How to not eff up your Leaving Cert English exam

1. Be clear

"Don't even start writing till you have decided what the one big thing is going to be, and then say it to yourself in just one sentence." [2]

You may think that you will never get to the four page length unless you dilute your points with lots of fuzz. 

The moment that you throw that out of your mind, you will become a better writer. And that means more points on Results Day. 

You will first find yourself frustrated with how little you can actually say, but you will grow out of it. There is more than enough to say once you get into the habit of saying the right things.

2. Use simple words

"Never use a long word where a short one will do." [3]

"Beware of long and preposterous words. Beware of jargon." [2]

"English is better than Latin. You don't exterminate, you kill. You don't salivate, you drool." [2]

"No one will ever complain because you have made something too easy to understand." [2]

You may have been convinced that you need to sounds complicated and sophisticated to do well. 

I used the most recognised sources to tell you that simplicity, clarity and empathy are the keys to good writing. Not long words. 

If you don't believe the people who have got the H1 in English, you just need to trust George Orwell. For now, at least.

3. Write short sentences

"Write short sentences. Avoid putting multiple thoughts in one sentence. Readers aren’t as smart as you’d think."[1]

"If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out." [3]

"Simple means getting rid of extra words. Don’t write, “He was very happy” when you can write “He was happy.” You think the word “very” adds something. It doesn’t. Prune your sentences."[1]

"The main technique is keeping things simple. Simple writing is persuasive. A good argument in five sentences will sway more people than a brilliant argument in a hundred sentences. Don’t fight it."[1]

"Readers comprehend “the boy hit the ball” quicker than “the ball was hit by the boy.” Both sentences mean the same, but it’s easier to imagine the object (the boy) before the action (the hitting). All brains work that way. (Notice I didn’t say, “That is the way all brains work”?)"[1]

You may feel that your ideas flow better if you put them into long sentences.

It's a rare occasion that a student would get their long sentences right. It's even worse under exam pressure. Just look over the real life essays on #625Lab

Notice how the pieces of advice in quotation marks are all short sentences? That's because they are written by excellent writers!

4. Try hard with that opening line

"Your first sentence needs to grab the reader. Go back and read my first sentence to this post. I rewrote it a dozen times. It makes you curious. That’s the key." [1]

"There is always an ideal first sentence – an intro, a way in – for any article." [2]

You may think that it's all about the body of the essay.

The opening line gives the examiner a baseline. She will read the first sentence and think, "Hmm, that's probably going to be a H5 essay", or "Oh, nice! I wonder if this is the H1 for today?" 

And guess what, people like to be right. 

If you impress the examiner at the first sentence, she will be rooting for you. 

If your first sentence was a lazy tick the box kind of job, she will be slower to upgrade you to what you really deserve. 

You may also like: Complete Guide: H1 Leaving Cert English Notes and Sample Answers

tips for Leaving Cert English

Writing for the Leaving Cert is easier than writing for real life situations. The examiners are under obligation to read what you wrote. That's a luxury you won't be afforded once the training wheels are off. 

Follow these four rules and the examiner will err on your side.

Once you have these four rules down, you can move on to the next eight.

Best of luck.

how to improve your writing for Leaving Cert English

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