Leaving Cert English Last Minute Tips

Get in exam mode with these tips

1. Stay relevant to the question

Look back at the question every 5-10 minutes when you are writing.

2. Reference the key terms of the question throughout your answer

It helps to frame your points and explain why they are relevant (don't rely on the examiner to give you the benefit of the doubt). Similarly, pepper the Comparative answer with linking terms like both texts, equally, unlike, in contrast, etc.

leaving cert english exam tips

3. Do not summarise. Back up your argument with evidence (reference, quotation)

What is the difference between summarising vs referencing?



Hamlet didn't know whether Claudius was guilty, so he set up a play to watch his reaction. This is a summary.

Hamlet is often accused of procrastination. It seems reasonable for a man to want to be as confident as possible of another's guilt before deciding to kill them. This is why Hamlet set up the play: to either confirm or deny the Ghost's accusation: [add a suitable quote]. This is more analytical. This involves commenting on what the story means rather than just retelling what happened.

[King Lear]

Edmund lied to Gloucester about Edgar. He then handed Gloucester over to be tortured by Regan and Cornwall. Gloucester only realised Edgar was on his side after being blinded. This is a summary.

Edmund lied to Gloucester about Edgar. This is his first act of betrayal in the play. As the tragedy evolves, the reader witnesses him cynically disposing of his father as well Regan and Goneril. This shows that Edmund is entirely motivated by his desire for power at any expense: [add a suitable quote]. This is more analytical. This involves commenting on what the story means rather than just retelling what happened.

Have at least one quote per paragraph for poetry and single text.

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4. Choose a question that you find interesting and add a touch of your own opinion

I never even attempted a short story. Not my thing, unfortunately. A speech, a talk, an article, a discussion were all in my comfort zone, because they are more or less the same thing in a different style. So do what you are broadly used to in the exam.

For Paper I choose a question you are interested in. After all, so many questions ask you to agree/disagree, discuss, etc. If you have no strong feelings on the matter, it will be harder to talk about it.

As for Paper II, have a look at the personal response to T.S. Eliot here. It is pretty personal. Don't force the personal thing if it isn't flowing naturally either. 

5. Read the Comprehension questions before you read the text

This will prime you to pick up the relevant points as you are reading the text. Mark them as you read.

6. Don't be afraid to be wrong...

when you are asked to comment on a statement or express an opinion.

For example, let it all out when it comes to unseen poetry. See point 3: if you can back it up, you probably aren't wrong.

7. Watch your grammar and spelling. Proofread for 10 minutes at the end

Accuracy of mechanics accounts for 10% of the marks, read about it here. Also, while we have you, "alot" isn't a word. 

8. Decide on the timing of every question before you go in

Move on if you are out of time. It's tempting not to, but you will get more marks if you move on.

See our tips about Leaving Cert Predictions

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