English Paper 1 (H): A Paper Relatable To Student Life

English Paper 1 (Higher) Leaving Certificate Review 2024

Reaction to 2024 Leaving Certificate English Paper 1 (Higher Level) by Clodagh Havel, English teacher at The Institute of Education


  • Elements of the paper may startle the anxious student, but after the initial skipped heartbeat there was a lot that students could get their teeth into.
  • While some prompts were more specific than anticipated, students will have lots of room to explore and expand, keeping them working right up to the bell.


English Paper 1 sets the mood for the exams. Most students scan the keywords of Part B first to choose their texts and will have felt a brief moment of turbulence as “Dialogues” and “Proposals” may not be styles directly anticipated or prepared. However, with a steadying breath and a quick contextualization of their knowledge of the course, these tasks quickly opened up to them. The inclusion of diaries was an island of familiarity that would attract students of all ability levels. This was a very doable section but called for a calmer mind, not something that is always easy in an exam setting.

The paper’s theme “Connections” was universal enough to allow students to draw in a wide variety of experiences while also sufficiently rooted in their world to give them something that they could really get their teeth into. Each text had something in which students would likely be able to see themselves. Tensions between teenagers and parents will be shared by all, even if the specific topic of tattoos wasn’t. Some students may even have been familiar with Text 2: The Bee Sting, which was fresh off the presses and adorned every bookstore window. Yet even for those who never experienced the text directly will find something universal and relatable: the dream of far away places. Young people, so connected with the wider world and on the cusp of a new phase of their lives will find something resonant here.



In the Composition section, students planning to do the Personal Essay may have found the prompts more specific than previous years. The inclusion of nature as a topic should have been anticipated but many would expect to see it in the Speech or Discursive prompts. More capable students will still have been able to adapt their prepared material into what were very accessible and malleable Short Story prompts but again, this called for a calmer, confident mind. The Speech, Article and Discursive Questions were all appealing, particularly to those mindful of the current issues affecting young people and the capacity to ardently advocate for their perspectives.

Some weaker students might find themselves having to make choices they did not anticipate with some of the scaffolding of familiar keywords removed. However, having made those choices they would find ample opportunity to synthesize material from all their preparation and personal experience, such that students had a real canvas to express themselves and ultimately distinguish themselves to correctors.