EducationExam reaction

Leaving Cert physics: ‘ample’ choice gave students a fair opportunity to show their ability

Candiates were able to draw extensively on their practical laboratory experience

Leaving Cert candidates completed the physics exam on Wednesday. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

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The higher-level physics paper was rewarding for students who rigorously revised and worked on past exam papers, teachers have said.

“Students will feel that no work was wasted as wide-ranging questions encompassed the whole course,” said Pat Doyle, a physics teacher at the Institute of Education.

“This was a very matter-of-fact paper for a matter-of-fact subject that has remained consistent since 2002.

“The core of the paper were concepts, skills and questions that will have been studied, prepared and revised numerous times over senior cycle. For those students who really connected with the subject, this paper will represent a logical conclusion to their work to date.”


“Ample choice ensured that students of every level had a fair opportunity to reflect their ability,” he added.

John Conneely, ASTI subject representative for physics, said that this year’s paper was in line with the Leaving Certificate syllabus.

“There was plenty of opportunity for students to draw on their practical laboratory experience,” he said.

There were some minor surprises, variation or even moments of colour on the paper, Mr Doyle said.

“Section B opened with question six, a collection of short questions that is often popular with students. However, this year the selection may have put some students off. The questions were more searching and challenging than might have been anticipated. While there were lots of other viable questions to replace it, some may have re-evaluated their planned route through the paper.

Question eight had the slightly unusual combination of magnetism and sound, but each was kept distinct with only a passing bridging reference so as not to muddle the concepts. While the substance of the question was familiar, the initial framing might have caused a moment of pause as the mention of a ‘moving coil speaker’ will be unfamiliar.”

“Question 11 will have been tricky for many students, but only if they are meeting it for the first time. The wording of the question might entangle those navigating it while the exam hall clock ticks. However, if you had delved deep into the past papers you would have found a nearly identical question from 2004. If you had worked through this in the calm of the classroom with a teacher, then this was just a replay,” Mr Doyle said.

Meanwhile, Mr Conneely joined a number of science teachers who have expressed concern about delays from the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) in releasing the list of mandatory experiments for the new senior cycle specification.

“Students had plenty of opportunity to draw on their practical laboratory experience with a well thought out range of questions from the present list of mandatory experiments – which gives excellent clarity on the practical work required in the physics course for students, teachers and school managers,” he said.

“Unfortunately this list of mandatory experiments is not included in the new drafts of the Leaving Certificate physics specifications.”

Yesterday, Mary Mullaghy, the ASTI subject representative for chemistry, also told The Irish Times that she and her colleagues hoped the NCCA would provide a list of mandatory experiments for the new chemistry syllabus.

Try this one at home:

-Leaving Cert physics, higher level

Q14 (a) Ireland’s Fittest Family is a competition where families compete across a range of different fitness challenges. These challenges exemplify many physics principles in action.

(i) State the law of conservation of energy.

A man is competing in a race where participants are required to slide from a raised horizontal platform down a 2.4m long slide. The slide is at an angle of 32° to the horizontal from the platform. The end of the slide is a vertical distance of 90cm above the water

(ii) Calculate the height of the platform above the surface of the water.

(iii) The man starts from rest. Calculate his velocity as he enters the water. Assume that there is no friction on the slide