‘Easily the hardest exam I’ve done’: Reaction to Friday's Junior Cycle and Leaving Cert

Leaving Certs had geography and maths paper 1, while Junior Certs faced history and maths

Leaving Cert


* An estimated 135,000 students have completed day three of the State exams

* Leaving Cert: Students faced a “challenging” maths paper 1 (2-4.30pm), described by one student as “easily the hardest exam I’ve done”. Earlier, geography saw lots of “smiling and relieved students” leave the exam halls.

* Junior Cycle: History finished earlier (9.30-11.30am), followed by maths, which drew a very mixed reaction from students and teachers (1.30-3.30pm)


Last-minute tips for Monday

That’s it from us here in the live blog - we’ll be back on Monday.

We’ve compiled all the exam reaction here.

If you feel upset or worried at how the exams went today, remember, you’re not alone.

And, as we described above, the bell curve means that “harder” exams tend to be marked more easily.

In the meantime, be sure to take a breather over the weekend.

You deserve it.

On Monday Leaving Certs will have maths paper 2 and Irish paper 1 , while Junior Cycle students have science and business studies.

We’ve compiled some last-minute tips for Monday’s Leaving Cert exams. We’ve a subject-by-subject guide here.

Good luck!

Last-minute tips

- Maths paper 2

Make sure to bring your maths set and use a pencil that is legible when completing constructions, as the papers are now being scanned and corrected online.

It is not possible to predict what exact topics will appear on the paper, but higher level students should be competent with z values and confidence intervals, the binomial theorem as applied in probability, and questions involving the line and the circle.

For ordinary level, students should be comfortable with statistics and data, probability, trigonometry, the line and the circle. All students need to ensure that they know where to find appropriate formulae in the log tables to maximise their time.

- Irish

Prepare for your essay with reusable arguments, set up for your topics with key words and prepared sentences. We often see an option on ‘saol an duine óig’ or ‘an córas oideachais’. Topics that were not examined last year are An Ghaeilge, spórt, athrú aeráide and an córas sláinte. Remember, quality over quantity!

Revise all pieces of literature, leave nothing to chance. Be able to write generally on íomhánna, mothúcháin, téama, codarsnacht, stíl an dáin and on the poets, along with satire and use of brackets in ‘Mo Ghrása idir lúibíní’ and the meadaracht and background of ‘An Spailpín Fánach’.

For all the prose and dramas, know the characters and their outlook, and be prepared to give examples of their important parts in the story and their impact.

  • Tips by Nuala Uí Cheallaigh, Irish teacher at the Institute of Education


‘If you feel you did badly, please don’t’

Aidan Roantree, a maths teacher with The Institute of Education, has some reassuring words for students.

“If you feel you did badly, please don’t. I think everyone will have experienced some problems with that paper,” he said.

“Going forward into paper two, it is my opinion ... that the students who probably disliked today’s paper the most are those who relied most on learning previous exam questions off by heart. Please learn from that for Monday’s paper.’


Busy, diverse, challenging’: More teacher reaction to maths paper 1

Peter McGuire has filed a detailed reaction piece from several maths teachers. You can read it here.

The consensus is that many parts of it were challenging and were designed to probe students’ understanding of concepts.

For students who may feel upset at how the exam went today, remember, the exam papers are marked according to a bell curve.

We have a detailed explanation of how it works here.

In simple terms, if an exam is “harder” than normal, it is marked easier. And if it is “easier” than normal, it is marked harder.

This is aimed at ensuring consistency in the proportion of H1s, H2, H3s, etc, from year to year.

So, even if you feel you struggled today, there is a good chance you may be marked more generously by examiners, especially if many others found it challenging.


‘A challenging paper’: Teacher reaction to Leaving Cert maths paper 1 (higher level)

The higher level maths paper 1 paper was described by one teacher as “challenging” but with some “low hanging fruit” where students could accumulate significant marks.

Aidan Roantree, a maths teacher with The Institute of Education, said the paper continued a recent trend towards “asking questions which probe students’ understanding of concepts”.

“The tendency to scour the syllabus for topics which have not been asked previously continues,” he said.

Roantree said students hoping to go through the motions will likely be unsettled by this paper as those setting the exam strive to be as novel as possible.

