Exam Review: English Paper 2

Higher Level

Reaction by Sinead Caslin Cregg

English Paper Two was a very generous paper that most students should be very pleased with. In “Hamlet”, candidates were asked to discuss “Hamlet’s complex relationship with Gertrude” and how it reflects the play’s “core issues”.

The female characters were hotly tipped to appear this year, so this question will have pleased many students. In the comparative study, the questions were broad and offered lots of scope for discussion. The ‘Theme or Issue’ question asked whether “human beings are selfless” and so required students to pause, reflect, and think critically about their response.

In Prescribed Poetry, there was lovely variety in the questions; W.B. Yeats, Heaney, Plath, Dickinson and the much anticipated Eileán Ní Chuilleanáin all appeared. The Heaney question was particularly appealing, asking students to discuss how “Heaney uses a deceptively simple style to convey profound observations about people and places.”

So, students can now bid farewell to English after an enjoyable, generous Paper Two.

Ordinary Level

Reaction by Emily O’Flaherty

English Paper 2 was another highly accessible, even-handed paper for students of all abilities. The questions on the Single Text (which included Brian Friel’s Philadelphia, Here I Come! and Shakespeare’s Hamlet) focused on lessons learned, the suitability of the play’s title and key moments in the text.

All sections were engaging and manageable. The Comparative Study section was eminently achievable; students who had reflected on their chosen texts would have especially welcomed the questions on the theme or issue centring on key moments in the texts and one’s emotional response to the characters’ lives.

The Prescribed Poetry Section was nicely varied with poems ranging from Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s classically romantic sonnet ‘How Do I Love Thee? to Tom French’s contemporary yet deeply moving, ‘Night Drive’. Sylvia Plath and Seamus Heaney also made a welcome appearance, and the questions were straightforward and stimulating.

The Unseen Poem ‘The Hundred Names of Love’ by Annie Lighthart may have proven a challenging read for some; however, the questions were less complicated and allowed students to display their knowledge of poetic terms and their understanding of language.

Overall, this paper rewarded diligent students for their efforts whilst allowing all students to engage and reflect on their studied texts.