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Subject Choice for Leaving Cert...

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English

Ed Zone

These courses enable learners to gain recognition for the achievement of considerable knowledge in a range of subject areas, as for example in the Leaving Certificate and one-year Post Leaving Certificate courses.

Courses may be academic or practical in focus, and awards that are recognised by the National Framework of Qualifications may lead to progression opportunities higher up in the framework.

Employment Opportunities
The majority of people with certificates at this level are well prepared for occupations that involve using their knowledge and skills to help others. Examples include office secretary, customer service representatives, special needs assistant, retail salespersons and childcare workers.

Level on the National Framework of Qualifications
2 Years
Duration of course
Grades Awarded

Marks Distribution 2018:
Listed below are the percentage distributions of marks from the 38749 students who sat the Higher Level English exam in 2018.

Listed below are the percentage distributions of marks from the 15389 students who sat the Ordinary Level English exam in 2018.

In brief... header image

At Leaving Cert level, the English course aims to develop:

  • The ability to critically analyse information, as preparation for the responsibilities and challenges of adult life;
  • A respect and appreciation for language used accurately and appropriately, and a competence in a wide range of oral and written language skills;
  • An awareness of the value of literature for widening horizons, for enhancing their sense of cultural identity, and for personal enjoyment.

Why Study this?header image

Why Study English

  • Universities generally require a student to pass English
  • Leaving Certificate English invites students into rich experiences with language so that they become fluent and thoughtful users of it and more aware of its significance in their lives.
  • The study of English develops a range of literacy and oral skills in a variety of areas - personal, social, and cultural.
  • Students develop a wide range of skills and concepts which will allow them to interpret and enjoy a range of material so that they become independent learners who can operate independently in the world beyond school.
  • Students interested in furthering their English studies beyond second-level have a wide variety course choices available.

What kind of student would English suit?

  • Anyone who has ambitions for a career in creative writing, politics, or entertainment.
  • English also forms a key part of journalism courses and good presentation skills will be required for courses in history, politics, law and almost all other courses.
  • Students seeking to develop and improve their communication skills.

Recommendations/Tips:

It is recommended that a student has achieved at least a grade (C) at Junior Certificate higher level, to continue into higher-level Leaving Certificate English. Other cautionary notes that parents should be aware of include:

  • The study of English at higher level places significant demands on the Leaving Certificate student.
  • The syllabus is very broad in its range of prescribed materials can be quite time consuming.
  • The higher-level (course) exam rewards good writing skills and an independent learner.
  • The extended composition features largely on both papers at higher level and students are expected to write between 750-1000 words in these essays, during the time available.
  • There is the assumption at higher level that students will read widely and independently over the two years.
  • An interest in social, political and current affairs is vital.
  • Highly developed writing skills and critical analysis skills are prerequisite at Higher level.
  • Conversely, at ordinary level, textual material is printed on the exam paper for students e.g. in the poetry sections, poems are printed for the students. Less extended pieces of writing are also expected.
  • Texts at ordinary level are less challenging, particularly bearing in mind that students at O.L. do not have to study a Shakespearean play.
  • Texts prescribed at O.L. are very student friendly and aimed at encouraging the more reluctant reader.
  • There is a vast difference in the study of English at higher level for Junior Certificate and the Study of English at higher level for the Leaving Certificate.


Videos & Interviews header image


Read what others say about their Leaving Cert. Subject Choices...
Lecturer - Aoife Mc Dermott
Aoife Mc Dermott, Department of Education and SkillsIn school I took English, Irish, Maths, French, Biology, Economics and Business. The fact that I enjoyed economics in school led me to the choice of my degree.

Luckily by taking what started out as a general degree I was able to figure out that what I liked about economics was being able to pose questions and look for solutions; the critical thinking component, rather than the content was actually the part that appealed most to me.

Through exposure to a variety of subjects in my first year in college I was in a much better position to chose the subjects that I wanted to specialise in.

Choosing to specialise in business and sociology worked well for me; the business component gave me a marketable knowledge base and skill set, while the sociology component encouraged me to think critically and introduced me to research skills.

I wouldn't do anything differently. It was great to be in a course where the classes got smaller as I progressed through, so I got a lot of guidance as I stumbled forward!

Choosing a specialised degree wouldn't have been a good choice for me at the time - I'm still amazed when I think of my friends who knew exactly what they wanted to do as they left school.

The biggest thing I learnt through my degree was that I had developed a skill set that I could use in a variety of ways. Having a degree in a specific area doesn't limit you to that for life! 
  go to interview...
 
Insurance Administrator - Kevin Moran
Kevin Moran, InsuranceAs well as the mandatory Irish, English and Mathematics my leaving certificate subjects included French, Biology, Geography and Accounting.

