Guide to Leaving Cert English 2012

A Message For Leaving Cert Students | Jamie Tuohy

The French called it D Day. The historic afternoon when the Allies pushed the Germans back into the beaches of Normandy. The Irish call it Leaving Cert Results day. No doubt the night before the 1944 invasion, there was meticulous planning and a few restless heads. Similarly, the night before the Leaving Certificate results are released, thousands of students around Ireland will be ferociously planning their immediate futures and instead of whole armies being pushed back, it will be the bed covers of the 55,000 sleepless students that will be shoved, tossed and quite possibly propelled into the air. It’s hard to convince a Leaving Cert student that the exam which is prophesised to be the pinnacle of their secondary school experience isn’t as important as that June 6 invasion which took place some sixty-eight years ago.

When you’re told that the Leaving Cert is the most significant exam you will ever do, that it’s imperative to do well in it and that it will define your future, it’s easy to become wrapped up in the vicious points system and consume yourself with dread and fear. Yes, today, tonight, tomorrow and possibly for the next few weeks, it probably will be the most important thing in your life, as the anxious wait for CAO offers begins, but in truth, it quickly becomes blasted into insignificance. If only I could have told myself this last year – as I spent the eve of results working myself up into frenzied and unnecessary trepidation!

Some genius will get 600+ points and there’ll be a momentary fuss, a congratulatory declaration or two, but once the hysteria dies down, no one will care anymore. This isn’t being blunt, being insensitive or knocking the student who studied for hours on end to get the maximum points possible. It’s just being truthful. When you get 600 or 300, once the Leaving Cert is over and you proceed with your chosen path, be it, employment or further education, there will be very few conversations about how many points you got. Sure, they will determine what course you will get, but once you’re in college, it’s every man for himself. Nobody cares if you got 560 in your Leaving Cert and you find it an unacceptable travesty that the lecturer gave you 40% in your first exam. The Leaving Cert isn’t a true measure of intellect. For the most part, it’s about rote learning, it impinges upon students’ creativity and ignores a number of important factors.

Undoubtedly, there will be familiar scenes tomorrow. Some students will be delighted with their results, confident in the belief that they’ll be offered their first choice on the CAO form. Others will be disappointed, knowing that they haven’t earned enough points. It’s vicious, it’s unfair and it’s demeaning. But it’s life. Success and failure have always co-existed together and even though you do your best, it’s not always that easy to fall into the category of the former. It’s easy for me to type this and tell everyone not to worry. I’m entering my second year at Trinity, doing a course I love, but it’s so true that the Leaving Cert is simply an avenue – nothing more, nothing less. Not one person in college has ever asked me what I got in my Leaving Cert. Nobody has asked me if this course was my first choice. It’s because it doesn’t matter. There are many roads to take and the Leaving Cert certainly isn’t the only vehicle to travel in.

If somebody told me this last year, providing of course, I allowed them to enter my ‘pre-Leaving Cert’ space (yes, I was a freak), I would have probably nodded in agreement, but still only half-heartedly believed them. I was obsessed with getting the results. I even said that if I didn’t get an A1 in English, I would repeat, regardless of how many points I got. Thankfully, I didn’t have to repeat, but the scary thing is that I would have – without a second thought. This is what the Leaving Cert does to students – the stress, pressure and foreboding turns students into illogical beings who speak in nonsensical utterances.

To be honest, I’m more stressed about finding accommodation for second- year than I ever was awaiting my Leaving Cert results, so you can imagine the inane vociferations, but that too will be fine, eventually. You will all have been told to stay calm, cool and collected, so I’m not going to follow suit with patronising statements of the obvious. But believe me, the Leaving Cert results are not something that you should be ‘freaking out over’. In the grand scheme of things, they matter very little. Nobody has ever asked Katie Taylor or Bertie Ahern how they did in the Leaving Cert, although in the case of the latter, it might not have been a bad idea.

Best of Luck everyone!!!


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