Leaving Cert Geography: Brexit and migration feature on topical paper

Students and teachers say paper was relevant with a good choice of questions

Geography paper described as ‘a fair paper which tested the skills and base knowledge of students’. Photograph: iStockphoto/Getty Images

Geography paper described as ‘a fair paper which tested the skills and base knowledge of students’. Photograph: iStockphoto/Getty Images


On the morning students woke up to further uncertainty around Brexit following the UK election, the migration crisis and challenges for the European Union were among the topics on this year’s Leaving Cert higher level geography paper.

Students and teachers said it was an interesting and relevant paper with a good choice of questions.

Mary Martin, subject representative for the Teachers Union of Ireland and a teacher at St Columba’s Comprehensive School in Glenties, Co Donegal, said the questions were “nice and topical” and would have suited students who kept up to date with the news.

Ms Martin, who has been a geography teacher since 2001, said today’s students were unlikely to read print newspapers but they kept up to date with current events through their social media feeds and news websites.

“Geography is a very dynamic subject and it has to be kept current. Teachers will have covered Brexit and the migration crisis in class. Living close to the Border, my students are used to the currency changeover and they won’t remember the hard Border of the past, but it is now something they are starting to consider.”

There were no “bad” questions and they were all well worded and clear, said Ms Martin. “The big challenge is getting to answer all the questions within the time constraints allowed. One of the physical geography questions had a nice twist, in that it asked them to talk about the impact of coastal erosion rather than simply to describe it.”

Neil Curran, ASTI subject representative and a teacher at St Columba’s in Stranorlar, said the paper was standard without any shocks.

“There was an emphasis on visual interpretation with four photos and graphs, and the short question 12 had good graphics and up-to-date census information. The physical geography questions were good but the language in one of them, on volcanoes, used words like ‘intrusive’, ‘extrusive’ and ‘metamorphism’, which will have been difficult for a lot of students.”

Mr Curran said the ordinary level paper was very standard. “The short-answer questions required interpretation of charts and photos. Questions on the number of migrants rescued by the Irish Naval Service in the Mediterranean and the housing crisis in Ireland were very topical. The higher level paper was more focused on current affairs and that is appropriate.”

Geography students have already submitted a fieldwork project which will count for 20 per cent of their overall mark.

Try this at home:

Migration: Examine how ethnic and religious issues can arise as a result of migration.