This is a broad range of subjects covering everything from business to languages to science, this provided a broad base for me as it left a number of doors open for various university courses. 
  go to interview...
 
Teacher - Special Needs - Padraig Parle
Padraig Parle, Department of Education and SkillsHistory, Biology, French, Art, Maths, Irish and English.  Taking Art for my Leaving Cert. enabled me to go to Art College, but it was the Honours Irish which was essential to get into Primary Teaching 
  go to interview...
 
Parliamentary Assistant - Kevin Keary
Kevin Keary, EU CareersI chose a good variety of subjects at school- I did History, Biology, Geography, German and of course English, Irish and Maths.  
  go to interview...
 
Software Engineer - Karl Stanley
Karl Stanley, Smart FuturesFor my Leaving Cert. I took Maths - higher, Applied Maths - higher,  Physics - higher, Chemistry - higher, Music - higher, English - higher, German - higher, Irish - ordinary As you can see my abilities and interests were more in the maths+science sphere than anything else.

I was very lucky that at the time Mt. Temple had very capable maths+science teachers, which certainly made things easier for me. To be honest, in school I didn't really think about 3rd level or careers or anything until I was in 6th year (by which stage I'd already picked my subjects). I just picked the subjects I enjoyed and felt I had a natural knack for.

For the career I'm in now I don't think I could have picked better school subjects. It might have helped me to know a bit more about business-related subjects, but I had no interest in accountancy or commerce at the time.

I am considering taking an evening course in the legal+financial aspects to running a business to make up for this. However, as a teenager I think I was better off studying subjects that I had a genuine interest in, otherwise I would have found it very hard to motivate myself to study. 
  go to interview...
 
Clinical Nurse Manager 2 - Ejiro O'Hare Stratton
Ejiro O'Hare Stratton, Health Service ExecutiveEconomics, English, Maths, History, Biology, Art, BK, were the subjects I took. Biology stood to me for nursing but Economics and History also proved useful when I did my course in Human Resource Management and Industrial Relations. 
  go to interview...
 
Pharmacist - Rachel Berry
Rachel Berry, Health Service Executive

For GCSE I studied Maths, Additional Maths, Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Geography, English Language and Literature and German.

For A-Level I took Maths, Chemistry and Biology. I chose these subjects primarily because I was good at them and also because I enjoyed them. The school I attended was very academic and I always knew my future career would involve science of some description so the choices I made were logical.

I do regret not continuing on with art, although at the time I wasn't sure I could spare the time to commit to an extra subject that wasn't really going to come in useful. I guess you just have to weigh up costs and benefits. I found it very helpful to have a good grasp of statistics and pure maths as these topics came up quite alot during the pharmacy degree.

If you are thinking of taking a degree in pharmacy make sure you look at the admission requirements in good time as they can be quite specific and I know the grades are increasing every year so you need to be sure you are capable of making the grades.

 
  go to interview...
 
Chef - David Kehoe
David Kehoe, Careers PortalMaths, English, French, Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Home Economics. All of them influenced my career as I need all of them eg. without maths I couldn't deal with the financial part of the job. 
  go to interview...
 
Textile Design/Handweaver - Liz Christy
Liz Christy, Design & Crafts Council of IrelandThe subjects I took at shool all influenced me in different ways. English is very necessary in how I represent myself, Maths is oh so important in so many ways from yarn calculations to understanding numeric’s in business.

Art was very influential in my career path. I was introduced to Impressionism and Monet who is a major inspiration in my current work and marketing mix. 

I wish I was better at Irish and I would use it in my business marketing. History influenced how I relate to current affairs, Home Economics is vital in developing my needlecraft skills which is an important aspect of my business. 

Biology, well I do enjoy gardening as a hobby and my husband is a student psychiatric nurse so a knowledge of biology has come in useful over the years. 
  go to interview...
 
QA Manager - Michael Bohane
Michael Bohane, BioPharmachem IrelandMy Leaving Cert subjects were Irish, English, Maths, French, Chemistry, Biology and Business Organisation.  My main interest was science so I chose two science subjects and one business related subject to keep things interesting.

My subjects were appropriate for my University course except I was required to take Physics in the first year. This was quite challenging not having taken Physics to Leaving Cert but not impossible. I don't think I would do anything differently if I had to repeat the process. 
  go to interview...
 
 

Course Overview header image

English is a core subject and is compulsory in all schools. 

The exams at both higher and ordinary level require students to sit two papers. Junior Certificate results are often a good indication of what level a student should choose for Senior Cycle English. A large number of students take English at higher level but you should not underestimate the amount of work required to obtain a high grade.


Course Contentheader image

Core Elements

Language
Students are required to study the following five designated areas of language in a wide variety of contexts, functions and styles.

