Language is “the infinite use of finite means.” – Wilhelm von Humboldt
Studying English encompasses so much more than the written word – it embraces oracy and comprehension as well as reading and writing skills; it influences our ability to understand and achieve in every other subject on the curriculum; it provides us with practical skills for dealing with life outside of the classroom; and it nurtures the ‘intellectual, imaginative and emotional growth’ of the individual.
The Leaving Certificate student is invited to explore the range, variety and power of the English Language and English Literature.
This course aims to create an awareness of how ‘we live in the midst of language’, how the study of language expands our horizons and how literature can challenge our thinking, stimulate our imagination and enrich our lives.
The language course focuses on five different modes of language:
(a) The language of information
(b) The language of argument
(c) The language of persuasion
(d) The language of narration
(e) The aesthetic use of language.
These modes are discussed and explored in class and the student should become skilled at identifying the different ways in which language works. Students are also taught how to become critical, analytical readers and writers. Writing exercises include Report Writing, Letters, Diary Entries, Newspaper Articles and Composing.
There are two terminal examination papers at Higher and Ordinary Levels.
Paper I focuses on language and composition
Paper II focuses on literature. Each paper carries equal marks.
Paper I consists of three questions:
2. Writing in different genres (functional writing)
3. The Composition
Paper II consists of three sections:
The Single text [for example the prescribed Shakespearean play] which is studied in detail.
The Comparative Study. This section of the paper requires students to compare and contrast 2-3 texts under prescribed modes. These texts may be films, plays and/or novels.
Unseen Poetry: This encourages students to apply their existing knowledge and understanding of poetic techniques and styles to a poem that they have not studied/seen before.
Teachers select between 30-36 poems from the eight prescribed poets at Higher Level. Four poets will appear on the exam paper at Higher Level (note: changes were made in 2020 and 2021 as students were able to select from a choice of five questions).
Ordinary Level: Twenty or so poems are prescribed at Ordinary Level. Candidates must write on one poet. The texts of three poems are printed on the paper at Ordinary Level. Candidates must write on one poem.
The Single Text is studied in some detail under two headings: Theme and Technique. Technique may involve: characterisation, imagery, dramatic impact, key moments, tone, mood and structure. There is a class test in early October to ensure that students are in the class most suited to their abilities. This test will focus on Act One of the Single Text and three prescribed poems. A personal essay and homework submitted during the first four weeks of the term will also be considered. By Christmas students will have studied five or six poems by a prescribed poet, will have explored the Unseen Poetry question and will have continued, if not finished, the Single Text.
Language work continues throughout the two years and takes a variety of forms such as personal response, formal writing tasks, identifying various genres and writing modes.
Terms 2 and 3
The Single Text will be completed, and two of the three Comparative texts will be studied as well as three other prescribed poets. At Ordinary Level some ten poems will be studied in 5th Year.
Students will need to be familiar with Comparative Modes such as
• Theme or Issue
• Cultural Context
• Literary genre
• General Vision or Viewpoint
• Hero or Heroine
• Social setting
• Hero, heroine, villain
Note: some teachers may wish to cover all three comparative texts in 5th Year. In addition to this, teachers may wish to study fewer poets in 5th Year.
The Single Text is revisited and a major assignment - The Shakespeare Prize - is set in place. This consists of a series of revision tests on a range of topics. The student who achieves the highest average score in each class receives a prize. There is an and overall winner from Form 6 whose name is announced at the Arts and Sports Awards night.
There will be a test on the Composition section of Paper I in the first term. This is designed to give students the opportunity to practise their writing skills under exam conditions.
The remaining poets will be covered in 6th Year.
The third Comparative text-if not already covered by the classroom teacher- is studied during the first term of 6th Year.
Language study is on-going throughout the two-year programme.
Revision and preparation for the Mock Examinations and Leaving Certificate will continue throughout the year, often through the use of past exam papers.
Note: Please ensure that you search for documents that relate to the year that the student is due to sit the Leaving Certificate examination.
For example, if a student is due to sit the Leaving Certificate examination in June 2024, search for English Prescribed List of Texts 2024.
Prescribed material changes annually and the updated lists are generally released by the DES through a circular in the summer term.