“While some questions contained pleasantly simple demands, the phrasing of the questions would have given students a cause for pause. Once overcoming the initial ‘wow’ reaction, they could really get to grips with the questions,” he said.

The short questions of Section A balanced the conventional and the abstract.

“Questions 1, 4, 5, 6 were accessible to most but Q2 and Q3 relied on an abstract approach. Students who hope to rely on recognising previous examples will be sorely disappointed as the paper emphasised command of the fundamental concepts involved,” he said.

Section B would have posed a challenge for many as the applications required yet more active engagement with the questions’ demands, he Roantree said.

“Question 7 had an accessible beginning, but two of the final stages are where the highest achievers will distinguish themselves. Question 8 was the long overdue appearance of financial maths, which many students would have been seen as being as close to guaranteed as a topic can be,” he said.

This question, he said, continued the trend since 2019 of dismantling the demarcation between papers, as Probability appeared ahead of its traditional place on Monday’s exam.

Question 9 was “by far the most approachable”, he said, but had an “unusual start” that required the student to take a moment of pause before progressing.

“Question 10, after an easy part (a), quickly descended into a tricky mix of sequences, series and geometry that would challenge most students,” he said.

“There were however ways for students to accrue necessary marks, but few will leave the exam hall feeling triumphant.”


Junior Cycle maths: Mixed reaction to ‘wordy’ higher level paper

Peter McGuire has filed a teacher reaction piece to this afternoon’s Junior Cycle maths exam. You can read it here

There was a mixed reaction from students and teachers.

The higher level exam, for example, was criticised as being too “wordy”.

“Many questions contained multiple sentences and contexts surrounding them, with very few just ‘straight up’ maths questions. This would have surely swayed a few students in trying to unpack what was being asked of them,” said Stephen Begley, a maths teacher at Dundalk Grammar School and Studyclix.ie subject expert.

“The exam was accessible and diverse, though far too wordy,” Begley added.

Leaving cert, junior cert exam


Student reaction to Leaving Cert maths paper 1: ‘Easily the hardest exam I’ve done’

The verdict from many students is that higher level Leaving Cert maths paper 1 was tough – that’s if social media is anything to go by:

... but the ordinary paper was “kind of nice”, said some:

We’ll have some teacher reaction shortly.


An end to the exam weather?

As we all know, swallows herald the arrival of spring and the Leaving Cert ushers in the arrival of exam weather.

Jade Wilson reports that the sunshine is set to continue this weekend. Saturday and Sunday is set to be warm and humid with temperatures of 21 to 24 degrees.

However, things may be about to change.

Scattered showers will arrive on Sunday, with “a potential for local thundery ones”, and slow-moving showers will bring the potential for flooding again on Monday and Tuesday.


Junior Cycle history reaction: Good use of sources, but students suffer from lack of choice

Peter McGuire has filed a reaction piece to today’s Junior Cycle history paper. You can read it here.

While there was good variety and use of sources, one teacher was critical of the requirement to answer almost all questions.

Philip Irwin, ASTI subject representative and a teacher at The High School in Rathgar, Dublin 6, said that the lack of choice on the paper – the only option on the paper allows students to pick between World War One and World War Two – creates a high bar to students aiming for a distinction.

Also, in the absence of a marking scheme on the paper, he argues that students may not know how much time to focus on each question and how much to write.

Both teachers’ unions – the ASTI and Teachers’ Union of Ireland – have consistently raised concerns about this aspect of the new Junior Cycle papers, where students have no choice about what to answer and which do not contain marking schemes.

Date:15/04/2013 - Education -  Students in class in Headfort School Kells Co Meath.
Photo: David Sleator/The Irish Times
Keywords ;  Archive , Web, Stock, GV, General View


If you were convinced Elizabeth Bishop would appear in yesterday’s English paper 2 ...

It was the most anticipated question of the Leaving: what poets would turn up in English paper 2?

The answer came yesterday: while Paula Meehan did, the much fancied Elizabeth Bishop was nowhere to be seen.

Cue some awkward conversations with teachers who were convinced she was a dead cert.

Ali Fox imagines how the chat went:

“You see, it was ‘unseen poetry’ ... it’s in the title. I wasn’t able to help you with that”.


Leaving Cert geography: Smiles and relief among students after exam with lots of choice

Peter McGuire has filed a teacher reaction piece following today’s Leaving Cert geography exam.

