Agricultural Science (H): A topical paper with plenty of choice

Reaction to Leaving Cert 2021 Agricultural Science (Higher Level) by Donal Power, Agricultural Science teacher at The Institute of Education.

This is the first year that the new Agricultural Science syllabus was examined.

The sample paper released by the State Exams Commission at the end of 2020 gave students a good idea of what to expect in terms of paper structure and the formatting of questions.

Overall, if students had prepared by studying the new syllabus properly and doing the sample exam paper, they would have been very happy with this exam.

SECTION A

A lot of the short questions in Section A dealt with the theme of sustainability, which tied in nicely with the 2,500 word project on sustainability that students had to complete over the two years of senior cycle.

In question 8, students were asked to calculate the overall price that beef farmers would receive for cattle when they send them to the meat factory. This was a nice, practical task, and was realistic in terms of what a farmer would need to be able to do.

It was nice to see artizan products, niche markets and farm diversification make an appearance in question 10, about milking sheep. You would never have seen a niche area like this on previous papers.

SECTION B

Throughout the whole paper (especially in Section B), the use of synoptic questions meant that topics were nicely combined and students would really have had to cover the entire course in their revision to answer the questions well.

Question 14 (part c) was a nicely structured question, where students had to read a research article and then answer questions based on that. This is a completely new and very welcome type of question that encourages students to think critically.

There was a nice question on the virtual fencing of cattle and sheep in question 16. This is potentially going to become a new type of technology that farmers will use and it was good to see it on the paper.