Art History (H): A Positive Debut To The New Exam Format

LC Art H Analysis 2023

Reaction to Leaving Cert 2023 Art, Visual Studies (Higher Level) by Declan Kelly, Art History teacher at The Institute of Education.

  • A positive debut to the new exam format.
  • Section A was a mixed bag – some very straightforward but one or two questions might unsettle in an exam setting.
  • In Sections B and C the examiners read the room and created a selection of questions that would really fit the students.

This was the first appearance of the new Art exam and, with only one sample paper to work from, students might have been a little trepidatious heading into the hall. While the paper opened with the most novel section, the following two parts were the most traditional and many students will have felt a wave of calm reading the titles.

The focus of section A was to get students thinking on their feet; engaging their higher order thinking to reassess and react rather than regurgitate. The first question on David Booth was lovely. As a well-known contemporary Irish artist, Booth’s style and how to discuss it would have been well known to those that are alert to the current art world. Question 5’s topical issue of galleries and their funding offered students a chance to say so much that getting it all to fit in the given spaces posed the bigger challenge.

These straightforward questions were mingled with moments that might cause students looking for a rigid approach to falter. What qualifies as “mood” in Question 2’s Wolfwalkers still gives students more freedom to interrogate their reactions, which is liberating but harder to prepare before the exam. The lateral use of ideas was essential to Questions 6 and 7. The image of the Nike runner would have appealed to those with an interest in fashion, but even those who prefer the more traditional painting or sculpture would still have the vocabulary for a strong answer. Again, very approachable, but the stress of the exam hall can make things appear trickier.

Section B: “Europe and the wider world” and Section C: “Ireland and its place in the wider world” were both lovely. Rather than asking the students to perform a complex reimagining of the material, they sought to test a solid grasp of the fundamentals. All the questions, whether on Pre-Christian, the Baroque, or Impressionism, were fair and generous opportunities for students to show what they have studied. There was clarity and simplicity across the board, so those who found their confidence knocked in Section A had a chance to end the paper on a more assured footing.

This is the positive first step of the new paper. While students might not have had the same bank of past papers to draw upon in preparing, it is also important to remember that marking schemes will also have to adapt and react to this debut.