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What are your interests?



Not surprisingly, some aspect of the natural sciences will run through the Naturalist's interests - from ecological awareness to nutrition and health. People with an interest in horticulture, land usage and farming (including fish) are Naturalists.

Some Naturalists focus on animals rather than plants, and may enjoy working with, training, caring for, or simply herding them. Other Naturalists will prefer working with the end result of nature's produce - the food produced from plants and animals. Naturalists like solving problems with solutions that show some sensitivity to the environmental impact of what they do. They like to see practical results and prefer action to talking and discussing.

Subject Choice for Leaving Cert...

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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.


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...
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...
Civil Engineer - Maria O'Neill
Maria O'Neill, Smart Futures

In hindsight, I am happy to say I wouldn't have done anything differently to date! In my Junior Cert I did 9 subjects ; Maths, Irish, English, History, Geography, Science, Business Studies, French and Tech Graphics. I liked Languages and history the least. I won't lie, Maths, Geography, and Tech Graphics were the ones I enjoyed the most.

When I was choosing for my leaving Cert I still hadn't decided what I would do when I was finished. I was thinking of Engineering, Teaching or Physiotherapy. I wanted to leave my options open. To do physio you need a language (to get in to UCD) and 2 science subjects. I decided to do Maths, Irish, English, French, Geography, Physics and Chemistry for my leaving. That left all the options open.

I was good at Business Studies, but after looking at courses in college, I discovered you don't usually need a business subject to get into a business course. This is not the case for Science based courses. In 6th year I took up Applied Maths. Since I was doing Physics and Maths I had a good background for the subject. Twenty classes and just homework, and I got an honour. If anyone was to ask me if they should do it, if you like maths, its a great subject!

  go to interview...
Dancer - Megan McEvoy
Megan McEvoy, Languages ConnectAside from English, Irish and maths I did music, French, art and chemistry. I did business studies until the Junior Cert but dropped it then. Although I didn't enjoy business studies I really wish I had kept it on as had I known that I'd be self-employed in the future it would have helped me greatly in terms of tax, loans, self-marketing and starting a business.

Essentially I am now running a small business by being self-employed. While I didn't use French and ended up living in Spain for 4 years I do feel having had a second language in school made picking up Spanish easier for me and I was really willing to learn it. Music of course has helped greatly in my career as there is nothing worse than a dancer who has no sense of musicality. Music has always played a big part in my life and many teachers have commented on my strong sense of musicality through dance. 
  go to interview...
Garda Trainee - Steven Kilgannon
Steven Kilgannon, An Garda Sí­ochánaMaths / Geography / English / Irish / Irish / Construction / Biology

They didn't influence my career path. I spent my time working my way up in a hotel to gain experience in complaint handling and communication skills. 
  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...
Planetary Scientist - Caitriona Jackman
Caitriona Jackman, Smart Futures

For Leaving Certificate I did the usual English, Irish, Maths, then Physics which I loved, Chemistry which I wasn’t great at (kept breaking stuff in the practicals), French, Geography and Music as an extra. I really enjoyed English actually, and even though a lot of my job involves computer programming and some hard maths and physics, I still rely heavily on my writing skills.

As important as it is to have technical ability in my job, it is still crucial to be able to communicate any results I find. One of the main tasks for me is to write papers for scientific journals, and occasionally to write articles for a more general audience.

My French is also useful because I collaborate with several people from a lab in Paris and they like if I make an effort to speak a bit of French, even though my accent is very embarrassing!

  go to interview...
School Principal - Paul Meany
Paul Meany, Department of Education and SkillsIrish, English, Maths, French, Physics, Chemistry. For third level I had to chose between a degree in English and a degree in Science and I chose the B.Sc. 
  go to interview...
Wind Engineer - Des Lalor
Des Lalor, Sustainable Energy AuthorityMaths, English, Irish, Physics, Tech Drawing, Geography, French  
  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...
Occupational Therapist - Tomas Flanagan
Tomas Flanagan, St. Michael's House

In school we had to choose our Leaving Cert subjects just before the Junior Cert. At this stage I had no idea what I wanted to do as a profession but I knew I wanted to go to College.

In order to keep my options open I chose a mix of subjects to include one language, one science subject and one business subject. In addition to the obligatory English, Irish & Maths I therefore studied French, Biology, Geography & Accounting. I chose these particular subjects as I had an interest in them at Junior Cert level.

I suppose Biology was the most relevant of my subjects when I started college as there was some overlap with Anatomy and Physiology. We also studied research and statistics in college which were Maths related.

  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

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.


  • 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