2009’s Infamous English Paper 2.

On Wednesday evening, after the shocking news about the English paper 2 fiasco, I got a text telling me not to panic, that I’d look back on the whole idiotic mix-up and laugh at how flustered I’d gotten.
Let me tell you all, there has been no laughter as of yet. This afternoon, there was no “Ah sure, an exam on a Saturday? This is a mad laugh!”, no “I ACED that!” and no “I can’t believe I got so freaked out about being the victims of an SEC shortcoming”. There was added stress, added exhaustion and added effort.

In my opinion, today’s paper wasn’t very nice. A lot of people seemed to be very happy with what came up, others not so much.
As soon as the papers were handed out, there were murmurings of “Bishop! Yes!” to be heard in my exam centre (Full of risk-taking repeats like myself) and this left me grinning, but further inspection wiped the smile and smug expression straight off my face.

First off- Poetry. Personally, I was pretty happy with the actual poets which appeared- I’d stayed up cramming for Elizabeth Bishop until the wee hours and knew her inside and out- but I thought the questions themselves were excessively tricky. Instead of being asked how we feel, or what aspects of the work appeal to us, we were tied down to specific questions- What questions Bishop poses in her work and  the conflict in Walcott’s poems, for example.
It had all the signs of a poorly prepared paper and seemed almost like a poor Sample Paper, with the kind of questions found in our textbooks which our teachers warn us won’t actually show up on the REAL exam. They were all a bit convoluted, cornering students instead of leaving plenty of room for personal engagement and expansion like we’re all used to.
The lack of Longley threw a few people as well- myself included to a certain extent.
Weeks ago, I’d chosen him as my main poet to study, so convinced was I that he’d make an appearance. Unlike the dreaded Bishop, whose work is incredibly tedious, bland and overrated, Longley genuinely appealed to me.
Needless to say, my Bishop essay was an epic spiel of my adoration for the poet, but my enthusiasm was all fake as hell.

Straight after this, I took a shot at the Unseen Poetry. I forfeited my morals here because, after running out of things to say about why the frankly awful poem impacted on me, I tear-jerkingly told the examiner that I could identify with the subject matter as my own Father had recently passed away. Fortunately, my Father’s actually alive and well- but my personal response and engagement is absolutely BRILLIANT, and no examiner’s going to be able to resist giving me extra-high marks. I threw in some rubbish about the poem’s form and it being an “Emotional Journey and a moral landscape” which I didn’t mean either, so hopefully I’ll pick up a few nice marks here.

Next up, came the Comparative Study. Again, I felt the questions here were quite convoluted. I chose to write about Cultural Context as it’s all I had prepared, but it wasn’t just a case of “Talk about the IMPACT of Cultural Context on you”- it involved focusing on the characters and such. Not only this, but it specified that we had to talk about the MAIN character in each of the texts. As one of my texts was “My Oedipus Complex and other stories” by Frank O Connor, I was a little worried as there are several main characters throughout the anthology as opposed to just one. I decided that I was going to just write about them all, in any case, as I don’t think i could be penalised for it. It was the fault of the question for, quite frankly, being too narrow.

Finally, came Macbeth. At this stage, I was about 17 or 18 pages into my booklet, and the Red Bull which I’d foolishly drank before the exam was starting to wear off. I took a shot at answering on the consequences of Duncan’s murder on both MaccyB himself and Scotland, but I don’t think it was too epic. I’d learned a good few quotes, but I also found myself making one or two up. Or three or four. I didn’t really know the storyline all too well, but I actually think I did quite well on this, considering. It was probably my worst question, but it wasn’t too woeful. I’d imagine it’s definitely not below 45 or 50 out of 60 in any case.
Macbeth was pretty much the only place where the questions were quite lenient and broad, which I was particularly thankful for. They were no Banquo/ Deception though.

All in all, I’m quite happy with my own performance on the paper. I’ve always gotten A1s on paper 2, and I’m hoping this one won’t be an exception. I do, however, have my doubts.
The Paper, overall, was a bit nasty, and I really hope it’ll be marked easily and broadly as a result. A lot of students who may think they’ve done well certainly haven’t as far as I can see. I talked to a few people who were utterly thankful for Bishop, yet they didn’t actually ANSWER the question asked, they just stuck down a general response. I’m not going to be the one to tell them they’re epic failures, they’ll unfortunately see that in August. I foresee uproar.
The other paper would have been nicer, for me anyway, but there’s not much point saying “What if…?” now.

Anyway, I’m off to have an early night’s sleep- tomorrow’s going to be busy! With Maths paper 2 and Irish paper 1 on Monday, I really have to be on my game. Also, the stress factor of the Leaving Cert’s left me ratty as hell.

37 thoughts on “2009’s Infamous English Paper 2.”

  1. “Emotional Journey and a moral landscape”

    Ha yeah I said the unseen poem “achieves a tragic dimension because it unites the human sufferer with that which is eternal and constant in human experience”. Lifted that straight out of Joyce

  2. Em, for the unseen, I was like “I like the imagery of the moon”, and, like, “I feel sympathy for the poet” and stuff.

    Agree with the poetry questions, I’d prepared the balls out of Bishop but her Q was a killer. Thankfully, everyone in my class jumped on her name and spat out a generic (crap) Bishop essay. Thought the Keats Q was lovely so I did that instead.

