Paper 1

1. Comprehension: Text is not taken from prescribed syllabus. There are four texts in all. The students answers a question (A) from one text and question (B) from another text. 100 marks is allocated for this question.

2. Essay: One essay is to be written, the titles are based on the comprehensions; the style is suggested by the titles. 100 marks is allocated for this question.


Paper 2

1. Single Text: A question is answered on a text which has been studied in detail(prescribed syllabus). 60 marks.

2. Comparative: A question is answered on three texts; two fiction, and drama or film, in relation to certain themes ie; social issues and prescribed syllabus.
70 marks.

3. Unseen Poetry: A series of questions are answered on an unseen poem. 20 marks.

4. Prescribed Poetry: A question is answered on one of the eight poets studied for the exam. 50 marks.


Good spelling and grammar is essential for Higher English in the Leaving Cert.. You must be a good and frequent reader to consider doing the Higher Paper and to achieve an Honours result.

The course includes:

6 poems by each of the 8 poets.
1 single text e.g. ‘Hamlet’. Shakespeare must be done either for the comparative or as a single text.


As has been already emphasised, the student must have a clear understanding of grammar, spelling and must possess a varied and broad vocabulary. It is essential that, as has already been stated, the student is a “reader” and is capable of reading alone ie based on their own desire and pleasure for reading literature, because, it will be necessary for the student to do a lot of reading on their own.

It is also essential that the student is highly motivated and ready to commence working on the Higher English course from the beginning of fifth year. This is a two year course. It is also important to note that it is extremely difficult to change to Ordinary Level mid-way through the course because the texts are different at Ordinary Level.

An Ordinary Level candidate, in the Junior Certificate, would have great difficulty in tackling the Higher Level course in the Leaving Certificate.

However, it is not absolutely necessary that the student only reads works of fiction, provided they are frequent readers of history, politics, and current affairs.

The notes here are not intended to ‘frighten off’ prospective candidates for the Higher English course for the Leaving Cert. but it is important that students are fully aware of the commitment required in order to be successful.




Paper 1

There are four texts: Question (A) is from one and question (B) is from the another. The language within the texts is very easy to comprehend and shorter answers are expected by the examiner.

2. Essay; the titles are not as abstract as Higher Level, in fact the titles are more direct. A Higher Level example could be: “There then blew in a tremendous storm of thunder and crashing hailstones, a final explosion of defiance of the elements they could not control.” ‘Write the opening of a novel of biography in which you would describe a storm and its impact on a place, real or imaginary.’ An Ordinary Level example could be: “We could hear the screaming a mile away”. ‘Use this sentence as the starting point or end of a story.

Paper 2

A Shakespearean text is not essential.

1. There is one single text. Instead of answering in ‘essay’ style, as is required at Higher Level, the candidate is presented with a series of questions on the text therefore shorter answers are expected by the examiner.

2. Three Texts: Again, a series of questions are presented and shorter answers are expected.

3. Unseen Poem: The poems selected will be pitched to an Ordinary Level standard.

4. The Prescribed Poems: They appear on the paper unlike Higher Level, where they do not. At Ordinary Level an understanding of the individual poems is necessary whereas at Higher Level an understanding of the poets in relation to six poems by each of the selected poets, is essential.

Note: Good grammar and spelling is also important at Ordinary Level too but an Ordinary Level candidate would not be expected to possess the same standard of vocabulary as a Higher Level candidate. Furthermore, they would not be expected to analyse the literature as deeply as a Higher Level candidate.

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