Top tips for your leaving cert english paper 1 exam 2021

It’s coming up to exam time so here are a few tips for Paper 1…

The comprehension section (QA OR QB) of Paper 1 is worth 40marks, which is 14% of your total mark for English.
In this section you will be given three texts on various aspects of a specific theme (always written on the front of the paper in capital letters) such as young writers, challenges, influences, mystery or relationships. Normally, you are given three comprehensions, one of which may be a picture text (visual literacy). The texts will be extracts from books, articles from newspapers or magazines, speeches and the picture text a set of photographs, covers of books or some other visual material.

When choosing your QA OR QB, bear in mind the following points:

(1) Each text is followed by a QA and a QB. QA contains a number of questions relating directly to the text. You are expected here to show a good grasp of its content and to give your own response to it. Question B poses a writing task arising out of the text. You might be asked, for example, to write in the style of a newspaper article, a letter, a short story, a diary entry, or an interview script.

(2) When deciding on QA, make sure that you familiarise yourself with each text and with the questions which follow it before you decide which questions to attempt. Spend 5 minutes reading through them carefully. What might initially look like a favourable option may not always contain favourable questions. Remember your understanding of the questions is crucial, so much so that I often advise my students to choose their QA on their familiarity with the questions that come up.

(3) QB is the other option that students have over QA this year of your Paper 1. It holds the same marks as Comprehension (14%). QB is a test of concise writing or condensed writing. The most commonly asked QB are letters, short speech/talk/article, interview, blog and diary entry. However, they may also ask a QB that you have never encountered such as writing an election leaflet, a competition entry or a script of dialogue. You shouldn’t shy away from such choices if you like the task as they usually don’t demand a specific structure or format. Write 2-2.5 pages for QB. Any more suggests an inability to write in a concise manner. Try to be original with your points (or if appropriate, use humour-an amused examiner is a generous examiner!) as QBs often lack originality and can be quite mundane. PLEASE NOTE that there is usually 2-3 tasks within the Q so label each one carefully and aim to do a paragraph on each. You can use your Point, Support, Explain method for each paragraph.

(3) Start with your QA or QB. This year, due to the amendments, you have more time than every before to spend on this section – I would recommend 60 minutes for QA or 50 minutes for QB. For QA, write approximately 3 pages. For a 15mQ, write 3 points/ 3 paragraphs and for a 20mQ, write 4 points/4 paragraphs.
For QB, make sure you follow the set tasks of the Q – in recent years, there have been 3 distinctive tasks set out within the Q.

(4) Do your Paper 1 essay next – remember at 36%, this is worth over a third of your marks this year!! Options for Paper 1 essay include speeches, articles, personal essay, descriptive essays and short stories. For most essays (except for short stories) an introduction, 5-6 points/paragraphs and a conclusion should suffice. It is essential that you do a detailed plan for this Q as you must know what you are going to write and the examples that you are going to use to support your points. Spend 20-25 minutes on your plan and 85 minutes on writing. Make sure you know your language genres (persuasion, argument, information, narration and aesthetic) as you must use these features when writing the different types of essay. For e.g. speech writing demands features of persuasive and argumentative language genres, articles need to have informative language features while short stories must contain narrative and aesthetic language features. Make sure you write a complete essay- an unfinished Paper 1 essay is like walking out of your French oral exam half way through it!

(5) It is always a nice boost to do a good Paper1 as it gets the exams off to a good start but please don’t dwell on any negatives when you come out of the exam. Put it behind you and move on!