‘Great confidence boost’: Reaction to today’s Leaving Cert biology and Junior Cycle French exams

Day five of the State exams draws to a close for more than 100,000 students across the country

Leaving Cert



That’s a wrap...

So, day five is over, folks. The exam halls are empty until tomorrow morning.

For Leaving Certs, it’s French (9.30-12.50pm) and history (2-4.50pm) on Wednesday.

Junior Cycle students, meanwhile, have home economics (9.30-11.30am) and Spanish (1.30-3.30pm).

If you’re due to sit the French or history exams, we have some last minute tips here.

In the meantime, be sure to get a good night’s sleep.

Best wishes from us all here in The Irish Times

Junior Cycle French exam: see for yourself

Today’s Junior Cycle French common level exam is online now

Leaving Cert biology:

The Leaving Cert biology paper is finally online, if you want to relive those moments from earlier... or just see what students were faced with.

We have a detailed reaction piece which you can see by scolling back to our posting at 5.10pm

Higher level:

Ordinary level:

Leaving Cert Irish paper two: student-friendly, but challenging in parts

My colleague Peter McGuire has filed a detailed reaction on today’s Leaving Cert Irish paper two.

The consensus among most teachers was that this was a student-friendly paper with good choice, but a few tricky elements.

You can read the piece here.

It also has links to the higher and ordinary level paper.

Parli italiano?

That’s about as far as our command of the language goes here at The Irish Times Examwatch headquarters.

Check out today’s Junior Cycle Italian paper yourself to see how you might have fared.

Buona fortuna!

Leaving Cert biology, higher level: ‘Plenty of choice’ and ‘a great confidence boost’

The early verdict on the biology paper is in -- and it’s getting the thumbs up.

Roisin Doyle, biology teacher at the Institute of Education in Dublin, said the amount of choice and well-phrased questions made this paper very student-friendly.

“Students who put in the hard work with past papers will feel their efforts pay off,” she said.

Liam Hennelly, a biology teacher at Belvedere College in Dublin and Studyclix subject expert, agreed that this was a “really nice and well laid out paper”.

“It gave students plenty of choice across all three units of the course and allowed them to show off what they know. Some of the questions were challenging in places and required an in-depth knowledge of subject material, as you would expect with any higher level paper,” he said.

The fact that there were five questions on human biology in the exam that students could have attempted for 110 marks out of 400, or 27.5 per cent of the exam, would have been a relief for a lot of students, Hennelly added.


Opening the paper, she said students were greeted by a “nice” question on the expected topic of food.

“This was clear and focused on a single subtopic, so there was no jumping around the topic necessary. This would have helped them settle into a very manageable paper with few sticky moments to catch them out,” she said.

Question 2 asked the fundamentals of the scientific method, a core idea echoed later in the experiments of section B.

Ms Doley said question 3 had a “fabulously clear” diagram of the human alimentary canal and concise questions that were “utterly unambiguous”.

“Students often favour human biology in their exam preparation, but they would not see the topic again until questions 16 and 17,” she said.

Further on, the true/false statements of question 5 were DNA-heavy, she said.

“One moment that posed an interesting challenge was the comparative terms of question 6, in particular part C’s “carpal” vs. “carpel”. The connection between these two is purely a matter of literacy with no underlying biological connection, so that partnering may have puzzled them for a moment,” Doyle said.

The experiments in section B balanced an unexpected approach with an abundance of opportunities to prove knowledge, she said.

“While students might not have expected the precise approach of the question, an emphasis on the procedural method meant that a few forgotten steps could be compensated for by a surplus of information,” she said.

The most novel questions were 12 and 14, according to Doyle. In particular 12 B asked students to think beyond the usual scope of the course when interpreting the questions.

“Additionally, question 14 (A)(i) asked something that had never previously appeared in this phrasing, and so students might be unsure of exactly how to approach it. However, these were individual instances in a very broad exam with lots of choice, so students would be unlikely to get stuck on them.”

Overall, she said the majority of the paper was a traditional biology exam in how it approached its layout, topics and questions.

“Students who put in the work to thoroughly revise past exams, both the June and deferred papers, will feel that their work paid off,” she said. “The diagram in Question 7 looks daunting but will be familiar from the 2022 deferred paper.

“Questions 11 and 16 bore a striking resemblance to questions on last year’s paper. While many avoided the former’s topic of plant reproduction, those who practiced that paper will have been pleased. For students who put in the hard work, their efforts were validated here. This should be a great confidence boost for the rest of the exams.”

Liam Hennelly said that in question 12 (b) (i), students needed to be very careful to draw the predator-prey relationship graph with the curves out of phase with each other.

Question 13 on metabolism, respiration and photosynthesis was, by contrast quite straight forward..

“Overall, this was a very student-centered, fair and current paper that would have been well received.”

Try this at home .... Junior Cycle graphics exam

Today’s Junior Cycle graphics exam is online now...

... and here’s a quick test of your knowledge of circles, from q.1 (a) of today’s paper

Leaving Cert Irish paper two: ‘Sighs of relief’

The first verdicts are in on today’s Leaving Cert Irish paper two -- and they are very positive

Clare Grealy, Irish teacher with the Institute of Education, said it was a “student friendly paper that would have prompted a sigh of relief in the room”.

