My daughter wants to teach, but her weakest subject is Irish. What options does she have?

As the oral is now worth 40%, a good performance is key to getting a decent grade

My eldest daughter has her heart set on primary school teaching. She has recently discovered that she needs a minimum of a H4 in Irish, which may be a big ask, given that it is easily her weakest subject. Could you offer any advice?

As you say, the entry requirement for Irish in primary school teaching courses is 60-69 per cent, or a H4. This is because Irish forms a central part of the primary curriculum and teachers are expected to teach other subjects through the language.

It is not mandatory at second level where there are, of course, subject-specific teachers.

So, how can she maximise her chances of a good grade?


Given that the oral accounts for 40 per cent of the overall marks, she should immerse herself as much as possible in listening to Irish language media. Programmes on TG4 with English subtitles are also an excellent way to tune the ear to conversational Irish.

If she performs well in the orals next Easter, she will be well on her way to meeting the H4 entry requirement.

Firstly, she should familiarise herself with how marks are awarded in the orals. The exam, which lasts 15 minutes, is broken into three main parts.

First is the welcome (five marks): your daughter says hello to the examiner, gives her name, age, address, birthday, and exam number. Make sure she has this well prepared. A good start will settle her nerves.

Next is poetry reading (35 marks): The examiner will choose one of five prescribed poems – Mo Ghrá-sa, Geibheann, Colscaradh, An tEarrach Thiar, or An Spailpín Fánach – for her to read. She must not forget to first read the title and poet’s name.

Up next are picture stories (80 marks): the examiner will pick one of the ten “sraith pictiurí” and she will be required to speak about what is going on in the picture in either the past or present tense. Then, she must ask the examiner three questions about the chosen sraith pictiúr. The examiner will then ask her three specific questions on the picture.

Finally, there is the general conversation (120 marks): Typically, there are about eight minutes for the “comhrá” part of the exam. She should try to lead the conversation to topics she is comfortable talking about.

Potential topics include yourself, your family, where you live, your pastimes or hobbies, school, what you hope to do after school. The only way you can do this is by practising discussing these issues with a fellow student or a person with a fluency in Irish.

Current affairs are also important. In the light of the housing and cost-of-living crisis at home, and war in Ukraine and the Middle East, she should prepare to discuss these issues and any others which arise in the coming months in general terms.

Additionally, she should record herself doing a mock oral (five poems/10 sraith/comhrá topics) she is comfortable with and listen back regularly to it over the coming months.

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