How much to write?

Lots of you wonder how much you should write for each of the sections and most teachers will say it depends on the student, on the question etc..

I’ll give you some general guidelines courtesy of my mate Benny who corrects Leaving Cert Hons English every year (those doing ordinary level will probably write less for some sections).

Paper 1

Comprehension answers:

10 marks = half page

15 marks = three quarters to one page

20 marks = one to one and a half pages

Question B = one and a half to two pages.

Depends on task. Language of information asks to you be direct, succinct and get to the point so a report, set of guidelines, leaflet might be a page or just over. However, a general guideline suggests two pages – and when you’re counting, don’t include the addresses in a letter. They don’t count as half a page!

Composition = 4 to 6 pages. Quality is more important than quantity. Don’t write so much that the reader gets bored and wishes it was over.

Paper 2

Single Text = 4 – 5 pages. Beyond 6 and you’re probably just waffling.

Comparative = 5 – 7.  Anything less is flimsy. You do have 3 texts after all.

Unseen poetry = Page and a half maximum.

Studied poetry = 4 pages.

Obviously some people write slow, some fast, some big, some small. The important thing is that the examiner sees you are focused on the question and organised in your approach. Don’t waffle.

Oh and one more thing! Bear in mind that the average number of words per line is 10-12. Now grab a copy, any copy and count your words – how many do you usually have per line?

If it’s 8 or less your writing is very big

so you may need to write a bit more.

If it's more than 15 your writing is very small and it may seem like
you haven't written enough. Start skipping a line between paragraphs!

17 responses to “How much to write?

  1. Pingback: Leaving Certificate English Website, By A Teacher | irish deaf kids

  2. If the comparative question is in two parts, how many pages would you write for the first part(comparing two texts) and for the second part (one text alone)?

    • If it’s 30 marks for one text, 40 marks for the other two, I’d write about 2 and a half for 30 marks/1 text and 3 and a half for 40 marks/2 other texts. If your writing is big, make that 3 for 30 marks, 4 for 40 marks. If your writing is small (or you write really slowly) make that 2 pages for 30 marks and 3 pages for 40 marks. Hope that helps!

  3. If the Comparative question asks for at least two texts, is answering on two texts sufficient?

    • If it says “at least two texts” or “two or more texts” then you have a choice – you can answer on two, or you can answer on three. Generally speaking, at ordinary level they ask for two and at higher level they ask for three, but not always.

  4. I was told that you must write 5 pages at least for the compostion, 6 pages each for the studied poetry and single text, and 7 pages for the comparative study. I have always been good at English, but I can never get this much done within the time, and I always get marked down for it. Will I still be able to get top marks in the real exam if I follow your guidelines?

    • Are you sure you’re losing marks exclusively because you’re not writing enough? Sometimes ‘not writing enough’ can be more complex than it at first seems – perhaps there isn’t enough depth in the discussion, or the answer isn’t comprehensive enough? It’s impossible for me to say without seeing something you’ve written…
      In my opinion you’ll be marked for the quality of your response – for an A grade, it must be on task at all times; must respond to the question in a nuanced way throughout; must be alert to the complexities of the question asked and the text(s) being discussed; must display an impressive control of the formalities of sentence structure and must have flair and originality in ideas and expression. Not an easy task!
      When I was in school and college I never wrote a lot because I’m not a fast writer but I compensated by having absolute mastery of language, structure and content. My gut says it’s all about quality but there are of course minimums where if you write less (for example, less than 3 or 3 and a half pages in poetry) it’s almost impossible for the corrector to give you top marks.

      • Whenever I write essays at home, I almost always get an A1, because I can take the time to get the 6 pages the teacher wants, and the quality I want. However, when it comes to class tests and exams, I have to choose between doing 6 alright but nothing special or doing 3.5-4 exceptional pages. Either way I get marked down by my teacher and I’m just worried this will be the same in the Leaving Cert. This is really important for me because I want to study English in university. I still get B’s, but I want – and know I could get – an A. It’s just this timing/length issue.

        • I hear you! And I’ve had the very same experience you outline.

          All I can tell you is what I did in my youth which was to focus on improving the quality of what I wrote and particularly my economy of language, so that I crammed as much information into 10 words as it took many people 30 words to write…

          It worked for me but it took immense effort. I constantly refined, refined, refined so that I could condense huge volumes of argument, opinion and information into as few words as possible.

  5. Just write enough to answer the question. If you read back on your answer from the point of view of someone who has never read the text before and you can now understand it, you’re done!

  6. for paper 2 I only wrote 3 pages for poetry 3 and a half for comparative and 3 for the single text also did a page for the unseen poetry am I going to fail english

    • I’m assuming you didn’t fail? Quality over quantity is always the guide for examiners. However, the less you write, the less they have in front of them to make a judgement on. Your comparative sounds like it’s the one that really should be significantly longer. Also, how big is your handwriting? All of these things come into play. Anyway, apologies for the delayed response, I haven’t been logging in to the blog very often these past 6 months.

  7. I wrote 3 and a half pages for the comparative 3 and a bit for the poetry and 3 for the single text am I going to fail??

    • I very much doubt it. It’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. Sorry for the delayed reply, I used to get a notification when someone posted a comment but it seems not to have been working for the past while.

  8. Wouldve been assuring,if the above stated depicted with an example.

  9. I completed the two higher level English papers, I done well in all except I ran out of time on the comparative, I just got 4 pages done on the comparative, is it possible to get an A1 not having completed the comparative and knowing I done well on the rest