As Secondary School students come into the third year of their Junior Cycle, they will be approaching their final exams for the Junior Certificate (which is being phased out and replaced by the Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement).
So what are the subjects Junior Cycle students will be tested on, and what can they expect from these exam papers? And just as importantly, how can they revise for these subjects? We attempt to answer these questions in this expert guide.
English is one of the core subjects in the Junior Cycle, along with Irish, Mathematics and History. It is studied at the Higher and Ordinary levels, and assessments related to students’ learning throughout their first, second and third years of the programme.
There is one final written examination and it accounts for 90% of students’ final grades. It is two hours in duration and is marked out of 180. This exam occurs after the two Classroom-Based Assessments have been completed.
There is no predictable format to the Junior Cycle English exam, but each paper does follow a theme which all questions relate to. The exam tests students’ abilities in responding to seen and unseen materials and writing for a variety of purposes (including to analyse, evaluate, imagine and explore) in a number of formats (such as letters, reports or blogs).
At the Ordinary and Higher levels, the final written exam for Junior Cycle Irish is two hours in duration and worth 90% of a students’ overall grade in this subject. As with all final examinations, the Junior Cycle Irish exam is set and marked by the State Examinations Commission (SEC).
For both English-medium and Irish-medium schools, students will be tested on listening and reading comprehension, grammar and composition, and writing. There is only one paper at the Ordinary level, split into three sections (Cluastuiscint/listening comprehension, Léamhtuiscint/reading comprehension and Scríobh na Teangan/writing).
The Higher level exam is split into two papers (Paper 1 and Paper 2). Paper 1 consists of four sections (Cluastuiscint, Léamhtuiscint, Trialacha Teanga comhthéacsúla/grammar and Ceapadóireacht/writing) whereas Paper 2 only has three sections (Prós/prose, Filíocht/poetry and An Litir/a letter).
Our guide to the Junior Cycle Irish exam explains what students can expect on this paper in more detail.
Mathematics can be studied at the Higher, Ordinary or Foundation levels. Exam papers in this subject cover five key strands: Statistics and Probability; Geometry and Trigonometry; Numbers; Algebra; and Functions.
At the Ordinary and Higher levels, there are two papers for the final Mathematics examination. There is only one paper at the Foundation level. Higher level papers both last two and a half hours, whereas Ordinary level papers are both two hours in duration.
The number of questions on these papers can differ from year to year. However, they will always cover mathematical concepts and skills (like algebra) and contexts and applications (making connections between maths and real-world situations). Sample and past papers are an ideal resource for revising Mathematics, as they help students become more familiar with the structure of the exam and topics requiring additional development.
Find out more about the Mathematics examination for Junior Cycle in this expert guide.
All Junior Cycle pupils study History at the Common level. There is only one final examination paper for this subject, which is two hours in duration, worth a total of 360 marks and accounts for 90% of students’ final grade in History.
Questions on the final History exam paper can be presented in a range of formats including letters, journal entries, photographs and segments of information from historical sources to analyse, examine and respond to.
These questions typically have one or more sub-questions, some of which only need a single word or sentence answer. Other questions will require more complex and detailed responses, and these will be worth more marks.
For tips and advice on how to revise Junior Cycle History and scoop up as many marks as possible on the exam paper, read our expert guide.
Junior Cycle Geography is studied at the Common level. The final examination for this subject is two hours in duration, marked out of 150 and split into two sections (Section 1 and Section 2).
Section 1 is made up of 20 short questions, each worth three marks (for a total of 60 marks). The questions in this section typically require a single word or sentence answer, with no marks for interpretation or analysis—the answers are either right or wrong. The section covers physical geographical features such as rivers, aerial photographs or OS maps and other aspects of the Geography syllabus.
Section 2 consists of five questions, of which students only need to answer three. There are 90 marks available in this section. The answers to these questions need to be much longer and more detailed than the responses in Section 1, demonstrating further engagement with the syllabus and deeper geographical knowledge.
Our Junior Cycle Geography exam guide shares some tips for success and highlights some useful Geography revision resources, including Shortcuts to Success: Geography Maps and Photographs and Edco Exam Papers.
Like the Geography exam, the final Science examination for Junior Cycle is two hours in duration and is split into two sections (Section A and Section B). However, this exam is worth a total of 360 marks; 150 marks for the 10 questions in Section A and 210 marks for the six questions in Section B.
Any of the topics studied in the Science curriculum could appear on this exam. These are: Nature of Science; Earth and Space; Chemical World; Physical World; and Biological World. Revising these topics doesn’t have to rely on textbooks and dense paragraphs of information—visual and audio resources such as documentaries and podcasts can also be helpful, as can carrying out small experiments at home.
Learn more about the Junior Cycle Science examination, as well as revision tips for this subject, in our detailed guide.
The new Junior Cycle Religious Education specification is being examined for the first time in 2022. Therefore, there are only sample papers provided by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) to use for predicting what will be included on the exam and how the paper will be structured.
The final written examination for Junior Cycle Religious Education will be set and marked by the SEC. It will be studied at the Common level, worth 90% of the marks used by the SEC to determine students’ grades in this subject, and will be two hours long. The NCCA sample papers indicate that the paper will consist of photographs, illustrations and texts that students need to engage with and respond to through short and long-form answers.
Read our guide to Junior Cycle Religious Education exam papers for more information.
The final written examination for Junior Cycle Music takes place after the two Classroom-Based Assessments and practical exam for this subject. The written exam is worth 70% of students’ final grades in Music (the remaining 30% is from the practical exam).
The written exam in Music is one hour and 30 minutes in duration and requires students to respond to a variety of different musical excerpts and other stimuli, such as sheet music and verse forms. The number of questions in the paper varies from year to year.
Edco Junior Cycle Music Exam Papers are perfect for revising both the written and practical exam, as they provide sample papers to work through as well as access to a free app for listening to musical excerpts.
Our guide to the Junior Cycle Music exam discusses this paper in more detail.
Modern Foreign Languages
The Junior Cycle Modern Foreign Language (MFL) curriculum replaced the individual syllabuses for French, German, Italian and Spanish language courses, which were examined for the final time in June 2019. Whereas English and Irish are compulsory subjects for all Junior Cycle students, Modern Foreign languages is an optional subject.
The final written examination for MFL is two hours long and contains an aural component which is worth 35% of the marks used by the SEC to determine a student’s final grade in this subject.
Written exam papers for MFL require students to listen, read, comprehend, engage and respond to stimulus material in their chosen languages (French, German, Italian or Spanish). Yuri’s Grammar Study Cards are perfect for revising MFL, as they provide quick and convenient references guides for grammar and other important aspects of language.
Find out what the Modern Foreign Languages written examination involves at Junior Cycle level, as well as how to prepare for this, in our expert guide.