Paul McCormack from Dublin's Institute of Education is here with eight exam-focused tutorial videos to help prepare students for the Leaving Cert English Higher Level exams - scroll down to watch them!

Paul has taught Leaving Cert English at both Higher and Ordinary level since 1998. In that time, he has designed and delivered accessible and structured exam preparation courses.

He has also worked as a Leaving Certificate English examiner. Paul also teaches History is the co-author of Uncovering History and Time Bound, two successful Junior Cert History textbooks.

The Leaving Cert English examination consists of two papers. You can read more on the layout of the exam at the end of this article.

Check out the videos here!

Video 1: An explanation of the criteria for assessment and some advice on how to structure effective paragraphs.

Video 2: A brief overview of the studied poetry task, with a focus on the types of questions asked in this section.

Video 3: An introduction to the Comprehension section of Paper 1 and the tasks students can expect when answering Comprehension QA and QB tasks.

Note: It is important to note that the changes announced in March 2021 mean that candidates this year must only answer on one task in this section, that is, a QA OR a QB task, and that the marks allocated for this section have been reduced from 100 to 40.

Video 4: An overview of the Composing task with emphasis on how to approach the Personal Essay.

Video 5: An overview of the structure and format of Paper 2.

Note: There have been significant changes to the structure of this paper since the video was recorded. These changes apply particularly to the number of tasks candidates are expected to produce and to time management in the exam.

Video 6: An overview of the key elements of Seamus Heaney's poetry.

Video 7: An introduction to preparation of King Lear as a single text.

Video 8: An introduction to the Comparative task, with a particular focus on how to prepare for questions on The General Vision and Viewpoint.

The Leaving Cert English examination consists of two papers.

Paper 1 examines the candidate's understanding of language and rewards awareness of genre, creativity and originality. This paper features the Composing task, which is the most important section of the exam.

This section, where a student may choose to write a speech, personal essay, short story or another style of composition from a list of 7 titles, was always important, representing 25% of the marks available. However, the changes announced for the 2021 exam place even more importance on this section, as it is now worth over one third of the available marks.

Paper 2 is the literature paper. Here, students are expected to have studied a selection of texts, from a range of genres, including drama, the novel, memoir, film and poetry. Candidates are examined across three sections (Single Text, Comparative and Poetry), but this year must choose to answer two of these sections.

The expectation is that candidates will write essay responses which are RELEVANT to the particulars of the question and the section they have selected.

All responses should be INFORMED, and evidence based.

This is an English exam, so candidates will be judged on their ability to express their views in language which is CLEAR and written in a style which is accessible, controlled and articulate.

Effective essay responses will also contain examples of CONTEXTUALISATION, or critical thinking.

Candidates are not required to write essay-length responses to the Unseen Poetry task, but the expectation is that, as with all responses to Paper 2 tasks, they will write purposeful, informed, articulate, analytical responses to this section.

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