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Irish State Commission Exam paper archive

I know that teachers are not short of resources these days, what with course books, free shared materials online, subscription sites and the rest. In fact, my department used to talk of "resources panic" as they contemplated the huge range of stuff there was to choose from when approaching a topic. We've moved a long way since "turn to page...".

However, I've only just come across the large archive of past examination papers from the Irish State Examination Commission.

In French they have papers going back to 1996 (1995 only offers one sound file for the leaving Certificate).

There are two types: the Junior Certificate is like the English and Welsh GCSE and it has two levels, Ordinary and Higher Level. These correspond well with Foundation and Higher Tier in England and Wales.

The equivalent of the English and Welsh A-level is called Leaving Certificate, also at two levels - Ordinary and Higher. Listening, reading and writing are tested. Sound files are available, as they are at Junior Certificate level.

It is always interesting to compare assessment styles across countries. What you notice with the Junior Certificates is that they separate out skills by exclusively using questions in English. (I wonder whether this affects teaching methodology?) The listening sections use multi-choice with options in English, note completion in English and question-answer in English. The reading sections use matching, ticking boxes, questions in English and multi-choice. The writing assessment is similar to what we used to have at GCSE, namely bullet points in English to develop into mini essays. The Higher paper is two and a half hours long.

As far as the Leaving Certificate papers are concerned, at Ordinary Level, questions in English and French are the order of the day, along with some gap fill, note completion and short form writing (the latter is much easier than AS Level in England and Wales). The language content and difficulty level is similar to that found in English and Welsh papers. At Higher Level, there are two major source texts, one of which resembles those found at A2 level, but the second is literary - a significant difference. There are numerous questions in French, some short paragraph writing and three long paragraph questions (only 75 or 90 words long) on areas of topical interest. These appear less daunting than their equivalent on English and Welsh papers, but encourage candidates to be concise and to use a similar level of language. Students need not worry about essay structure. (I question why we hang on to the essay assessment format in English and Welsh MFL exams - what are we assessing, language or essay writing?)

All in all, teachers will find a wealth of useful material for teaching or assessment and I recommend this archive wholeheartedly.

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