You can read it here.

The consensus among most teachers is there was plenty of choice and opportunity for candidates to demonstrate their knowledge and skills.


Diarmaid Ferriter on his Leaving Cert:I smoked far too much. My bedroom window sill was black with ash

We’ve been asking a range of public figures about their Leaving Cert memories.

UCD history professor Diarmaid Ferriter is the latest.

His advice to his Leaving Cert self?

“None. Advice from older to younger self is not advice, it’s just cheating. We are guided by the lights of our time. If pushed, maybe I’d opt for “stop smoking, you clown.”

It’s well worth a read – you can find it here.

Also, he’s not altogether impressed by the standard of basic literacy among students these days.

“I have witnessed too many Leaving Cert high-fliers at UCD who cannot construct sentences,” he adds.


‘A great mix of questions’

Michael Doran, a geography teacher at the Institute of Education, has posted this video reaction to today’s Leaving Cert exam.


Reaction to Leaving Cert geography: ‘A lot of smiling and relieved students’

Marie Kennedy, a geography teacher at Firhouse Community College, said today’s Leaving Cert paper at higher and ordinary level offered plenty of choice and tested a wide variety of skills.

“If the student had covered the course options they selected and revised well, they would have been able to manage the questions with ease,” said Kennedy, a subject representative with the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI).

“A lot of smiling and relieved students coming out of the exam centres today. Both fair papers,” she said.

Leslie Aslin, geography teacher at The Institute of Education, said the higher level exam was a “beautiful paper with choices within choices”.

“This paper started with some wonderfully comforting and welcoming short questions in part one. They were clear and straightforward, allowing students to settle into a paper that most would have hoped for. Those that had studied their plate tectonics had ample chance to apply that work, which most do while still bright-eyed and eager at the start of 5th Year, and so tends to really stick in their minds,” she said.

The questions in part two “really were a gift”, she said, thanks to adjustments this year which have give students greater choice.

“The questions themselves were fundamentally fair – being clear but also offering opportunities for those seeking the higher grades to distinguish themselves. For example, the physical geography question’s first two parts were simply wonderful, but the mention of isostasy in part C might trouble a weaker student,” she said.

She said this was repeated in the regional geography question: two straightforward requests followed by a “left-field twist”.

“But even with this in mind, everyone should be happy with this paper. The abundance of choice meant that the students could navigate by their strengths,” she said.

Those tackling the long essays of part four, she said, will be relived that predicted topics appeared.

“This was a brilliant paper that offered no barriers or excuses for not getting a fair and honest grade,” she said.

Edmond Hussey, a geography teacher at CBC Cork, was also positive about the ordinary level paper.

He said questions ere topical and referenced a recent earthquake in Afghanistan in 2022, a new solar farm in Ashford in Co Wicklow and the draft development plan 2022 for Dublin Port.

“I thought over all it was a fair paper. It would have suited a lot of students. A lot of them will be happy ... [the] skills-based questions gave stronger candidates a chance to shine,” he said.


Try this one at home

Given all the attention we’ve been paying to the glorious weather forecasts of late, we probably all fancy ourselves as amateur meteorologists.

In which case, try this question from today’s Leaving Cert geography higher level paper:

Page 11 of Leaving Cert geography - 1
Contributed to DocumentCloud by Carl O'Brien (The Irish Times) • View document or read text


First look: Junior Cycle history

Today’s Junior Cycle history paper is below.

The questions in a very broad-ranging paper stretch from Roman ruins and the Reformation to women’s GAA and the Troubles.

The story of Tomi Reichental also features prominently: born in Slovakia in 1935, he came to live in Ireland in 1959. In his autobiography, I Was a Boy in Belsen, he describes how his family was transported to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1944.

We’ll have reaction to the exam later.


First look: Leaving Cert geography

The geography paper for Leaving Cert students has landed.

Anyone intimately familiar with the topography of Co Cavan may have been at an advantage: drumlins, lakes and buildings feature in the higher and ordinary level papers.

Check out higher level paper below. We’ll have reaction shortly.

Part one:

Part two:


If the exams aren’t going well, take some solace in this ...

Sean Defoe, Newstalk’s political correspondent, asked Twitter users for their Leaving Cert disaster stories. Some of the responses are priceless: