Tag Archives: certificate

Sample Visual Text Answer

Your analysis of the photo should be so specific that the reader can picture it without seeing it. However, remember you are commenting on aspects of the photo not simply describing it (that’s the equivalent of telling the story instead of analysing it – never a good idea!).

The image of the lady passing the soldier (image 3) had the greatest impact on me. I think this woman decided to dress up because she is determined to carry on with her life as usual, despite the presence of soldiers on the streets of her city. Dressing up allows her to feel powerful and important. I particularly noticed her pearls in this image, as they are traditionally a symbol of wealth. Clearly as an unarmed woman in a besieged city, she felt powerless and threatened. Walking the streets of her city dressed up to the nines is an act of defiance against the occupiers – the caption under the photo says that it was taken during the siege of Sarajevo.

It is possible (but unlikely in my opinion) that she is trying to impress the soldier – her look is one of disgust and contempt, not seduction. She is unsmiling, she holds her head up high and swings her free arm as though she hasn’t a care in the world. This has to be an act – the man in the foreground is carrying a heavy machine gun. Judging by the distance between her two feet she is taking quite long confident strides, or at least as long as she can with her tight skirt on! Although the soldiers head is out of shot, from examining her line of vision, I’d say she is looking directly at him, almost as a kind of challenge to his authority. She appears entirely unthreatened & unintimidated by the weapon he is carrying.

The soldier in the left foreground appears quite relaxed, judging by the cigarette perched between two fingers of his right hand. However, he seems prepared to use his weapon as both of his hands are resting on it, ready to spring into action if necessary. By contrast, the woman seems to be going somewhere specific, on a mission. She is doing her best to appear nonchalant as she strides past. The two images create a great contrast because it is so unexpected to see a woman in upmarket fashionable clothes walking casually past a soldier in a war zone. The focus remains firmly on the woman, however because her body is in frame whereas the soldier’s legs and head are cut off, rendering him anonymous, a nameless, faceless, unknown soldier.

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!

Attention all LC’s – read this!

Everything on this site is pretty po-faced but if you really want to impress go for the tongue-in-cheek, ‘it’s all a big pile of stinky-poo Ted’ approach.

(I was going to say ‘big pile of shite’ but like all writers I must be aware of my target audence and I don’t want to injure your delicate sensibilities with my coarse language).

Anyway, check out this article, not just because it’s bloody funny but also because the style of writing is what you should aspire to.

Enjoy: http://www.eoinbutler.com/home/those-last-minute-leaving-cert-revision-tips-in-brief/


You may be asked to write a review of a

ONE: storytelling

  • book you have read
  • film you have seen
  • tv show

TWO: music

  • CD or iTunes album you have listened to
  • concert you’ve attended
  • theatre performance (play, ballet, stand-up comedy) you’ve attended

THREE: games

  • video game you have played
  • app you’ve downloaded
  • board game

FOUR: devices

  • mobile phone
  • mp3 player
  • games console
  • e-book reader

FIVE: places

  • restaurant / cafe
  • hotel
  • travel company
  • shop / chain of shops / online shop

So what do you do?

  1. Introduce – begin with a dramatic statement. Never begin a review by telling the reader that you are writing a review. They already know that and will think you are very stupid for stating the obvious (“I am writing a review of…”  blah blah blah yawn). Instead try this: “The eagerly anticipated sequel to the best-selling [name of book/CD/film/video game] is finally here and let me tell you it does not disappoint“.  Or this: “Let me offer you fair warning dear readers –  [name of book/CD/film/video game] offers a dark, intense, disturbing glimpse of the human condition“. Or this: “Critics will love [name of book/CD/film/video game] but the public won’t be impressed. Let me tell you why…
  2. Details – but no plot spoilers! don’t tell the entire story or give away every detail of the book/CD/game/performance. If the thing you’re reviewing is any good, you want to make the reader curious enough to buy the book/CD/game or go to the performance to see it for themselves. They won’t still be curious if you tell them everything. The amount of time given to plot/individual songs etc.. varies widely from review to review.  You might mention basic plot outline, recurring themes, use of symbolism, feelings evoked in the audience/reader/listener/gamer.
  3. Evaluation – what works, what doesn’t and why! Remember you must give concrete reasons WHY you liked or disliked the book/ CD/ game/ performance. Avoid generalisations like “the story/music/game was very moving“. Instead be more specific “the scene/song where Amos loses the only friend he has left in the world is enough to move even the hardest teenage heart to tears. Thank God the room’s in darkness, eh?“.
  4. Recommendation –  who should buy/see this book / CD / game / concert /performance and why? Keep this bit of your review short and sweet. Is this thing worth buying/seeing? (Sum up why). For everyone or just a select target audience?

