Leaving Certificate Gaeilge is designed to build on the language skills you developed during your Junior Cycle studies. Its wider purpose is to encourage you to be an active and confident participant in Ireland’s vibrant bilingual society. So what is involved in the formal assessments for this subject?
In this guide, we’ll take you through the structure of the Leaving Cert Gaeilge exam, discuss some of what you can expect on these papers, and highlight some ways you can revise and prepare for this exam.
The Leaving Cert Gaeilge exam
Like the Junior Cycle, Leaving Cert Gaeilge has two syllabuses: Irish L1 for Irish-medium schools and Irish L2 for English-medium schools. The subject is assessed through:
- An oral examination worth 40% of your final grade
- An aural examination worth 10% of your final grade
- A written examination worth 50% of your final grade
These examinations are set and marked by the State Examinations Commission (SEC).
Leaving Cert Irish is studied at the Foundation, Ordinary and Higher levels. There are two papers for the written exam at the Ordinary and Higher levels (Paper One and Paper Two). There is only one paper at the Foundation level.
Paper One and Paper Two are typically sat on different (but consecutive) days. Paper One is worth 160 marks and includes the aural examination. Paper Two is worth 200 marks.
What to expect in Leaving Cert Gaeilge exam papers
The topics covered in Paper One are varied and differ from year to year. However, typical themes you can expect to see include young people, the Irish health system, politics, the Irish education system and sports.
The aural examination component of Paper One is worth 60 marks and is split into three sections (Cuid A, B and C). The second portion of the paper, ‘Ceapadóireacht’, is a written composition and is worth a total of 100 marks. The structure of this section varies across the different levels of study.
Ceapadóireacht at the Higher level is split into three sections:
- Section A (an essay or newspaper)
- Section B (a story)
- Section C (a debate or speech)
You have to answer any one question from these sections and are instructed to write between 500 and 600 words for your answers.
Ceapadóireacht at the Ordinary level is split into four sections:
- Section A (a blog or continuous passage)
- Section B (a story)
- Section C (a letter or email)
- Section D (a conversation)
You must answer any two questions from these sections.
At both the Higher and Ordinary levels, Paper Two is broken down into four sections.
For Higher level students, Paper 2 is comprised of two reading comprehensions (A and B) which are worth 50 marks each. There will also be a question about a story, drama or short film (worth 30 marks), a poetry section (worth a total of 30 marks) and an additional literature section. This final section is worth 40 marks and concerns a literary reading from the Gaeilge syllabus or an unseen poem.
Similar to the Higher level, Paper 2 for Ordinary level Gaeilge has two reading comprehensions each worth 50 marks. However, in this paper, there are two stories (worth 50 marks, for which you answer questions on one or the other, not both) and two poems (also worth 50 marks, and again you respond to one or the other).
The Foundation level Leaving Cert paper is similar to the Junior Cycle written exam. It is focused primarily on reading comprehension and there are no prescribed prose or poetry sections. However, students are expected to have a good understanding of the Irish language and its literature. This allows students to demonstrate their ability to understand and interpret texts.
How to revise for Leaving Cert Gaeilge exams
Revising for your Leaving Cert Gaeilge exam may seem a bit overwhelming, but, thankfully, there are a variety of ways to prepare yourself. These include:
- Using sample papers and past papers to familiarise yourself with the format and structure of the exam
- Reading sample essays and phrases in a variety of different topics to expand your vocabulary and fluency with the language
- Studying the structure of debates (at the Higher level)
- Studying the prescribed poetry and prose from the syllabus closely
The most important thing is that students revise thoroughly and practice as many questions as possible. It is also important to be well-read in current affairs and news events so that you can discuss these topics if they come up in the oral exam.
Finally, make sure you use a wide range of vocabulary to express yourself clearly and accurately in both writing and speaking.
Edco Gaeilge exam papers
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to revising for Leaving Cert Gaeilge, but one method found to be extremely useful for students is to use Edco exam papers. These are available in Higher, Ordinary and Foundation levels.
These books include the most recent exam papers from the previous academic year as well as sample papers to help you practice your answers in response to a variety of topics. They also include study essentials like a guide to better grades and access to an online study hub.
Other resources for revising Leaving Cert Gaeilge
Irish Essays Made Easy – Glance Card - This is an A4 fold-over card designed to help Higher level Leaving Cert students write the perfect Gaeilge essay. Tips include key phrases for opening, filling and closing paragraphs using up-to-date vocabulary.
Irish Extra! – Leaving Cert – Higher Level / Ardleibheal This resource is designed to help you maximise your performance in the Gaeilge written examination and earn as many marks as possible.
Less Stress More Success – Leaving Cert – Irish – Higher Level and Ordinary Level- Less Stress More Success books condense the Irish syllabus and present revision tips in an organised and prioritised way. It breaks down the exam marking scheme and includes expert tips and guidance as well as exercises and sample answers.
Revise Wise - Leaving Cert – Irish – Ordinary Level and Higher Level Revise Wise books are written by subject experts and are full of sample exam questions and answers, revision tips and straightforward content and diagrams.