Reaction to Leaving Cert 2023 Agricultural Science (Higher Level) by Catriona Hendry, Agricultural Science teacher at The Institute of Education.
- A daunting looking paper at first glance, but once broken up and carefully read, it was manageable.
- Students are likely to leave the hall feeling uncertain and second-guessing their performance, however the marking schemes are forgiving.
This was a large paper with lots to cover and lots of choice. However, students looking to simply copy-paste answers from previous exams will find themselves frustrated and confused by questions that require a more logical approach.
Section A is 12 short questions but choice within questions makes it functionally 16. While students only needed to answer 10, many will have found themselves making quick assessments of pages worth of material. Questions 6, 7, 8, 11, and 12 were all standard affair and familiar in material and demands. However, every other question had some twist or challenge that would have caused a moment of pause. The first four questions seemed unwelcoming, and some might have found themselves sent into a brief tailspin. This was due to unfamiliar bull identification, naming a plant that is not normally covered or indeed having to unite a shared element from separate units of the course. In the latter, no students would have studied calcium as a standalone topic, so this question required them to filter through the syllabus for distinct topics, potentially revised weeks apart. Question 10 A(ii) asked about the role of micro-organisms in the monogastric digestive system when the much more expected and pertinent question would be on the ruminant digestive system. Some students may have ignored “monogastric” and answered the question that made the most sense. The paper was not as balanced as previous years, with animal reproduction appearing in a third of Section A questions; a section which will leave those relying on crops feeling shortchanged. Indeed, many will have expected to see experiments appear in this section, as that is what has happened in previous years, but none did.
Many students were likely apprehensive as they entered Part B, typically the harder section. However, they were greeted by a nicer range of questions than is usual. Questions 13, 14, 15 would have neatly fallen into the prepared material, even though Q16’s partial choice structure was rather bizarre. Question 16 was a topical question on Climate Change but did include a request from them to draw the carbon cycle. Again, the questions appeared more awkward than they really were, however the prepared student would have been able to navigate them.
As they leave the exam hall, many students might struggle to assess their own performances. This paper did not allow for a seamless glide through recognisable questions. In the end, it is important to remember that the marking schemes are forgiving, seeking valid answers. A focused, logical effort to approach the questions will likely carry more weight than a student might intuitively feel.