Junior Cert English: Detective work

Benedict Cumberbatch who featured in a question about a piece on him by Caitlin Moran. Photograph: Simon Annand

Benedict Cumberbatch who featured in a question about a piece on him by Caitlin Moran. Photograph: Simon Annand


Hearts were aflutter yesterday morning as students locked eyes with Benedict Cumberbatch on page 1 of their first exam of this year’s Junior Cert.

The Sherlock star was the subject of a reading comprehension by author Caitlin Moran on higher level English paper 1.

Moran, author of How to be a Woman, tweeted to an Irish teen audience of thousands that she was “utterly thrilled” to feature on the paper. Her piece revealed her passion for the BBC drama based on Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels.

“The reading comprehension was an entertaining piece on Sherlock Holmes by Caitlin Moran featuring lots of description and dialogue,” said teacher Elaine Dobbyn.

“The questions were challenging, however.”

The essay selection was dominated by popular culture themes such as modern fandom and the power of television.

“‘A television show that had an effect on me’? What will it be? Home and Away? Game of Thrones? Modern Family? I hope the examinations commission reveal the results,” said Ms Dobbyn.

Students were also asked to consider how the modern world’s obsession with celebrity was damaging young people: a touch of irony on a paper dominated by that very theme.

Unseen Shakespeare

Paper 2 focused on poetry, drama and prose. Some students were stretched by the the Unseen Shakespeare question, a passage from King John.

This was a challenging piece with some demanding questions including one which asked the student to “Identify any two powerful images in the extract and explain how each one contributes to the scene.”

Many students reported a preference for the modern drama question, which was considered easier to understand even though it contained two production questions, one more than usual.

The Unseen Poem questions were based on A Boy’s Head by Miroslav Holub, a poem about the boundlessness of the imagination. It proved difficult for weaker higher level students, according to teachers.

The Unseen Fiction section featured an extract from The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng, with the question: “What do you learn about human nature from your reading of the above extract?”

Several students were confused by this question.