  3. #Stephen:
    No point looking back on it now. They’re gone.
    I recommend burning your poetry books- makes everything seem better.

    I never actually.. did keats… but my friend’s reaction to the question was a majot WTF.
    (Read your bloggy-wog though, sounds like it went great!)

    Lol, I higlighted the line “She raises lots of questions like “Why oh why the doily?” ” blah.
    Aha, banter.

  4. @Fizzee “Bishop question was secretly easy”

    I know right? And it was asked in such an esoteric backwards way that anyone who knows how to ACTUALLY READ AND ANSWER A FUCKING QUESTION is gonna go straight to the top of the line past the rest of the peasants. I’ve actually grown to love this shit, it’s gotten to be like a game

  5. i thought the bishop question was grand, just so glad it was there i didnt bother to study any of the others much. it was easy to bullshit your way through it

  6. Adrian: I was gonna high-5 you for doing all the same subjects as me, but you lost it on account of doing Business on top of them.


  7. Thats a good interpretation of the paper. I think many people will be flawed by the questions. The fact that many chosen poets came up wass overshadowed by the fact that the questions asked were quite difficult.
    The more I think about what I wrote, the more I begin to feel stupid and idiotic.

    For CC, I said the main protagonist for My Oedipus Complex was Larry. Yet, my paragraph on the function of religion went something like this

    “All three main characters interact with religion…..(waffle)…..(waffle)…similarly in MOC, the priest is a kind compassionate man who dispels Jackie’s fears!”

    I love how you’re able to lie and deceive the examiner and as a result you’ll get marks for it! So cunning! XD

  8. hahhaha, the examiners will be very curious when they come around to correcting unseen poem.

    “all their parents are dead!!!!”
    i considered doing that, till i realised a lot of other people might, so i wrote about how the poem brings to light what could happen to my parents in a few years, would i understand their pain, blah blah blah!
    bishop was handy, but i knew her inside out and i actually read the question, unlike some eejits!

  9. Oh, I’m loving that 5-day canyon before Chem and Music.

    Defintely gonna squeeze both two-year courses in there.

    Sleep? Sounds good. Laters!

  10. Why did everyone do Bishop, she is such an awful poet? I did Keats, I was 100% sure he would come up so i wasnt relieved when i saw him. Examiners are going to be sick to death of reading thousands of Bishop answers that i bet youll get an automatic 5 or so extra marks for doing one of the other 3. Also, if we all hate her poetry, the examiners will too ( my teacher did ), so another 5 marks for Keats/Walcott/Montague writers!

  11. Ugh my Bishop question was hideously waffley, desperately trying to include some reference to questions. It wasn’t even subtle. I may as well have taken my red pen, circled it and wrote a little note saying EXAMINER, I’m referring to the question RIGHT HERE. Marks please.
    But I was so glad she was actually there, I didn’t even care that the question was hideous.

  12. @Jenny: I’m glad that someone is man (?) enough to say that faking compassion is unfortunately what this crap is all about. I lied through my slowly degrading teeth (thank you borocca) on the unseen. I wrote a spiel similar to yours… and you know what? I have no regrets.

    Let’s get this maths and Irish and business and french and bio and chem and music over.


  13. @Liam. Yeah I do 8 and LCVP… which was for “the craic”. Still 70 points in the bag for little work. Agonising double once a week though. The greatest thing about it all was that I did all of my subjects in school. It meant no PE.. no study classes etc. But so what!

    High 5 for attempting to high 5. Music and I are a little indifferent right now. However during the ridiculously large gap between biology and chem.. I think I might actually feel realism/compassion and do 2-3 hours of music a day. Chem is far more important though.

    PS… Business is great. I recommend taking it even if you have no business knowledge. Such waffle-able subjects do exist… FACT.

    Hmm.. I feel like sleep and food.

  14. YES



    Buuuut things were gonna get nasty if I didn’t do nothing today

    That makes sense on some level


  15. Bishop, tedious? Bishop is one of the most fascinatinmg poets of our time full of insight and new perspectives on life. I can’t understand that description of her. Did many people do theme or issue for the comparitive? It is actually much easier than cultural context. The father-son relationship in Cinema Paradiso, My Oedipus Comlex and Philadelphia Here I Come is obvious and it was a great question.
    I found no problem with the paper at all. I’d be hoping for an A. The Bishop question was simple. It addressed her key unique style. The Macbeth questions were open to the reader’s own command of the question. And theme or issue is simple! Besides, the delay at least brought me up a grade. I’m delighted. Peace.

  16. You know i never used “epic” before i came on this site, great word, i think i will have to spread it to my land. Onwards to The Kingdom. And good night to one and all!

  17. She is shit (Bishop). And you have a simple mind because you cant see it. All she does is moans and bitches about her life as if she was the first to have a hard one. Her moments of insight are bullshit. Watch this: My exam paper was already on the desk this morning when i went into school. This must mean that “Somebody (examiner) loves us all” Wow i am so “DEEP” just like Bitchop.

