French (H): Required students to think on their feet

Reaction to Leaving Cert 2021 French (Higher Level) by Corinne Gavenda, French teacher at The Institute of Education.

This was a challenging but fair written exam paper that required students to think on their feet.

Students would have jumped for joy at questions 1a and 4, as the topics were familiar and relevant.

Questions 1b, 1c, 2 and 3 were slightly more unusual and demanded more independent thinking and personal opinion.

Changes to the exam this year meant that there was plenty of choice and plenty of time.


Due to changes this year, students only had to answer one comprehension from two. Normally they must answer both. Because of the extra time, many students will probably have attempted both however..

All in all, both comprehensions were very fair. The texts were thorough and the questions were similar to previous years – find the verb, spot the word, quote the sentence. Any students that prepared with past papers would have had very little problem here.

First Comprehension:

The text in the first comprehension was excellent and dealt with a teacher not being able to say goodbye to her students as the school is closed, so she goes online to set up a YouTube channel.

The topic related to something in our daily life and the questions were very manageable. A bit of manipulation was needed, from the first person singular to the third person. The grammar question was about pronouns, and this was very clear.

Second Comprehension:

The second comprehension was a literary extract about  Alex, who was disabled after an accident, and his encounter with a psychiatrist, who is also in a wheelchair.

The extract is not as popular with students, who sometimes feel a little more intimidated by it. This year however students should not have had too much difficulty with it. There was very little manipulation required and the grammar question was nice.


This year students answered two questions in this section. Normally they answer three.

In question A , students would probably have breathed a sigh of relief to see technology coming up, as it has not appeared in 2 years. The slant of the question, ‘do we fully exploit the potential of technology’ was very relevant to our experiences over the past year and a half. It was an excellent question and I would imagine most students would have gone for this.

Question B asked, ‘Are we doing enough for people who have a disability?’ This was linked to the second reading comprehension.  It was slightly more challenging and students would have had to stop, think and bring in their own ideas here.

Question C was about travelling and seeing the world. In the year when we all realised how much we miss travel, this was not a bad question at all. Students would have had to think independently before answering it however,


This year, students had to answer one of six questions in this section.

In question 2, the scenario for the diary was ‘You are a musician, you are giving concerts online and yesterday a music producer contacted you and said they want to record some of your songs. What would you write in your diary? This question would have suited some, but not all, students.

The topic in question 3 was ‘why buy brand new when you can buy second hand?’ This was an interesting question and showed they are really trying to get students to write independently rather than regurgitating what they learn off.

If students struggled to understand the question, the accompanying picture, with the word ‘discount’ on it,  would have helped. Some students would have probably covered the topic ‘fast fashion’ during the year, which would have been perfect to use here.

The best question for students was question 4. This involved writing an email relating to your sporting activities during the lockdown and your plans for sport over the coming year. The theme of sport was covered in the interview, so this would have helped students.

Question 5 was about eating healthy and what it means to you. This was quite a good question and there were plenty of things to say if you had covered that topic in class.

Question 6 was about the benefits of reading, the pleasure it gives you and how it helps you escape and forget your worries. This might have been slightly tricky for some students unless they had prepared it as a topic for the interview.


The listening exam was harder than usual and students would have had to pick up very specific words to find their answers.

Section A, which is usually a relatively easy section, was very challenging this year.

Section B was okay but there were two expressions that they may have struggled with.

In section C, the pronunciation of an important word, ‘bricole’, was not very clear. Students would really have had to listen carefully to double check their answer here.

Section D was okay, but not as easy as in previous years. The second story, about who and why Peter was surprised, might have proved tricky for some students.