The exam hall is probably the least condusive environment for inspiration known to humankind. It is a weird pressure cooker of silence and ticking clocks, all tinged with the internal panic of knowing that 37% of your grade in English relies on you finding something to say and saying it well for QB and The Essay. You have no control over the topics that will appear, nor can you predict whether or not you will be paralyzed by indecision or writer’s block. And they say the Leaving Cert is ‘fair’? ‘Brutal’ and ‘cruel’ are the words that spring sooner to my mind! (But then I am prone to hyperbole…)
So what can you do? Well some people ‘prepare’ essays/short stories and hope one of them will sort of, kind of, ‘fit’ on the day. I have seen this work, but only when the student is (a) the writer of these essays/stories – because they have learned how to become a good writer through practice and (b) clever/calm enough to change it significantly to tie in exactly with the essay title that appears on the day.
More often than not I have seen this fail. Spectacularly.