English Paper 2 (H) 2014: Heaney appears to many, but in unexpected places

Please find below comment/ analysis on English Paper 2 (HIGHER Level) from Jim Lusby, English teacher at The Institute of Education.



Heaney appears to many, but in unexpected places. That was the story of this year’s Leaving Certificate English examination. Widely expected to feature as one of the prescribed poets, Seamus Heaney turned up instead in the Unseen Poem section, with the enjoyably early piece ‘The Peninsula’, which candidates already familiar with studying his work would have found familiar and comfortable. In the Prescribed Poetry section itself there were stimulating and challenging quotations presented for discussion on a very fair range of prescribed poets, with the other banker for most candidates, Emily Dickinson, making a welcome appearance.



The questions on Macbeth, the Single Text option for the vast majority of candidates, were almost exact duplicates of those set on the same play in last year’s examination – one on the character of Macbeth that looked straightforward but was actually complex, and another on dramatic technique that looked intimidating but was quite comfortable. The same choice between questions on character and questions on technique was available to candidates taking any of the other Single Texts in a fair and well thought-out section.



The appearance of The General Vision and Viewpoint as one of the examined modes on the paper was a relief, as most candidates would have hoped for this. The questions were accessible and student centred, asking candidates to draw on their own experiences of life to illuminate their reading. The questions on the other mode on the paper, The Cultural Context, were less successful. Both were rather unwieldy and poorly defined.