Leaving Cert History: documents posed a challenge

A good range of questions that rewarded those who had really put the work in

A Charles Stewart Parnell question came up

A Charles Stewart Parnell question came up


Students who played study roulette would have been disappointed upon opening the higher level history paper. The Treaty, which was widely tipped to appear in the documents-based question at the start of the paper, was a no-show, while Belfast during the second World War appeared in its place.

“They wouldn’t have had much to complain about,” said the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland’s Fintan O’Mahony, who teaches in Scoil Mhuire, Carrick on Suir. “If you haven’t studied World War II Belfast, you haven’t studied the course properly.”

“The questions that did appear on Belfast were extremely straightforward,” said Seán Delap of the Institute of Education.

Overall, the documents themselves were a little short, according to Mr O’Mahony. “It might have been a little tough to find something to say about them,” he said.

In section two, “Movements for Political and Social Reform, 1870-1914” is the most popular topic and was largely predictable according to Mr O’Mahony.

“Normally students might be able to attempt three out of the four topics, but I think they could have had a stab at any of the four this year,” he said.

Some schools prepare students for the section, “Politics and Society in Northern Ireland, 1949-1993”, but this presented an altogether tougher challenge, according to teachers.

Case studies

There was a wide choice of questions on case studies, especially in the sections on “Nation States and International Tensions and United States, 1945-1989,” according to Mr Delap.

“Interestingly, a question on the Jarrow March appeared again in the ‘Dictatorship and Democracy’ section. It has appeared every year apart from one on the higher-level paper since the introduction of the new course in 2006,” Mr Delap said.

Future history students would be well-advised to take note, he added.

Overall, teachers agreed that the paper was fair, although perhaps more difficult than in recent years.

The ordinary-level paper was fine, teachers said.

Lack of ‘substance

’ On his complaint about the documents question, Mr O’Mahoney said. “I didn’t think there was a lot of substance to the documents. They were a bit slight,” he said. “The questions were fine but I thought the documents should have been more testing.”