Reaction to Leaving Cert 2023 French (Higher Level) by Corinne Gavenda, French teacher at The Institute of Education.
- A fair paper but one with plenty of challenges to distinguish the top grades.
- The comprehensions had trickier elements, but this was paired with manageable and productive writing prompts.
- Students had plenty of opportunities to secure marks.
- Lots of relevant topics that reflect the lives and unique experiences of this year’s group.
This paper had something for students of every ability. One of the keys things about the French exam is that they have plenty of time and students had the opportunity to carefully go through the texts and questions, ensuring that they know exactly what is being asked of them.
The Written Exam:
The first comprehension text was on holidaying at home, a very approachable topic. For most students this will be relatable and hopefully that allowed them the use of context clues when answering the trickier vocabulary questions. The second text is already an aspect of the paper the students are concerned about as it draws on a literary source, and again here some specific vocabulary choices might cause students to miss a vital aspect of the piece. The verb “pique” means “to steal/take without permission” but many students, unfamiliar with the French root, will likely confuse it with the English word meaning “to cause interest/reaction”. As such many will miss the element of secrecy that runs through the text, and thus find the question on Nina as a complex character challenging.
The prompts in Section B Question 1 were clear, if not uninspiring. Previous years had questions on topics like the impact of young people in society, while this year had them weighing up staying home or going on holiday. This was rather simplistic, and while offering many a chance to reuse material learned for the oral, stronger students would have had to creatively seek out opportunities to show off and distinguish themselves. The question on friendship was equally welcoming but did require students to talk about friendship abstractly, so those who relied only on anecdotes will find themselves missing a central aspect of the question.
The final section of the paper was really relevant to the lives of the students. They had the chance to write a diary about the debs (something no doubt creeping into the minds the closer they get to finishing their exams). Indeed Question 5 on the college life ahead gave them loads to say and reflected this moment in their lives. Those who had prepared material on the cost of living would have been able to adapt and really make the most of that work. The same applies to those who focused on technology and social networks as Question 3 asked them for their impression of the impact it has on their lives. Students just looking to accrue marks will have been pleased with Question 4’s email. It was a solid, practical question with clearly defined stages. Question 6 was the most appealing and most profoundly relevant to this cohort as it asks them to reflect on their experiences of online school. This year’s experiences of secondary school were shaped by online school and the integration of that into this exam is a thoughtful touch by the examiner.
The Aural Exam:
The aural was accessible, particularly parts A, B, and C. The vocabulary was basic and familiar – chores, homework, computer etc. Things were more complicated in section D, as questions hinged on less common words (allowance, shutters). What will really differentiate students is the fine details of expression. The ability to hear the quickly expressed negative in Section D and “without” in Section E really tested how finely tuned the students’ ears are.
In general, I believe this was a fair paper which gave every student a chance to represent their ability on the page. Those aiming for the top marks will have found interesting topics and non-standard vocabulary, while others will have found accessible questions. Those that took the time and did not rush will have been able to find the questions that best suited them.