraine Tuffy, an English teacher at Jesus and Mary Secondary school Enniscrone, Co Sligo, questioned the decision-making behind some of the questions which appeared.

She said candidates might have found the first page of their paper confusing this morning. In questions based on tweets by Pixar character, Buzz Lightyear, she said some students will have found the phrasing of questions 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,” she said.

Junior Cycle students were also presented with the unseen poem, An Apology by Roger McGough, that explores a marriage proposal. One question 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,” Tuffy said,

Consolation came in the studied poetry section, however, with a “comfortably inviting and open question” where students drew from their studied material to discuss a poem that tells a personal story. Heaney’s autobiographical anthology may have been liberally accessed in response to this question.

While the paper certainly presented some challenges, none were insurmountable.”


Leaving Cert English paper one: ‘A fair paper with well-chosen and well-balanced texts’

There has been a broadly positive reaction among teachers to Leaving Cert English paper one (higher level), with teachers describing it as a fair paper that reflects the lives of today’s students.

Clodagh Havel, English teacher with the Institute of Education, said it was a paper with “something for everyone that should see all students happy”.

“This was a fantastic paper and a great introduction to what will be for most their first state exam. The paper was fair, current, thoughtful, and engaging. The theme of the paper was “Between Two Worlds” and brilliantly reflects where students are in their lives,” she said.

She said the Section A questions allowed students to get their bearings and settle into the exam, while the choice in Question B was “simply phenomenal”.

“Many students plan to do the personal essay for their composition, finding a more natural writing experience and something of a comfort zone. This paper allowed them a second chance to apply that approach through either the personal letter or delving a little deeper with the personal reflection. For those in tune with their soul, with their feelings, there was ample opportunity to put that on the page.”

Lorraine Tuffy, English teacher at Jesus and Mary Secondary school Enniscrone, Co Sligo, said students experienced a “well-pitched and broadly appealing paper”.

“Paper 1 had a broad menu of choice to whet the examination candidates’ appetites for the coming weeks. The well-pitched and broadly appealing paper focused on an initially cryptic general theme: ‘Between two worlds’. Comprehension texts were varied and interesting, for the most part and encouraged critical reflection and creative thinking in students,” said Tuffy, a subject expert for

“The set texts included a comfortably accessible extract from Nobel laureate Abdulrazak Gurnah’s Gravel Heart that explores the intimidation, confusions and excitement experienced by an immigrant child in London while Text 3 considers the gap between two worlds, human and technological, in its assessment of Artificial intelligence in the modern world.

She said the “enticing and stimulating titles” in the composition section will have put candidates at ease. While the personal essayist only had one option, it was a particularly open one in which they were asked to reflect on “some of the things that bring excitement and wonder” to their life.

The discursive writer was invited to consider the positive or negative impact of influential individuals in today’s world, while other options included a debate speech on a lack of ethics, decency and respect for the law in today’s world and an article reflecting on one’s hometown/ area.

Both short story titles were, Tuffy said, “refreshingly, open and inviting” for the creative writer. Candidates who opted for the short story were rewarded in today’s exam with titles that gave them free reign over plot, setting and characterisation.

Havel added that the composition posed only one minor surprise: the lack of a descriptive essay. “However, there was little reason to be distraught by this as the rest of the selection was superb.


As part of our My Leaving Cert series, we’re asking public figures to reflect on their exam memories, good and bad.

RTÉ's Joe Duffy spoke to us about how third level options weren’t even discussed when he sat the exam in Ballyfermot in 1973.

His advice to his Leaving Cert self?: “Don’t worry as much as you do, there is no need. Stay calm – and if you can’t, talk to others.”


You know what they always say: try not to dwell too much on the exams and try to keep focus on the future ... in which case, top marks are due to these students:


Leaving Cert English paper one (higher level) is over -- and, in a topical move, students faced questions on themes of dislocation and the rise of artificial intelligence.

It began with an extract from Gravel Heart, the award-winning novel by Abdulrazak Gurnah, in which the main character Salim, from a small island village in Zanzibar, comes to stay with his uncle in London. He doesn’t know how to belong in this strange city and feels cut off from the world he has left behind.

There was also an edited text by Henry Eliot, This Must be the Place, which focused on literary locations, as well as an iconic photograph of migrant workers taken in 1907. Both elements illustrate how we can experience different worlds through words and pictures.

In addition, students were asked to answer questions based on two edited articles on the subject of artificial intelligence (AI) published in July 2022: an introduction from Patricia Scanlon, Ireland’s first “artificial intelligence ambassador”, published in The Irish Times and a feature by Ben Spencer printed in The Sunday Times magazine entitled,“I’m better than the Bard”.


Pixar, Roger McGough and Hamlet all make an appearance in a lively, imaginative and engaging Junior Cycle English paper which puts a big focus on the art of storytelling.


The wait is finally over for tens of thousands of students. The State exams got under way at 9.30 this morning as Leaving Cert students faced English paper one (9.30-12.20pm), while Junior Cycle students had English (9.30-11.30am).

It has been an especially nerve-jangling experience for this year’s Leaving Cert students who faced into their first ever formal exams.

Brian Mooney, Irish Times columnist and guidance counsellor, has some exam survival tips for students and parents here. His main advice to parents? Don’t dwell on today’s exams if they didn’t go well – and keep the focus on the future.