1. The Language of Information.
2. The Language of Argument.
3. The Language of Persuasion.
4. The Language of Narration.
5. The Aesthetic use of Language.

Literature

  • Students are required to study one literary text from a list of prescribed texts.
  • Students are required to study three other texts in the Comparative manner, according to the comparative modes prescribed for that year.
  • Students are required to study at least six poets from the eight poets prescribed at higher level.  At ordinary level, 36 poems are prescribed.

Compulsory elements:  At higher level, a Shakespearean Play must be one of the texts chosen for study on its own or as an element of the Comparative study.

Optional Elements:  At ordinary level, the study of a Shakespearean play is optional.


Exam Structure header image

Exam Structure

Paper I            Higher and Ordinary Level - 170 mins. - 200 marks.

Section I Three texts - one which is visual - are presented to students on a general theme.  Two sets of questions, an A and a B follow each text.  Candidates must answer a question A on one text and a question B on a different text.    (100 marks)
Section II (Composing)  Candidates must write an extended composition in a specific genre of language from a list of seven choices.    (100 marks)

Paper II            Higher and Ordinary Level - 200 mins. - 200 marks.  

Section I    The Single Text    (60 marks)
Section II   The Comparative study  (70 marks)
Section III  Poetry     (70 marks)

Higher Level 
(i)  Unseen poem   (20 marks)
(ii)  Prescribed poetry  (50 marks)

Ordinary Level
(i)  Unseen poem   (20 marks)
(ii)  Four poems will be printed on the exam paper and students must answer questions on one of the four.   (50 marks)


Exam Tips

Paper 1:

Composing: (100 marks) Long before the examination, identify the type of composition (short story, personal essay, discussion or descriptive essay) that is likely to gain you the highest grades and practise this. Bear in mind that the personal essay can be written as a narrative or a discussion, so it provides an alternative back up for both the short story and the discussion essay.

Short story: A short story is an exploration of a personality caught in a defining situation, indicating that the life of a character must be shown, through appearance, behaviour, and voice, both internal and external. The phrase "defining situation" means a situation that exposes the essence of that personality. It is useful to reduce the description of your central character to a single word so you know how the character looks, acts and speaks. Read as many short stories as possible to understand how the very best material is written.

Personal essay: The best preparation for the personal essay is to write short, colourful paragraphs that express your own personality. If approaching the personal essay as a narrative - the description of you caught in a defining situation, read the tips on the short story above. Be mindful that correctors are directed to look for reflective elements that capture your thoughts, feelings and judgments and interpretations on your experiences not just descriptions of things that happened to you.

Discussion essay: The key to a good discussion essay is to reduce the topic you are given to the point you wish to make. Using techniques such as exaggeration for effect, colourful illustrations and rhetorical questions influence a good discussion. It is important to read outside the course, for example the newspapers.

Descriptive essay: The task is to evoke a mood or atmosphere, the technique of settling on a single scene and bringing it alive with expressive and revealing details.

Paper 2:

The Single text: (60 marks) Be guided by the question, not by any standard essays that you may have prepared or learned which cannot offer a relevant discussion of an unseen play or novel. Use your opening paragraph to explore the implications of the given quote, your concluding paragraph to assess its merits, whether you wholeheartedly agree or disagree with it or indeed if you have mixed feelings about it.

Comparative study: (70 marks) In answers to questions in this section, students may compare and contrast (address similarities and/or differences) in both the content and style of their chosen texts. The most important thing to remember is to understand clearly your modes of comparison, compare your texts in each paragraph you write and do not summarise your texts, rather refer to key moments to support your points.

Poetry: (70 marks) two sections; unseen and prescribed. In the unseen part your ability to engage with a poem you have not seen before is tested. To do this you need to think about what poetry is and why it is different to prose. Remember poetry is compressed communication, you see it, hear it and feel it. While you need to learn about a poet's work and life from the writings of others in the prescribed section, do not underestimate your own honest responses to gain top grades. Be guided by the question not by the responses you have prepared. Discuss both the themes and techniques of your chosen poet, the characteristic images and expressions as well as the recurring experiences and emotions. Demonstrate a good understanding of the poem by providing quotes.

Other tips for English exam:

  • answer the question you are directly asked
  • always sketch out your ideas on a page first
  • plan before you write (arranging points in paragraphs)
  • replace commonly used words with less common synonyms (there are many = there is a plethora)
  • buy a good dictionary and thesaurus


Career Possibilities header image

English is valuable for a wide careers in a wide range of areas including: Advertising, Broadcasting, Journalism, Law, Librarianship, Politics, Speech Therapy, Teaching, Sales, Linguistics, Interpretation and Translation to name just a few.



Career Guidance