My Leaving: Sweating over which poet will turn up

I loved ‘King Lear’, and I can only hope I’ve given the examiners what they’re looking for

This year, the entire class of 2018 studied Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’.

This year, the entire class of 2018 studied Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’.


The exam hall was roasting on day one. But by day two, we had learned more, and the windows were opened a bit more.

Still, the students were sweating. Which poets would come up on English paper two?

I know that some exam candidates were pinning everything on Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin and John Montague; they will be very relieved now.

Our class had covered all four poets, so while I could have gone for any of them, I thought the question on Robert Frost – where we were asked to choose which of his works help us to understand the darker aspects of his poetic vision through his effective use of narrative and dramatic scenes – was the most doable, so that’s what I went for.

This year, the entire class of 2018 across Ireland studied Shakespeare’s King Lear. I chose to answer a question asking us to identify three moments of riveting drama which provide us with thought-provoking insights into the human condition. I can only hope that I have given the examiners what they’re looking for, but it really helped that I find King Lear to be a really engaging and entertaining play: when you’re interested in what you’re studying, it’s easier to gain a greater insight.

Three texts

We were also asked to compare three texts including a novel, play and film, and mine included Foster by Claire Keegan, Big Maggie by John B Keane and I’m Not Scared by Italian director Gabriele Salvatores.

I was happy with parts of the paper, but it was tough overall. There’s a lot of writing to be done in three hours and 20 minutes and there’s a lot of pressure to get the timing just right.

I’ve been putting in about three or four hours of study per day. I keep myself sane by going out for a run. Another hobby, boxing, has been placed on the back burner, but I’m hoping to return to it next week: after biology on Tuesday, I have a full week before I sit Spanish and chemistry on the same day. And then I’m done. I’ll use that gap week to get back in the boxing ring and let off some steam.

Then, over the summer, I will be working with my uncle on the farm, bailing silage and waiting for the results. I’ve applied to study medicine in RCSI and Trinity. Will I get the high points? I’ve done all I can and I’ve given it my best, so I won’t stress about it. I’m just looking forward to relaxing when these exams are all over.