Leaving Cert Spanish: some struggled with ‘challenging’ vocabulary

Listening comprehension was tricky for some but not unfair

Photograph: Alan Betson

Students faced an accessible and fair higher-level Spanish paper, but some may have struggled with challenging vocabulary, teachers have said.

Daire Kelly, ASTI subject representative for Spanish, said that stronger students had the chance to show their knowledge, but there was enough on the paper for everyone to put their best foot forward.

“Overall, it was fair, and there was nothing unexpected,” Mr Kelly said.

“The essay titles were accessible and familiar, and students had lots of choice. One of them was about culture, one about living in a foreign country and one on sport. They were happy to see sport, as it is a comfort topic for a lot of students.”


Maria Fenton, a Spanish teacher at the Institute of Education, agreed that students liked the sport question.

“Students generally prepare how to discuss their hobbies for the oral, and the appearance of music and sports as central topics would place them in recognizable territory,” she said.

“Going into the exams students often worry over the topics for the opinion piece in section B question 5, but they were relieved to see ‘sport is important for everyone’.

“This was a brilliantly open prompt that allowed students to reflect their level with the language, as they were free to explore anything from friendships or health values with varying degrees of fluency.”

Ms Fenton said that the paper reflected the varying degrees of fluency within the student body.

“The paper was accessible to everyone but the presence of some specific vocabulary and idiomatic elements will only be approachable to those capable of the top grades. For example, question 2 in section A required students to know what a ‘multa’ is.

“It is a fine, which makes sense in the context of parking spaces, but as it lacks a clear English cognate, it tested the breadth of their distinctly Spanish vocabulary.”

Mr Kelly said that the dialogue question may have been more testing than usual.

“The dialogue was about a flight and losing a suitcase. This has happened to me in Havana, so it is a useful dialogue, but certain vocabulary was more challenging than in previous years.”

Ms Fenton said that the final composition selection between the diary or note gave candidates a good, viable choice that allowed them to play to their strengths.

“The diary on returning home from a year in Salamanca gave them lots of scopes to select their mood and talking points.

“The note was less permissive in its vocabulary choice but what was demanded would be very familiar. There were a few tricky grammatical manoeuvres, but that ultimately makes this paper a fair reflection of a student’s level.

The listening comprehension, meanwhile, was challenging, Mr Kelly said.

“It as tricky, but nobody said it was unfair,” he said.


On the ordinary level paper, Mr Kelly said that there was nothing unexpected, and students found the paper - especially the reading section - very accessible.

“The only difficulty was that one of the reading comprehensions, which required an answer in Spanish, was a little trickier than in previous years,” he said.

Try this one at home:

Leaving Cert Spanish, higher level

Write in ENGLISH the meaning (in the context) of the following phrases:

(a) … la migración masiva de irlandeses a mediados del siglo diecinueve.

(b) … decidieron adaptar sus habilidades y formar un equipo masculino …

(c) … han alcanzado un nivel que les permite competir ...