The national curriculum requires all students
to take an extensive series of examinations. Students must pass 6 exams to
earn a Leaving Certificate at the end of high school. There are honours level,
ordinary level, and foundation level exams.
Each subject exam usually lasts one entire day
(broken into three hour periods). The harder the exam, the higher the number
of points that can be earned. A Junior Certificate exam is given halfway through
high school as a practice and guide for the more important Leaving Cert.
Dozens of subjects are tested. In one recent year, for
example, six students sat the Hebrew exam - all from the same Hebrew school
in Dublin. Since all scored an A in the exam, Hebrew is now the subject students
throughout Ireland should take if they want the statistically greatest chance
of scoring high.
The whole country is obsessed with these exams
and the students are under tremendous pressure. As an example, the 2002 higher level Biology
Exam was condemned by students and educators as a particularly poorly designed
test and this story made the front pages and even became a lead story for
radio and TV. A week after this test was over I was still hearing panel discussions
about it on national radio shows.
Exams = University Places
College places are based on points earned in
Leaving Certificate exams, and the points needed to enter any particular course
keep going up and up. A perfect score is 600 points, and in 1997 it took a
nearly perfect score of 585 to earn a place in the country's only insurance
actuarial course. Veterinary medicine, Pre-med, dentistry, higher maths, law,
and many other courses are so competitive that more than 500 points are required
to have even a chance of securing a place.
Luckily, there are dozens of subjects in the
sciences and humanities as well as many technical fields whose entrance points
are much lower.
In 2000, there was one university or technical
college place available for every two students in high school. As the last
big demographic bulge of kids works its way through the system, every year
it becomes a little easier to secure a college place. In 2000, the authorities
figure everyone who wanted a college place was offered one.
Since then, it's gotten even better. More resources
have gone to the Universities and Technical Colleges including more professors.
Yet, the number of applicants continues to drop each year as the demographic
bulge narrows and vanishes.
An example: In 1999, it took nearly 500 points
to get into Trinity College's Science programme. By 2001, that had dropped
to 360 points. In 2004 authorities began to predict huge vacancies in coming
years at the Technical colleges. And in 2006, for the first time ever, there were more places available in the nation's colleges than applicants. At least till the next baby bulge kicks in around 2012, any student passing the Leaving Certificate will find a college place, though not necessarily their first or second or seventh choice.
What is also happening in the sciences, amazingly
enough to me, is that many students are turning away from the subject because
they are seeking more steady employment opportunities. I suppose that's why
kids go to college - so that they can learn how the world really works.
So how tough are the exams? VERY!
My oldest daughter took her Leaving Certificate exams
in Spring 2002 and still suffers the occasional exam hall nightmare. She figured that she sat 58 hours of exams including language
orals and practicals in Art. There were no less than three full 6 hour days
of testing as well as four half days. And nary a multiple choice question
in sight. Everything was an essay, a diagram of a scientific process with
all steps labelled and explained, or a multi-step computational problem with
all steps needing to be shown.
My youngest daughter was 'should-have-been-in-the-hospital' sick during the first week of her leaving cert exams. But, it was take the exams or repeat the year so she struggled on and on. It was a lesson to me on the "Do or Die" stress that the exams place on the kids.
For your guidance a few examples from past exams
are given. I think you'll agree that even the simplest of these tests (the
Foundation Level) requires a very high degree of knowledge and intelligence.
The fact that almost every child in Ireland passes these exams speaks volumes
about the quality of Irish education.
There is a thriving
Irish business offering exam advice. There are books on the shelves of every
bookstore about the subject. Exams from earlier years are widely purchased
and scoured for guidance.
Additional sites of use are provided in the Full Site.
History - Junior Certificate - Honours Level
Name two of the navigational instruments used
by sailors to plot courses during the voyages of discovery.
Mention two aspects of farming which were improved
during the Agricultural Revolution.
Mention two important changes in education in
Ireland in the 20th century.
Write an account of the life of a textile worker
living in a town during the first Industrial Revolution. Discuss *early life
*Work in the factory *Housing *Health Care.
Write about ballads and songs as useful historical
Write about the Inter-Party Government, 1948-1951.
Describe the main weaknesses of the Versailles
English - Junior Certificate - Ordinary Level
Write a composition on ONE of the following:
- A. My Home
- B. Young people have too much freedom.
- C. The laziest person I know.
Write a review of any T.V. drama series you
watch regularly. In the review you might refer to:
- the setting
- the main character
- the quality of the acting.
Write a review of a Novel/Short Story or Biography
which you have studied. The review should consist of:
- a very brief outline (30 words) of the story
- a description of what you think was the best
scene in the Book/Story;
- one reason why others should or should not
read this book.
- Math - Junior Certificate - Ordinary Level
560 pounds is divided between A, B and C so
that A gets twice as much as B and C gets twice as much as A. How much does
Find the mean of the numbers 2.8, 5.7, 3.5,
4.2, 2.9, 1.3.
Factorise 5ap + px - 5aq - qx.
the value of x in the diagram.
Math - Leaving Certificate - Foundation Level
3x + 2y - 8 = 0 is the equation of a line.
- Write down the coordinates of three points
of the line taking x values 0, 2, and 4.
- Draw the graph of the line.
- Use the graph to find k if (k, 1.5) is on
Draw a histogram using the data in the Table:
| Time in minutes
$1.45 = 1 Pound on a certain day. Find in Pounds
the value of $1800. Give the answer correct to the nearest penny.
A wall was measured in error to be 4.77 metres
long. Its true length was 4.24 m. Find the error as a percentage of the true
Solve for x: 3x +2 +2x = 12.
Geography - Leaving Certificate - Honours Level
Examine how Plate Tectonics has revolutionised
our understanding of the geographical distribution and causes of earthquakes.
Two of the major processes active in cities
in the modern world are inner city decline and renewal, and suburban sprawl.
Examine the causes of these two processes, referring to specific examples.
Describe some of the solutions applied by urban authorities and planners in
tackling the problems caused by one of the above processes.
There is a relationship between the size of
a settlement and the range of socio-economic activities carried on within
it. Exame the accuracy of this statement, referring to examples.
Analyse some of the factors which combine to
make either the Mediterranean or Scandinavia a distinctive geographical region.
Economics - Leaving Certificate - Honours Level
Give one reason that will cause a movement along
a demand curve. Give five reasons that will cause a shift in a demand curve.
State three means by which the Irish government
might attempt to reduce significantly the National Debt and outline briefly
the likely economic effects of each of these measures.
Outline, with the aid of a diagram, how changes
in the level of investment affect the level of National Income.
Explain, with aid of an example, how the commercial
banks can create credit (money).