Agricultural Science (H): A Paper That Asked Students To Adapt To Daunting Questions

Leaving Certificate Agricultural Science (H) Review

Reaction to 2024 Leaving Certificate Agricultural Science (Higher Level) by Catriona Hendry, Agricultural Science teacher at The Institute of Education.


  • Some questions barks were worse than their bite as students were met with novel information.
  • Manageable questions on familiar material meant that once students got over the initial shock of the questions there were lots of opportunities for morale boosting little victories. 

This paper will have felt tough, as students had to grapple with some daunting first impressions. But the memory of those challenges will likely linger and obscure the fact that those students who kept a broad scope to their revision will have lots of opportunities for marks. If students tried to be too narrow, selective or strategic in their revision they have found few places to hide as the questions ranged over the wide span of all the major course topics. 

Question 1 was a tough introduction to the paper. As an image identification question students will be familiar with the question type, but this examined specific equipment. Many students may recognise these pieces as things mentioned as they went through the course, but there is no definitive list of equipment to know. It was not something that students could single out and practice. With so much choice they did not need to answer it, but many will remember that negative as it tints their impressions going forward. Disquieting first impressions were a motif that permeated the paper. Question 2 (B) was a nice evaluation and communication question with a novel introduction. In a stressful exam scenario students could be easily spooked, but the text acted as a useful primer that led you into the topic. Again, very doable but still a little daunting. 

Section 1 also had three major surprises in enterprise, experiments and extent. The first was the absence of the reoccurring “in a named enterprise” question where students could pick an activity and methodically progress through its elements. Enterprises were present but in a fractured and specific matter that narrowed the focus of requested material. Surprisingly there were no experiments in this section when typically a whole page would be given to them. Finally Question 3 (B) removed the support scaffolding of how to respond by allotting a full page to an answer box without any subdivisions. This meant that students had little indication of the quantity of information demanded for full marks. The material wasn’t difficult but knowing how to best present it in the exam was. In many ways this exam’s challenge lay in the student’s still with exams, not just the course. 

In balance to this, it is important to remember that there were lots of nice, accessible and fair questions. Throughout the whole paper the calculations were straightforward. The table in Question 9 would be a direct echo of what students had in their revision notes. The novel ideas or framing of the question were mostly red herrings that masked a familiar task. Some students might have baulked at the unfamiliar term “agroforestry” but after a pause, a deep breath and scan of what was being asked many will feel satisfied that they managed to see the wood for the trees and claim their marks. 

Section B was reassuringly typical with clearer questions. Grass, sileage, beef, soil and the feeding of young animals all made appearances in a manner that will suit the well-prepared student. What was notable was a few absences: little tillage, seeding and only a passing pictorial reference to pigs. 

This is a paper that many students will be happy with once given the time to reflect but many will have felt the process of doing the paper to be more taxing than expected. Well-prepared students who could adapt to the questions should feel themselves rewarded with a trove of little victories.