Leaving Cert maths paper two: ‘They’re making ordinary level harder’

Students coming out of exam at Loreto College, St Stephen’s Green share their reactions

Photograph: (left to right): Niamh Lawlor (18), Julia Masterson (18) and Katie Havel (18)

Photograph: (left to right): Niamh Lawlor (18), Julia Masterson (18) and Katie Havel (18)


“It was a bit daunting after the first paper, but overall it was better,” was the reaction of Niamh Lawlor (18), which was mirrored by many Leaving Cert ordinary level maths students as they milled out of their exam halls on Monday afternoon after paper two.

Lawlor, a student at Loreto College, St Stephens Green, Dublin, said paper two was a lot more accessible compared to Friday’s very difficult paper one.

“It was much better than paper one. It was a bit daunting after the first paper. There were a few questions that put me off but overall it was better. I definitely think they’re making ordinary level harder, to get more people to study higher level,” she said.

There was an air of caution and anxiety in the lead-up to paper two, following what was described by many as a “challenging” paper one.

Julia Masterson (18) agreed with Lawlor’s assessment of the exam. “Paper two was much better than paper one anyway. The question on enlargement threw me off a little but overall it wasn’t that bad.”

Last week’s ordinary level maths paper one was met with anger by students and parents, with many people expressing their disappointment about the exam on Twitter.

In comparison, students sitting the higher level paper generally accepted it was a lot more approachable than previous years. Some students felt the SEC was making it more do-able to encourage more students to study higher level maths.

“I do think they’re trying to make higher level more accessible to students, especially with the pass level of 30 per cent that’s due to come in next year. I think they’re really trying to entice people to do higher level,” said Katie Havel (18).

Helen Carroll (18) agreed with her classmate. “When you look at past papers from 2010 or 2011, they’re much harder than the one we just did, but I suppose it’s because more people are taking higher level maths and they don’t want everybody to fail,” she said.

Overall, students in the city centre school felt paper two was on par with, if not easier than, paper one.

“I wasn’t happy with paper one at all. I found paper two to be much more approachable. I think the distribution of questions was a lot more even, and much fairer,” said Havel.

“It went ok. There was one question, question 8, that threw me off. The two papers were around the same. There were hard questions on both papers but at the same time, there were other easier questions which balanced it out,” said Aoife Moran (18).

Roughly a third of students are expected to sit higher level maths this year, the highest number in recent years.