Why do so few students get high grades in English?

Here is what we've learnt from our own mistakes, reading your essays and the Examiners:

1. Use of language:
- avoid "fancy" words, especially if you aren't too sure what they mean. Never use a long word where a short one will do - George Orwell.
- avoid long sentences. The odd one here and there is fine. Based on the essays you guys send in, most people struggle with coordinating the many clauses of a long sentence - and figuring out the punctuation. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out - George Orwell.
- Spelling - grammar - punctuation: there's no good writing without them
- Plan before you write. Don't start writing the introduction before you know what is going to be in the main part. Scribble the buzz words that will direct your train of thought. Figure out how to structure them into an essay. Then start with the intro.

2. Paper 1:
- pay attention to the images on the paper
- err on the side of abstract rather than concrete interpretation 
- when you are writing a letter make sure to include a return address, date, salutation and closing signature

3. Paper 2

Students tend to fall down in Unseen Poetry and the Comparative.

leaving cert english notes and sample answers
Chief Examiner's Report 2014

2.1. Unseen poetry 
This is a small section worth only 20 marks. To do well, it is instrumental that you are confident. You should be! You will have studied tens of poems by the time you are doing the LC. This means you know how to:
- address the question by picking out the important terms within the question and coming back to them throughout your answer
- point out what the main themes are
- point out the "special effects". You have seen them all before: metaphors, similes, alliteration, anaphora, allusion, colloquialisms, anachronisms, neologisms, rhyming schemes, meter, form, etc. How do these enhance the theme?

- this is the biggest section of Paper II
- most sentences you write should be referring to two texts at once. This will keep you from rambling on about a single text. The aim is to compare, not go deep into each text. At the same time, it is important to not be robotic about it, as if you are filling out a form. This comes with practice.
- challenging the conventional interpretation of texts seems to make the examiners happy

2.3 Single text:
- quotation is super important. It has to be both appropriate (needs to be relevant) and accurate (don't misquote).
- it is ok to disagree with the question to some extent. No need to write an ode each and every time.

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