English Paper 1

So far, so good. As of 12:20PM today, Leaving Cert students are finished English Paper 1 – I’m sure you’re all glad to be at least halfway to your dream grade in English!

What did everyone think of the paper? Well, when I first got it, I have to say I thought it was a really good paper. The general theme ofMemorywas nice, and the three texts were good. I particularly liked Text 1 and 2. I thought Text 3’s Question A was a little bit wishy-washy. But getting a letter in the Question B of Text 1 was fantastic! And the Mary Robinson speech was definitely a personal highlight (come on, whodoesn’tlove Mary Robinson!)

The essay titles were, in my opinion, quite good too. I went for the old reliable short story – which I actually enjoyed writing. I chose topic 3… “An inferior rock band howling for fame…” From what I heard from other people, most people did option 7. “Write a short story in which a young character is eager to leave home.” I thought the essay titles were very do-able, and I was even tempted (briefly) to write the persuasive speech about the importance of literature.

Despite my own wonderful opinions, a lot of people are saying that the paper was quite tough. According to the Irish Independent, an English teahcer said it “would have stretched them”. The persuasive article, which was the Question B of Text 3, seems to have been an issue for quite a few pupils.

What did you think of the paper? Easy? Difficult? Couldn’t care less? Leave a comment and give me your opinion!

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4 comments on “English Paper 1

  1. Emma says:

    I didnt think it was too bad! I did A from Text 1, and B from Text 3 – the persuasive article, and the speech about literature! Hopefully paper 2 is as nice 🙂

  2. Emmet says:

    Did you memorise the body of an essay and fit it in, or just nice phrases? Or did you make it up on the day? 🙂 I’m fairly confident in everything except English, I don’t know why like I love languages, but English just doesn’t agree with me? Thanks in advance man!

    • Hi Emmet! Thanks for the comment. 🙂 For my exam I didn’t memorise the body of an essay, I didn’t memorise anything at all really. I had written quite a few short stories in practice beforehand and gotten my teacher to grade them. I then had an idea of which storylines were the best, and which ones could potentially be used again. I expected that on the day, I would use a story I had already written, but when I saw the titles, I came up with a story on the spot.

      Many people don’t recommend this, but I think it’s a great idea. When I went to view my script at the end of August, I found out I had gotten almost full marks for my short story. There were elements of the essay I wrote that were similar to other stories.

      My advice would be not to learn off an essay – this is not a good idea, as the essay titles on the day may not suit the essays you’ve learned off. An examiner won’t be happy if you write an essay that’s barely related to the title. Many students make this mistake, and assume that just including some kind of a link sentence will suffice. Examiners will pick up straight away that the student has just learned off an essay, and they will also pick up on the fact that it doesn’t fit with the title.

      As you probably know at this point, for paper one there are several options of essay. I decided pretty early on in fifth year that I was going to go with the short story option, because writing short stories had always been my favourite part of English. The best thing you can do is decide on what type of essay you’ll write, i.e. descriptive, persuasive, speech, debate, etc. and then practice this a lot over the coming weeks. Write essays of titles from the past exam papers and ask your teacher to grade them. If your teacher just gives you a grade and doesn’t tell you how to improve it, don’t be afraid to ask for pointers.

      The point of all of this is that by the time you get to the day of the exam, you’ll have ideas for the essay already in your head. You’ll know ideas that work, and ideas that don’t work. If an essay title on the day fits in with the general thing you’ve written about before, then go for it, but make sure to adapt it so that it fits around the title on the exam paper.

      Always do an essay plan when you first read the title. This will help tremendously. Just jot down ideas first, and then make a more solid plan. Decide what you will write in each paragraph, and plan eight or nine paragraphs. This will help you get the title clear in your head. You will find for paper one that you don’t need to have a whole heap of knowledge of different subjects for the essay. All the examiner wants to see is that you’re able to compose an original piece of writing on the spot.

      If you’ve decided to go with a short story, remember there are vital aspects of a short story that the examiner will want to see. Have you got a good, solid opening that will hook the reader? I often found in Leaving Cert that beginning with a line of dialogue can be a good opening, as it plunges the reader straight into the action. Make sure you’ve got a good beginning, middle and an end. Most of all, make sure you make your reader feel the tension, and make your characters as realistic and rounded as you can. The examiner is not going to expect a perfectly crafted short story – you only have a short amount of time. They want a good burst of creativity that follows an interesting format, and most of all, a story that will grip them.

      For paper two, I would also not advise learning off essays. While it is more practical, perhaps, for paper two, it is still not really likely to work unless you’re the kind of person who can learn off pages of material word-for-word really quickly. I was really bad at this in Leaving Cert, so instead I practiced writing essays as much as I could. Again, take out a past exam paper and just write an essay from whatever section you want. Ask you teacher to grade it, and see how you can improve.

      For comparative studies, make sure you know what novels/plays/films you’re writing on. For the single text, know what play you’re writing on, and know that play inside out. Don’t worry if you haven’t done much work on it yet. There’s still plenty of time. I imagine you’re probably doing Macbeth for this one. If you are, there is so much information online about that play. Just make sure you’re using a good website that seems accurate.

      The only thing, in my opinion, you should be learning off for paper two is quotes. These are necessary, as tedious as they are. If you haven’t learned any yet, go through your single text and pick out around twenty really good quotes from vital moments in the text and learn them off. For comparative, you don’t need as many as you will be writing on three texts. I’d say three or four quotes from each text would suffice. For poetry, you will have to learn off quotes from poems (not actually the whole poems, a few lines from each one will do) but also have an idea of poetic techniques such as onomatopoeia, personification, etc. If you don’t know about any of these, looking through the notes in your poetry book should help, and again, the internet is a fantastic place to find this kind of information. If you are still in doubt, maybe ask your teacher if they have a glossary of poetic techniques they could give you.

      I followed all of these tips when I did my Leaving Cert, and I got an A1 in the exam. When I viewed my script, I got 98% in paper one, and 83% in paper two. I fell down quite a lot on paper two because I allowed myself to panic a little bit on the day, and I spent way too long on comparative studies and let my poetry suffer. Without trying to scare you, just make sure that you don’t rely too heavily on tips. The people who make the papers will go out of their way to make the paper awkward, and it’s always those who rely heavily on tips who end up not being prepared for the exam.

      Remember too that paper one could be your ticket to a higher grade, if you’re prepared. So many students make the mistake of neglecting paper one, thinking that it’s easy and can be made up on the day. While you will not have seen or studied anything that comes up on paper one before the exam, it is important that you are practiced in all of the areas of the exam. It is actually quite an easy exam, but it is students who make the mistake of not preparing and practicing for it who do badly.

      So to conclude, feel free to learn off essays if you want, but just be prepared; the exam will often not turn up the questions that were predicted. Rather than investing hours in learning off essays, your best bet would be to practice and hone your writing skills, and try to enhance your knowledge of the texts you’ve studied. At the end of the day, English is very much about how you write – your fluency, tone, etc. If you write a couple of essays a week between now and the exam, your writing skill will be greatly improved. I used to spend around a third of my studying time for English in the week writing essays and section A/Bs from paper one, and I would advise you to do the same.

      Hope all this helps, and sorry for going on so much! Best of luck with the exam 🙂

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