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‘My daughter is panicking about the Leaving Cert orals. It’s her first real exam’

The best approach is to immerse yourself in the language and understand how marks are awarded

My daughter is starting to panic. As she approaches her Irish and French Leaving Cert orals, she feels out of her depth. It doesn’t help that the junior cycle exams were cancelled due to Covid. This is her first real exam. Have you any advice?

It is understandable that many students are experiencing growing levels of anxiety given their lack of exam experience.

The best approach is to prepare as best she can and understand how the exam works.

For Irish, she should immerse in Irish language media. Programmes on TG4 with English subtitles are an excellent way to tune the ear to conversational Irish.


She should also familiarise herself with how marks are awarded in the Irish orals. The exam, which lasts 15 minutes, is broken into three 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 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 10 “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”. She should try to lead the conversation to topics she is comfortable talking about.

This may include yourself, your family, where you live, your pastimes or hobbies, etc. She should practise with a fellow student or a person with a fluency in Irish.

Current affairs are also important. It would be worth preparing to discuss topical issues such as the housing and cost-of-living crisis at home, or war in Ukraine and the Middle East abroad.

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.

The French oral is worth 25 per cent of overall marks and lasts about 12 minutes.

She can direct the topics of conversation given that she has the option to bring in a document of her choice, such as a picture, newspaper or magazine article, literary text or project in French.

The examiner will ask her questions about herself and her interests, followed by a topic that may be triggered by the document she has with her.

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