What we learned from today’s exams

Day #1: Drelfies, poxes and the myth of exam weather

This year’s ordinary level Leaving Cert English exam focused  on the selfie and social media. Photograph: iStock

This year’s ordinary level Leaving Cert English exam focused on the selfie and social media. Photograph: iStock


State exams body is down with the kids

You might not assume that the suits who devise Leaving Cert exams have their finger on the pulse of cutting-edge youth culture.

You’d be wrong.

This year’s ordinary level English paper shows a team of exam-setters well and truly surfing the Irish cultural zeitgeist.

The exam focused on the selfie and how new words have been invented to describe variations of it.

They include “helfie” (a picture of one’s hair), “melfie” (a selfie taken using a mirror) and “drelfie” (drunken selfie).

It’s all news to us. So, parents, if you don’t understand your kids anymore, then you know what to do.

Take a closer look at what kind of exam papers the young people are reading these days. It’s not like it was in our day.

Quote of the day

“Ach, so proud, and I hope that whatever the f**k exams are - as I’ve never done one - the bit with me in it was super-easy, you all got A BILLION POINTS and a pay-rise. They pay you for exams, right? Cos if not, that’s kinda harsh.”

Tweet from journalist and author Caitlin Moran, on hearing her essay featured in the English Leaving Cert paper one.

Poxes vs idiots

“Is there anything worse than the poxes you share the bus with in rush-hour traffic to and from work? No matter how many times you travel on public transport you never get used to it.”

So wrote Aoife Dooley in The Irish Times in November 2017. Her article popped up on this year’s Junior Cert (higher level) English paper but, peculiarly, the examiners saw fit to change “poxes” to “idiots”.

It is, perhaps, an understandable change, but it’s nonetheless a real shame to lose one of Hiberno-English’s most glorious insults to the very generic term “idiot”.

In the strict sense of the term, a pox is a particular viral disease, but it’s long since been used in Ireland to refer to a “shitehawk” or “langer”.

More particularly, it refers to a particularly annoying and unwanted person, who is about as welcome as a pox. It is a gorgeous, hateful word. Today’s students are all the poorer for its absence in the exam.

Number of the day:

47.7 million

- Number of A4 pages printed in this year’s exam booklets

Exam weather gets an ‘F’

Leaving Cert weather might not be as predictable as we like to think, but the annual conversation about it certainly is.

On RTÉ, veteran presenter Sean O’Rourke asked Evelyn Cusack, head of forecasting at Met Eireann: “Whatever happened the exam weather this summer?”

“People have this idea that it’s warm and sunny during the Leaving Cert,” she replied.

“If it was warm and sunny during the Leaving Cert every year, then we’d have a weather pattern, and Met Éireann would know about… it’s just random, unfortunately.”

So what, then, explains the widespread belief that Ireland has made a pact with the weather gods, sacrificing our young to the horrors of the Leaving Cert in return for a drop of sunshine?

“When the sun comes out, it is warm and people remember it,” said Cusack. “Doing the Leaving Cert is very traumatic and so we always remember the weather during our Leaving Cert.”

I made the paper!

“Woke up to find that I was on the junior cert English paper today, what the hell,” the author Aoife Dooley wrote on Twitter.

“I’m now getting messages from 15-year-olds asking why I hate the bus. Just want to make it clear, I don’t: I just hate people.”

Dooley’s article immediately sparked a series of memes from teenagers.

One tweeter suggested that she ask for royalties from the Department of Education, to which she replied (also jokingly): “I’ll be asking them to pay for my f—-king counselling when this is over!”

Up next:

Leaving Cert:

Engineering (9.30am), English paper two (2pm)

Junior Cert:

Irish paper one (9.30am), Irish paper two (2pm -higher only)

Last-minute tips

English paper 2 (Thursday, 2pm)

Spill out everything you know; poetic techniques, imagery/symbols, characters, etc,and back everything up with a relevant example and quote.

Most importantly,answer the question asked. Many students lose marks by writing a really good answer for a question that they wanted to see.

Leaving Cert geography (Friday, 9,30am):

Be careful about timing. Fora higher level student, try spending 25 minutes on the short questions, 10 minutes reading the long questions and 30 minutes on each long question; write a timing plan with times on the front of the exam paper.

Students should be familiar with the concept of a SRP:single relevant point: this is how the corrector will mark your paper.

A typical essay-type long question will be worth 30 marks at higher level,so students are required to write at least 15 individual points to gain full marks.