English Paper 1 (H): A stimulating, exciting and enjoyable paper

Reaction to Leaving Cert 2019 English Paper 1 (Higher Level) by Jim Lusby, English teacher at The Institute of Education.

This year’s higher level English Paper 1 challenged young people to think critically, creatively and carefully. It was a stimulating, exciting and enjoyable paper, that will energise students at the start of the exams

At a time when our responses to life are threatened with being narrowed to a cramped range from outrage to likes, it is a vital statement of the importance of intellectual and imaginative enquiry and curiosity.


The general theme of the paper was the interesting and relevant Feeding Our Imaginations. But it is the paper’s approach to this topic that is as stimulating as the content itself.

Each of the three texts; What Is Art For?; A Photographers Perspective; and Libraries- Cathedrals Of Our Souls, required a sustained focus on the experiences that stimulate the imagination, a focus that will be alien to any student whose attention span is usually limited to scrolling the ever-changing banalities on screens.

The questions set on each text, subtle and precise, demanded an understanding of how words shift their meanings with changing contexts. These questions were a perfect warm-up for the subsequent tests in comprehension, analysis and evaluation required for the remainder of Paper 1 and for tomorrow’s Paper 2.

Similarly to last year, material from the prescribed literature on the course appeared again on Paper 1.


The various writing exercises – Descriptive Essay, Personal Essay, Short Story, and so on – were carefully phrased, encouraging candidates to reflect on the subtleties of language and the colour of the human imagination. The suggested differences, for instance, between ‘dawn’ and ‘dusk’, ‘values’ and ‘significance’, were typical examples of the paper’s imaginative approach to the excitement of language.

On the basis of Paper 1, the well-prepared, well-read and independently minded student will look forward eagerly to the challenges of Paper 2.