Junior Cert French and history: Quirks and curveballs

Students face peculiar questions in French while history proves ‘a bit sticky’ for some

Whoever set this year's Junior Cert higher-level French paper must have been in a good mood, judging by the general reaction to the paper.

Many of the questions were light and quirky, and would have brought a smile to the faces of the more than 25,000 students trapped in an exam hall on a hot summer's day, said Natasha Lynch, managing director of Essential French.

Candidates were faced with a peculiar comprehension question based around a woman who disguised her pet tortoise as a hamburger in order to smuggle him onto an airplane.

Another question involved a rabbit and tomato stew, while candidates were also quizzed on how they liked to relax while suffering from exam stress.

“It was all quite straightforward,” Ms Lynch said.

“The written section was lovely and there were no issues with the aural comprehension section, which accounts for 40 per cent of the marks.

"There was a slightly technical piece on Corsica, but it was manageable, and it helps the students that the questions are in English."

Ms Lynch praised the ordinary level paper, which had multiple choice options and included a good mix of topics, including returning to school, babysitting and recipes.

“It was very fair,” she said.

History paper

The afternoon's history higher-level paper was not without its problems, although the difficulties were avoidable, according to Fintan O'Mahony, a teacher in Scoil Mhuire Greenhill, Carrick-on-Suir, Co Tipperary.

“The paper was a bit sticky for some,” he said.

The picture questions, normally seen as an opportunity for students to settle into the exam, threw a curveball when students were asked about the job that Mary Robinson held after the presidency.

“That’s a civics question, not a history one,” Mr O’Mahony said. “It was worth very few marks, but when something like that comes up early on it can throw students.”

The other parts of the paper were largely fine and included some good questions, according to teachers.

"There was a nice set of questions on the age of exploration," said Tom Broderick, TUI representative and teacher at Adamstown Community College in Lucan.

Teachers queried one of the “People in History” questions, in which students were asked to write about “a named leader in the struggle for Irish independence, 1900-1912”.

“It seems like it could have been a misprint,” Mr O’Mahony said.

“It’s definitely very narrow,” Mr Broderick said.

Mr O'Mahony, an ASTI rep, said that while students could have avoided the difficult parts, "it's a shame when we're trying to encourage students to keep history on for Leaving Cert".

There were no reports of any major problems with the ordinary-level paper.

Try this

Answer A and B

A. Select one of the people described below. Write about that person.

(i) An archaeologist at work. (20)

(ii) A servant who worked in a medieval castle. (20)

(iii) A named Renaissance writer or scientist. (20)


B. Select one of the people described below. Write about that person.

(i) A settler who received land during a named plantation during the 16th or 17th century. (20)

(ii) A named leader in a revolution (America, France or Ireland) during the period, 1771-1815. (20)

(iii) A named leader in the struggle for Irish independence, 1900-1912. (20)