German (H): An Accessible Paper With Added Scope For Students To Express Themselves

Leaving Certificate German (H) Review

Reaction to 2024 Leaving Certificate German (Higher Level) by Orla Ní Shúilleabháin, German teacher at The Institute of Education.


  • This paper was relevant and stimulating as it prompts students to be versatile with familiar material. 
  • The paper was balanced in that it offered something for everyone with challenges on par with previous years. 


The German paper always asks students to be versatile with their material. The themes and topics are always relevant and familiar but approached in novel ways that require students to react during the exam. Students hoping to recite rote learned pieces will struggle, but this was never how the German paper approached its material. Those who thoroughly prepared for the oral will be richly rewarded as they will see core elements reflected back to them on the page. 

The first comprehension text, “The Happy Secret” was a fascinating story of an author’s rise from the breadline due to his curiosity and ingenuity. The piece covered a broad period of time, 30 years, but accessible questions and a generous glossary for the more obscure terms would have helped students navigate it. Students will have been pleased with the grammar question. The second piece was a novel twist on a topical issue, which is typical of the German exam. This journalistic piece on young people shunning a dependency on online existence was an idiosyncratic angle on a well-prepared topic. With mention of flip phones and “Luddite Clubs” students saw a fresh approach to a subject that permeates their lives. 

Continuing this trend the opinion-based compositions required some mental agility and versatility. The prompts were very stimulating as students were asked to examine their own phone usage, the power of phone bans in schools and even the nature of student demonstration. The latter was wonderfully open-ended and would allow the top students to draw in various materials. Elsewhere students could reflect on their experiences of reading (a common theme on this paper) for both study and pleasure. Everything in this section was relevant, engaging and asked in an unambiguous way. 

The letter in the Schriftliche Produktion was rooted in the topic of travel, something potentially very relevant to their plans after the exams. They were asked about cultural passes as a way to engage with a city, on desirable travelling companions, and the thrill of making crazy or “extreme” trips. Students couldn’t have rote learned any of these specific talking points, but each one drew from a pool of resources that would be very familiar to them. While the questions were new, they were not surprising and thoroughly in keeping with the examination trends from previous years. 

The final collection of composition prompts was more challenging than the letter, even though the themes were even more culturally potent. The value of media literacy in a time of fake news, engagement with newspapers, and free expression are all familiar discussion topics but would challenge many, particularly those pressed for time in an exam. These talking points sat beside prompts on drivers’ licenses, the school run, and the deposit refund scheme, thus showing how dynamic the range of ideas on the German paper can be. 


The themes and approach of the written paper extended into the aural. Ideas of engaging with the written word reappeared in Section 1’s interview with a Russian author working in German. All the sections were topical and informed by familiar material, but students might have found the vocabulary relating to anger in Section 2’s noise complaint particularly challenging. Again, this portion of the exam was not without its challenges but fundamentally fair in its consistency with previous years.