My Leaving Cert: USI president Kevin Donoghue

‘The exam is probably harder in terms of pressure, expectation and competition’

Kevin Donoghue would add philosophy as a Leaving Cert option: “Everyone should study it for a while. It really encourages you to reflect on your own thoughts and beliefs.”  Photograph: Andres Poveda

Kevin Donoghue would add philosophy as a Leaving Cert option: “Everyone should study it for a while. It really encourages you to reflect on your own thoughts and beliefs.” Photograph: Andres Poveda

 

What is your most vivid Leaving Cert memory? I was in one of the study rooms with a few friends when a teacher came in to say English paper two had been put back to Saturday because it was handed out by mistake in Louth.

We were all freaking out about it and then one of the lads says: “It could be worse: imagine how they feel in Louth? We have maths this week and they can’t tell the difference between one and two.”

We were laughing for about ten minutes. It wasn’t that funny, but it lightened the mood.

Who was your most influential teacher and why? Mary McIntyre. She taught me CSPE in the Junior Cert. I loved that class. She was big on promoting citizenship and engaging in the community. She told me about things like civil disobedience and its value in society.

What was your most difficult subject and why? French and maths. The teachers were great but I found both subjects to be boring and never connected with them.

How many points did you get in the Leaving Cert? I got 425, but only needed 350.

Did your results affect your future career? Not really, but I have been elected to every job I have had since I have left college, so it may have more of an impact in future.

Do you think exams today are easier than they used to be? Everyone thinks their time was harder because they went through it, but in reality it is probably harder today especially in terms of pressure, expectation and competition.

Is the Leaving Cert exam fit for purpose given the demands of the modern workplace? No. However, the focus should not necessarily be on the workplace.

What subject – if any – would you add to the Leaving Cert that was not on the curriculum when you sat it? Philosophy. Everyone should study it for a while. It really encourages you to reflect on your own thoughts and beliefs. You can truly challenge yourself.

What advice do you have for Leaving Cert candidates? Take a deep breath before you start the exam and then read all the questions before you start. Start with the easiest one and let your brain work on the others.

Kevin Donoghue is president of the Union of Students of Ireland. He sat the Leaving Cert in 2009 in Sligo Grammar School and went on to study law and philosophy