Exam Times – English

A clear understanding of the PCLM marking scheme (Purpose; Cohesiveness; Language; Mechanics) is crucial if students are to maximise their performance in the Leaving Cert English exam.

Cian Hogan, English teacher at The Institute of Education, explains why…

Understanding the PCLM Marking Scheme

On a general level, the corrector will be looking for four different qualities in your answers.


Clarity of Purpose: Here, the corrector will want to see that your answer engages with the question asked. This is worth 30 per cent of the available marks.

In order to get the full marks you will have to:

  • Provide an original answer. (Slavishly learnt-off material can often damage your prospects in the exam.)
  • Show that you understand the concept of genre. This means for example that your essays demonstrate an awareness of, for example, how drama differs from poetry.
  • Focus clearly on what the question is asking you to do. You must always justify your statements by providing examples from the texts on your course. According to the Chief Examiner’s report of 2005,“answers were most successful where candidates made good use of the text to reinforce a point of view or response.”

Most marks are lost for Clarity of Purpose by:

  • Retelling what the story of the text. This is known as paraphrasing.
  • Reproducing an essay that you learnt off by heart that does not address the question fully.


Coherence of Delivery: Here, the corrector wants to see an ability to sustain your response throughout the entire answer. This is worth 30 per cent of the available marks.

In order to gain the full marks you need to sustain your essay in a manner that demonstrates:

  • Continuity of argument: in other words, your ideas need to follow on from one another.
  • Management of ideas: you must control the manner in which you present your ideas in an essay. The easiest way to ensure this is to write in focused paragraphs.
  • Engagement with the texts: you must show that you understand how the texts function and achieve their impact.

You will lose marks available for Coherency of Delivery if you:

  • Fail to shape and order your argument. Remember, your essay must have a beginning, a middle and a conclusion.
  • Write in disorganised paragraphs that lack focus.
  • Use the wrong register. While you should try to write in a natural style, the fact that you are writing an essay implies a certain degree of formality.


Efficiency of Language: The corrector will want to see clear evidence of your ability to manage and control your language, so as to achieve clear communication. This is worth 30 per cent of the available marks.

If you want to obtain the full marks available for Efficiency of Language, you must:

  • Control your expression. This means that your sentences should flow naturally. Avoid very long sentences and ensure that the syntax (word order) of your sentences is logical.
  • Ensure that your paragraphs are structured correctly. You must write in ordered paragraphs that work together to answer the question. Try to link your paragraphs where possible with words like nevertheless, however etc.
  • Use lively, interesting language and phrasing. Try to vary your sentence length and avoid repetition of words and phrases.

You will lose marks for your language if you:

  • Fail to write clear and logical sentences that make complete sense to the person reading them.
  • Use learnt-off material that does not logically fit in with the rest of your argument or address the question asked.
  • Write an essay that does not contain ordered paragraphs.


Accuracy of Mechanics:

This is basically spelling and grammar. Ten per cent of the available marks are given for this.


Full Supplement Download

Published on Thursday, 30th January, this supplement focuses on Leaving Certificate English.

Download Supplement (4.66 MB)




Check over our range of Dublin grinds and achieve academic success.