Leaving Cert maths paper 1: Shorter and easier exam adds up for most students

Accessibility of section 'A' balanced out some challenging parts in Section 'B', say teachers

The Leaving Cer higher level maths paper was dominated by algebra. Photograph: iStock

The Leaving Cer higher level maths paper was dominated by algebra. Photograph: iStock


Higher level maths students faced an algebra-dominated paper which was much fairer, shorter and easier than in their mock exams, according to teachers.

As with last year, students may have been surprised that financial maths did not appear on paper one, said Aidan Roantree, senior maths teacher at the Institute of Education.

“Don’t put away your financial maths notes just yet,” warned Mr Roantree.

A large number of questions in both sections required different elements of algebra, he said.

“This is not to say that calculus, both differentiation and integration, complex numbers and sequences & series were absent. They were there, all right, but not in any dominant way.”

He said that many of the section A questions were very well thought-out and quite clever and some managed to range over three topics in the one question.

“The section B questions were fair and manageable. Although one required the solutions of a number of slightly awkward trig equations, question nine involved the much-anticipated practical max and min questions.”


Overall, students will have been pleased with the exam, said Mr Roantree. “While some of the more tricky elements of the course were examined, these would only have accounted for a relatively small number of marks - and most of them had been well flagged,” he said.

Eamonn Toland, founder of TheMathsTutor.ie, said that overall, the accessibility of section A balanced out some challenging parts in Section B.

Some of the scenarios students faces included air conditioning, fractals and Norman architecture.

“The concepts and skills section was quite straightforward for higher level. The only slight twist in this section was the appearance of mean and median in an question on algebra, which might have been a little surprising at first., he said.

In the contexts and applications section, the examiner continued a trend of borrowing some concepts from advanced third level maths to create a question.

“This year they used the Cantor set which is a famous example of a fractal. The description of the question is quite difficult and may have caused problems for some students.

“Good students had a chance to show their stuff on the question on the Cantor set,” he said.

The question on calculus in this section was pretty straightforward, although part (iii), he said, was not clearly stated.


Jean Kelly, a maths teacher at the Institute of Education, said that the ordinary level paper was nice and clear with accessible language.

“Algebra, financial maths, and functions & graphs all appeared heavily on the paper. The last question, question nine, may have thrown some of the weaker students, but the income tax question was straightforward and the question on algebra was completely expected. A question on the trapezoidal rule involved a bit of measuring and may have surprised some students, as area and volume normally appear on paper two.”

Of the longer questions, some weaker students may have been thrown by a financial maths question. “This was a little more challenging and thought provoking, but again, the language used was nice and easy to understand,” she said.

Record numbers of students continue to study higher-level maths, with 21,024 of 56,028 (37.5 per cent) students taking the paper.