  18. Jennie,

    I really think you’re kidding yourself by saying that the questions were too limiting, or convoluted.

    Granted, the poetry ones didn’t quite reflect the style of the poet, but save Walcott, they were all fairly broad. I mean, EVERY poet tries to pose interesting questions about things in a clear manner? Every theme they cover can be seen as raising questions about it. All one had to do was discuss their poetry and bring it back to (at most) TWO main areas. I answered on Montague, and had to argue that his poetry was “clear and concise”. They aren’t exactly the same, but damn close. I could nearly interchange them.

    I don’t know what you were told about the trend of Leaving Cert poetry questions, but we were told that this would be the case, that they are going away from general, personal responses and overviews which foster rote learning.

    I wouldn’t worry about how you answered the comparative. I did the same question, and I’d say (in line with previous marking schemes on similar questions), it will say something like “accept a liberal interpretation of what constitutes a main character”.
    Like.. One of the guys I talked about was maybe in two chapters of the book.. Maximum..

  19. “I tear-jerkingly told the examiner that I could identify with the subject matter as my own Father had recently passed away.”

    Whoa, thats, harsh! I presume you didn’t tell him this!

    I did the Walcot Question. It looked like a Bitch, but i put down my personal interpretation of the question, and so they should (according to our super clever english teacher) mark me accordingly.

    The essay I had prepared was on the theme of Religion, so most of the Conflict and Tension was Religious conflict. (i.e !st Communion on St. Lucia)

    Do ye think thats ok? Im far from an A1 student, but i need a decent mark in English to make enough points for Primary Teaching (WHY HAS EVERYONE DECIDED TO DO IT THIS YEAR!!!) … so im being told 500 points MIGHT be enough!!!

  20. lolol, I put a pretend death down too! I didn’t use father, though, I used a grandfather who I was extremely close to. Fortunately he, and all of my grandparents, are still alive! 😛 Wow, I wonder if half the country did this!?

    Lizzie’s question was grand, I think that went quite well. Cultural Context was far too limited so I too, probably along with the rest of the country, just answered on many characters such as talking about Senator Doogan and Canon O Byrne under the heading of Power/ Patriarchal Society.

    Macbeth was AWFUL. Having totally squandered my time on the comparitive, I was left with a mere 35 minutes to plan and comlete a full Macbeth essay (I left it till last). The questions, contrary to common belief, were not nice. I did, however, get a half decent essay done but it just seemed like I was summarising when I was writing it, which, as you all know, is NOT good! To make everything worse I decided to ask every student on the planet how the did once I got out. I really would not advise doing that is it just highlights how badly you failed at something.

  21. Haha the examiner’s going to be like “whoah, was there a sudden outbreak of Alzheimer’s??!”

    I did question 2 for the unseen poem and it didn’t ask much about personal response, it was just “what impression of the father do you get?” and I answered it almost like a comprehension >.<

  22. There was a deception question! You just had to say, “one of the dramatic ‘ingredients’ employed by Shakespeare in Macbeth is a complex web of deception”. Then you lash down your deception essay with some “it was sooooo dramatic” comments thrown in – et voila! Done!

    At least, that’s what I did. Lol.

  23. I manipulated the macbeth question to suit me….i learned a supernatural essay off!that was one of the ”compelling ingredients!!’:)

  24. The Unseen Poem:
    Yes, I feel dirty. Guilty. Awful.
    But whatevzzz, I’ll do anything (within reason) for a good grade!
    And no, I didn’t tell my Dad… although I’m sure he wouldn’t mind.. too much? Aha.
    Elizabeth- You can go about answering the part-y questions like a bit of a comprehension anyway. Sort of, no? I never really do those, always favouring the personal response… but that’s how I WOULD do them.

    As I said- these questions were quite broad. I was going to lash into the theme of Deception but then I was like.. “Should I actually talk about like.. all the different themes?”.
    Then my brain exploded and I just answered the other one.

    I’d imagine 500 would be plenty for primary Teaching. Like, it already jumped up last year, so the chances of it jumping another 20 points surely aren’t that great!
    I never really did Wlcott, so, umm, I dunnooooo…
    I’m sure if you blabbed on about Conflict even a little you’ll be grand.

  25. Did anyone else cermoniously burn/rip/destroy their english books?

    I got all my macbeth notes, tore them into little tiny pieces and even the folder divider with Macbeth written on it and put it all in the fire! When I left the exam I got my Derek Walcott notes and as two of my friends were talking to me, fecked the lot into the bin! Much to their confusion. Happy days

  26. @DDC1990 – the points for primary teaching could drop this year. 1,200 newly graduated teachers are going to be unemployed according to the trade unions (I’m not saying that to scare you, it’ll recover by the time you graduate). That should scare some of your competitors away.

  27. ”Impacted on me” -1 …eh, try ”had an impact on me” next time, might have the desired result of better grades. Smugness doesn’t deserve good grades 😀

Leave a Reply