FILM REVIEW – checklist

Name of film, release date, age rating, director, cast (actors & actresses), screenwriters, running time, plot, characters, dialogue, cinematography, sets/locations, special effects & CGI, genre, soundtrack, favourite scenes, ending (satisfying/shocking/sad? – but don’t give the ending away), background info (other films in this franchise/ by this director/ this film remind you of).

Phrases for film reviews =

Characters: well-developed, believable, likeable, flawed, endearing, unconvincing, one dimensional, protagonist, antagonist, villain, hero, heroine, gangster, psycho, love-interest etc…

Genre:  Fairy-tale romance, action-packed thriller, edge-of-your-seat terror/horror, gross-out comedy, period drama, kids animation with an adult sense of humour, sci-fi adventure, summer blockbuster, monster movie etc…

Plot: laugh out loud funny, full of in your face violence,  suspense, familiar scenes of family life, car chases, gags, engrossing, gripping, emotionally engaging, soppy and melodramatic, pretentious, moves quickly to a breathtaking conclusion, loses its way at times, crams too much into the final half hour, grips from the first second, is convoluted and difficult to follow, is predictable and lacklustre, is slow moving but intense, offers a fantastic psychological roller-coaster of emotions, climax is satisfying/ unexpected/ predictable/ disappointing/ uplifting/ depressing/ shocking/ memorable/ creepy/ terrifying/ charming.

If like me you love movies, check out Mark Kermode’s film reviews on his podcast or go to http://www.empireonline.com/

MUSIC REVIEW – checklist

Number of tracks, sequence of tracks, genre (hip-hop, dance, reggae, jazz etc), pace/speed of songs, other albums by this band, lyrics, themes, emotions, vocals, harmonies, instruments – guitar solos, drumming, orchestral accompaniment, quotes from lead singer, background to the albums release, comparison to other similar bands/singers.

To read music and concert reviews &  get a sense of what is expected look at: http://www.hotpress.com



VIDEO GAME REVIEW -checklist???

I confess to having zero interest in gaming so I might have to get one of my mates to come up with a checklist for what goes into a game review. In the meantime check out Ben Croshaw’s zeropunctuation for some hilariously entertaining reviews.

BOOK REVIEWS – checklist

Author biography, previous books published, genre, plot, characterisation, style of writing, quotes from author interview, nominations for awards, target audience, favourite scenes, ending (satisfying/shocking/sad? – but don’t give the ending away).

Check out the book reviews in The Guardian.


Acting, blocking (movement on stage), body language/gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice, costume, props, set design & setting, sound effects, music, lighting, plot, themes, emotions, favourite scenes, ending (satisfying/ shocking/ sad? – but don’t give the ending away), quotes from director and actors/actresses.

Check out theatre reviews in the Irish Theatre magazine or in The Guardian.


Junior Cert English 1

Here’s an overview of the different sections on Paper 1 and links to the relevant sections on this site that you might find useful.

Paper 1

Section 1: Reading Comprehension – HALF AN HOUR – 40 marks

Most of the advice for answering comprehensions is the same as for Leaving Cert but you only have half an hour so the questions are easier and your answers can be shorter and less detailed. They tend to ask one style question.

Section 2: Personal Writing – 1 HOUR – 70 marks – choice of 7 or 8 titles

Most of the advice is the same for essay writing and for specific styles such as short stories, personal essays, speeches, articles, dialogues and diary entries.

However, in the leaving cert they will tell you what style to write in, whereas in the Junior Cert it says at the top of the page “Except where otherwise stated, you are free to write in any form you wish e.g. narrative, descriptive, dramatic, short story” (as if ‘dramatic’ is a style! who sets this paper?)

Section 3: Functional writing – HALF AN HOUR – 30 marks

The range of questions they can ask is huge. Generally speaking you are using formal, informative language but not always. Don’t freak out if you think you couldn’t do some of the tasks below – you always have a choice in the exam.

Questions have included asking you to write a

Section 4: Media studies – HALF AN HOUR – 40 marks

Again the range of questions is quite broad. You can be asked to discuss

  • an ad (target market/audience, visuals, effectiveness, compare ads)
  • a magazine (contents page – layout)
  • an editorial
  • a review
  • posters
  • cartoons
  • media (radio, television, newspapers, internet) as a force for changing people’s opinions
  • talk-radio (type of show that appeals to teenagers / difference between local & national radio)
  • television (watershed & classification of programmes, difference between radio & television, advantages & disadvantages)
  • newspapers (broadsheets v’s tabloids, layout of front page)
  • a news story (newsworthiness)
  • news sources – newspapers, radio, television, internet (effectiveness to deliver info and to promote products/services)
  • designer labels

Or to write a