Spanish (H): An Appealing And Relatable Paper

Spanish Higher Level Leaving Certificate analysis

Reaction to 2024 Leaving Certificate Spanish (Higher Level) by Maria Fenton, Spanish teacher at The Institute of Education.


  • Students will have found the topics of the paper appealing, relevant and reminiscent of material prepared for the oral.
  • A very manageable paper for everyone but with a few nuances that will make the top scorers stand out.


The appearance of Bad Bunny and Hurling in Argentina will have been welcomed by students, both as a welcome contrast to the sometimes sombre topics of previous years and an appealing reflection of their interests. Students generally prepare how to discuss their hobbies for the oral and the appearance of music and sports as central topics would place them in recognizable territory. Going into the exams students often worry over the topics for the opinion piece in Section B Question 5 but they were relieved to see “sport is important for everyone”: a brilliantly open prompt that allows students to reflect their level with the language as they were free to explore anything from friendships or health values with varying degrees of fluency.

This really was a paper that reflected the vary degrees of fluency within the student body. The paper was accessible to everyone but the presence of some specific vocabulary and idiomatic elements will only be approachable to those capable of the top grades. For example, Section A Question 2 (A) requires students to know what a “multa” is. It is a fine, which makes sense in the context of parking spaces, but as it lacks a clear English cognate it tested the breadth of their distinctly Spanish vocabulary. Later students needed to be mindful of details to ensure that they could describe the city of Cuenca in full. Upon reading “calles estrechas” all students should note the street but not all will grasp the specification of “narrow streets”, thus obtaining full marks.

Later in Section B students were asked about how the Hurling club in Buenos Aires show their Irish Identity. Most students could guess that “día de San Patricio” is St. Patrick’s Day and have the vocabulary to know that “camiseta es verde” means green jerseys but to fully get the marks they need to know what “con el escudo del trébol” meant. Not everyone will know how to say “with a shamrock crest” and so again we see nuance as a method of distinguishing the grade tiers. This trend continued into Section B’s synonym question, which mixed the familiar with the more unusual. Students relying on the grammar to navigate the gaps in vocabulary might stumble on “porvenir” which looks an infinitive verb but is actually a noun.

An appealing letter prompt in Section C will likely tempt students away from the translation, which is normally more popular. The topic of travelling in Ireland allowed them to draw upon well-established vocabulary. On the other hand, the translation required a keener awareness of the idiomatic construction of Spanish such that students could not just replace English words with their Spanish counterparts. For example, translating the phrase “she is right” requires students to recognise that they should not use the Spanish verb for “to be” but “to have” instead. These little touches would challenge the many as the exam seeks to subtle opportunities for distinction.

The final composition selection between the Diary or Note will have the students feeling like they a good, viable choice that allowed them to play to their strengths. The Diary on returning home from a year in Salamanca gave them lots of scopes to select their mood and talking points. The Note was less permissive in its vocabulary choice but what was demanded would be very familiar. There were a few tricky grammatical manoeuvres, but that ultimately makes this paper a fair reflection of a student’s level.


Moving into the aural, the students were greeted by the most challenging part of the exam. While the material was spoken at a well-measured pace, students needed to carefully listen to catch every aspect of what was being said. The majority of the questions required students to “give full details”, with “full” in bold acting as a warning that the answers had multiple parts. Students needed to write down everything they heard, not just key words. For example, a question asking “what is characteristic about Colonia?” could only fully be answered with architecture of low-rise buildings and cobblestone streets. “Architecture” and “streets” will have jumped out as clear answers, but the inclusion of those adjectives will determine who gets full marks. Elsewhere “full details” meant that the weather was “frosty with hail in mountain regions” and that Antonio discovered “boxes of money inside the walls” when he began work on the house. Each answer contains an ear-catching familiar phrase accompanied by easily overlooked context.  

The challenge of this section of the exam was keeping track of each element of the sentence rather than just navigating familiar phrases, so some students will have found this portion tough.