Leaving Certificate English

Leaving cert English is taken by all students and tests your expression (how you say things) and your comprehension (to understand what you read). Each year you will have to cover a prescribed set of poets, plays and works of fiction.

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 In the exam it is really important to work to the clock and get your timings correct so that you get all questions finished. Pay attention to your vocabulary, grammar, punctuation and handwriting as this all will play a part in how the examiner marks your exam. Finally, don’t forget to study Paper 1 – there is just as much potential for practice and preparation as the studied material on Paper 2.

English Course Content

  • Reading
  • Personal Writing
  • Functional Writing
  • Unseen Drama
  • Studied Drama
  • Shakespearean Drama
  • Unseen Poetry
  • Studied Poetry
  • Unseen Fiction
  • Studied Fiction

The Exam

The English exam is very understandable and approachable. The exam is designed to let you express what you do know rather than catch you out on things you don't know. 

Paper I

Higher and Ordinary Level - 170 mins. - 200 marks.

Section I

Three texts (one of which is visual) are presented to you on a general theme.  Two sets of questions, an A and a B follow each text. You must answer a question A on one text and a question B on a different text.    (100 marks)

Section II 

(Composing) You must write an extended composition in a specific genre of language from a list of seven choices (story, talk, debate, article, essay) (100 marks)

Paper II

Higher and Ordinary Level - 200 mins. - 200 marks.

Section I    The single text    (60 marks)

Section II   The Comparative study  (70 marks)

Section III  Poetry     (70 marks)


(i)  Unseen poem   (20 marks) 

(ii)  Prescribed poetry  (50 marks)


(i)  Unseen poem   (20 marks)

(ii)  Four poems will be printed on the exam paper and you must answer questions on one of the four.   (50 marks)

Future Careers with Leaving Certificate English

A pass in English is a requirement for entry into many CAO courses. Students who like English can follow a wide variety of career paths including; Advertising, Writing, Arts, Business, Management, Journalism, Politics, Entertainment.

Download the leaving cert English syllabus

Download the prescribed texts for the 2015 exam 

Download the prescribed texts for the 2016 exam

Download the leaving cert English Guidelines for Teachers

Download the leaving cert English Chief examiner's report (2008) 

26 Topics for English

26 Past papers for English

English Discussions

Resources for Ordinary English