“Students will be delighted to see a paper without hidden twists or turns,” she said. “The phraseology was straightforward, so students knew exactly what was being asked of them.”

Linda Dolan, Irish teacher at Mercy College Sligo and Studyclix subject expert, agreed that the higher level paper was “received with open arms” by students and teachers alike, presenting straightforward questions and nothing out of the blue.

“Overall, it was a manageable paper that students would have easily navigated if they had practised past exam papers,” she said.


The first léamhthuiscint was on island life and would have been very familiar to students, Grealy said.

This traditional topic was contrasted with the theme of the second léamthuiscint: “An Intleacht Shaorga”, or artificial intelligence.

She said this topic was so contemporary that many students may have overlooked the relevant vocabulary in their preparation, but those who grasped the title found it repeated throughout.

“While the topic may have been challenging to some, the questions were approachable and clear, asking for students to take directly from the text,” she said.


Grealy said the prose section will have delighted many as the anticipated “Cáca Milis” appeared with a very accessible question.

“Many will be surprised to see “Dís” appear for the second year in a row, so students who were studying strategically may have found themselves without choice in this section. Thankfully both questions were very convenient and so everyone should have found something that suited them,” she said.

Dolan also said the question on Cáca Milis was the hot favourite, however the language in the Dís question was also very student-friendly.

“The very topical issue of artificial intelligence appeared in the comprehension B. Although the language was challenging in the content, students would have picked up on words like ChatGPT, Alexa etc to help their comprehension of the topic,” she said.


For poetry, Grealy said students who were diligent in their revision of the past papers will be pleased to see “An tEarrach Thiar” making its fifth appearance in 12 years.

“If students had practiced the questions from 2012, 2016, and 2019 they will recognise the near verbatim repetition on this paper. Part (iii)’s focus on adjectives was more technical than many may have hoped but this acted as the challenge to better distinguish the top scorers,” she said.

The other poem, “Géibheann”, would normally be perceived as easier by the students, she said, but will likely be the less appealing of the two options in the exam today.

“The emphasis on contrast with the narrowed focus on the animal limited the more confident student’s ability to discuss the allegorical and metaphorical aspects of the poem,” she said.

Dolan also said the poetry questions were very accessible.

“An t-Earrach Thiar and Geibheann were the options, as was possibly predicted. The choice on the paper is very beneficial for students,” she said. “The question on a poetry technique in part (ii) of Geibheann may have been tricky for some candidates.

An Triail

Grealy, meanwhile said Question 4A on the influence of shame in An Triail was a hand-in-glove combination of the character studies that the students would have prepared, Grealy said.

“The question was clear in the need to discuss characters plural (“na pearsana”), so that students were guided towards what was required,” she said.

Those planning to do the Dánta Breise will have had a moment of shock at the appearance of “Fill Arís”, but that would have turned to delight in seconds as they read the questions, she said.

“This is the fourth time ‘Fill Arís’ has appeared, and the third time the same question on theme has been asked. Again, those who worked through previous papers will find a reassuring familiarity in this question. The other questions on the metaphor of the door and the effect of the language orders should have posed no problems,” she said.

In the end, Grealy said this paper was very student-friendly and offered a fair opportunity to reflect their previous work.

Ordinary level

Linda Dolan said that, similarly, the ordinary level paper provided ample choice and gave students the opportunity to display their knowledge of the material they had engaged in for the last two years.

“Students who have put in the time and effort would find this paper hard to fault,” she said.

Paul Murphy on the Leaving Cert: ‘There’s an enormous class bias in it. I’m a product of that

My colleague Jen Hogan has been asking public figures about their exam memories.

They are a fascinating window into how exams have shaped people, the enduring impact of ‘good’ teachers and how Leaving Cert results often have little impact on career paths.

Paul Murphy’s - the People Before Profit TD for Dublin southwest - contribution is well worth a read.

He’s very open about the advantage he had in attending a private school over other exam candidates.

You can read Jen’s article here.

Also, you can check out others in our ‘My Leaving’ series:

Matt Cooper on the Leaving Cert: ‘I still have nightmares about it

Terry Prone on the Leaving Cert: ‘Fellow sixth years were crying in the corridors

Mario Rosenstock on the Leaving Cert: ‘It was smack bang in the middle of Euro ‘88. Naturally, the weather was amazing

Joanna Donnelly on the Leaving Cert: ‘I read my chemistry book for fun on off-days

Simon Harris on Leaving Cert: ‘The panic and fear we are instilling in people demands change

Student diary: ‘I’m studying as much as I can, but also avoiding burnout’

As day five of the exams get underway, it’s a reminder that the Leaving Cert really is as much an endurance event as an end-of-school exam.

Megan Glynn of Stepaside Educate Together Secondary School is trying to balance the need to maximise study time with spending enough time away from her desk.

So far, she feels, it has worked out well.

Megan is one of our five Leaving Cert diarists. You can read all about the others in this very insightful piece on the class of 2024 by my colleague Peter McGuire:

‘I’m more scared than excited’: Meet the Leaving Cert class of 2024