Physical Education (H): A Contemporary Paper With Some Tricky Elements

Leaving Certificate Physical Education (H) Review

Reaction to 2024 Leaving Certificate Physical Education (Higher Level) by Brian Gregan, Physical Education teacher at The Institute of Education.


  • A paper rooted in contemporary issues but with some tricky parts. 
  • A sign that this subject really is ‘sports science’ rather than just physical activity. 

Students sitting the exam may have found themselves challenged to up the pace and take Section A at a sprint. While this section is all short questions, many needed longer answers than normal. Time management might have been an issue as students rushed to get their knowledge on the page. This paper gave them lots of chances to show off what they knew as it covers a great variety of topics, so everyone should have found something.  

Q1 mentioned Cork gymnast Meg Ryan (Irish athletes were a motif of the paper) and asked about the “aesthetic and/or artistic criteria of performance”. This question may be unappealing to some but attests to the broad scope of the course material. Question 2 and 3 were lovely, typical tasks with which everyone should be familiar from past papers. Q4 introduced one of the prescribed topics, Technology. This, along with the other topic, Business and Enterprise, was well-liked by students in the classroom as they felt more recognizable and accessible to their lives and thus reflective of how they connect with sport outside of the academic setting. Question 5 saw Hannah Tyrell’s skills acknowledged and paired with some very good questions that were well-practiced by students. Q7 had a pleasing overlap with the project work so students will feel happy to see that material reiterated here. 

Question 9 was on endorsements and sponsorship in sports. The contemporary student is so aware of athletes in connection to brands, fashion and online influence that this section really feels rooted in their world: everyone could craft an answer. 

The case study on the Paris 2024 Olympics was expected but had some tricky questions. It was great to see another Irish athlete, Rhasidat Adeleke, used as a great example of someone applying these concepts to a phenomenal degree. The questions would be tough to some as they initially focused on vectors and scalars. While Physics students love this, Physical Education students sometimes find it more technical than practical and try to avoid it. However, for the first time, they appeared in the compulsory Case Study. Later in the same section students were asked to perform a calculation, another first for the Case Study. As such, many will feel really challenged by this section. 



In contrast to Section B, Section C was a nugget of gold. The students have lots of choice but I guess many will gravitate towards Q15, Q16, and Q18. Q15 on excellence in performance looks like previous questions and tends to really resonate with students who take PE to hone their own ability. Q16 on Ethics and Doping sparks contemplation and discussion in class. Most noteworthy was Q18 on the psychological components of sport will really have connected with the students. More and more students are aware of mental wellbeing as a vitally important aspect of our lives, and questions on the impact of anxiety reflect that. In the high-pressure world of athletic performance, it is important to remember the human involved. This topic really tends to extend beyond the classroom into the students’ own lives.   

Students will leave the exam hall tired but relieved.