Some 55,000 Leaving Cert students began their State exams yesterday, with English being the first test in a series of exams lasting over two weeks.
Despite Education Minister Ruairí Quinn appealing to students to keep calm during their exams, many of the Junior and Leaving Cert students of Coláiste na Coiribe Secondary School, Galway, displayed a sense of positivity in the face of exam pressure.
Speaking after English Paper One, the first of their exams, the school’s Leaving Cert students described themselves as ‘‘optimistic’’, even though they said they were stumped slightly by one question on short stories. They did not seem too shaken though, as sixth year pupil Hugh Gavigan put it that ‘‘things’ll be grand with enough preparation....Sure, it’s not the end of everything.’’ Despite this, they still debated in the school car-park which poet was most likely to come up on a question in English Paper Two, to be held tomorrow. Student Stephen Walsh said he was hedging his bets on Northern Irish writer Seamus Heaney, as ‘‘he’s died in the past year or so.’’
The same sense of calm did not seem to prevail over the school’s Junior Cert students as they passed through the front gates in their large packs after the exam.
While students Sadhbh Hannon and Molly O’Regan said the paper contained ‘no shocks....altogether it was fine, easy enough’’, several other students remarked that they found the exam quite difficult, and were dreading tomorrow’s second paper.
Aoife De Paor, the school’s teacher of English, expressed her faith in her students’ ability not to be overwhelmed with the stress: ‘‘I’d say they’re feeling focused, confident, hopeful maybe...They’re quite a studious bunch. I’d say the consensus is they’re quite happy.’’
In the run up to exams, Leaving Cert officials have promised that the mistakes of the past will not be repeated. Referrinng to the 13 recorded mistakes on the Leaving and Junior Cert papers from 2013, the State Examinations Commission, as a precaution, brought in subject experts to scrutinise the written Leaving Cert papers, at a late stage in their preparation.
The SEC described it as a ‘‘significant additional quality assurance measure to minimise the risk of error’’, after the organisaion admitted last year’s level of mistakes was ‘‘unacceptably high.’’
Along with Minister Quinn, Training and Skills Minister Ciarán Cannon wished exam-sitting students well, saying: ‘‘As well as wishing students well, I want to acknowledge the support and encouragement they are receiving from their parents, families, and of course, teachers.’’
Today, students will return to their examination halls to face the second English paper. Despite the confident words of their teacher, there may be more than a few white knuckles and furrowed brows in the exam hall tomorrow.