This a good Higher Level subject even for the average student, provided they are prepared to read extensively. Good written expression is required to achieve a good result. Some students can underestimate the extent to which they must learn their own language in the modes that they are required to express themselves, particularly at Higher Level. Higher grade C in English is essential for a number of courses like Journalism, Communications and Speech Therapy.


What is English?

At Leaving Cert level, the English course aims to develop:


  • The ability to critically analyse information, as preparation for the responsibilities and
    challenges of adult life;
  • A respect and appreciation for language used accurately and appropriately, and a competence in a wide range of oral and written language skills;
  • An awareness of the value of literature for widening horizons, for enhancing their sense of cultural identity, and for personal enjoyment.


Paper One

Paper 1 is divided into two sections: Comprehension and composition

Students are expected to answer questions while considering both their audience and the intent behind the writing. 


Paper Two

Paper 2 examines the students’ understanding of a range of literary texts which have been prescribed for study:

Students must choose a single text for close study, three or more texts to form a comparative study, and must follow a prescribed course in poetry.


Parents and students should be aware of the following cautionary points when considering the study of English at Higher Level for the Leaving Certificate exam.

  • The study of English at Higher Level places significant demands on the Leaving Certificate student.
  • The syllabus is very broad in its range of prescribed materials and can be quite time consuming.
  • The Higher Level (course) exam rewards good writing skills and an independent learner.
  • The extended composition features largely on both papers at Higher Level and students are expected to write between 750-1000 words in the time available, in these compositions.
  • There is the assumption at Higher Level that students will read widely and independently over the two years.
  • An interest in social, political and current affairs is vital and highly developed writing skills and critical analyses skills are prerequisites at Higher Level.
  • Conversely at Ordinary Level textual material is printed on the exam paper for students, for example in the poetry sections poems are printed for the students.  Less extended pieces of writing are also expected.
  • Texts at Ordinary Level are less challenging particularly bearing in mind that students at O.L. do not have to study a Shakespearean play.
  • Texts prescribed at O.L. are very student friendly and aimed at encouraging the more reluctant reader.
  • There is a vast difference in the study of English at Higher Level for Junior Certificate and the Study of English at Higher Level for the Leaving Certificate.



It is recommended that a student has achieved at least a grade (C) at Junior Certificate Higher Level, to continue into Higher Level Leaving Certificate English.


Useful for:

Acting, Administration, Accountant, Broadcasting, Civil Servant, Librarian, Marketing, Personnel Officer, Politician, Public Relations Officer, Solicitor, Barrister, Speech Therapist, Teacher, Receptionist, Typist, Computer Programmer, Flight Attendant, Printer, Copy Writer, Editor, Proof Reader, sales Representative, Translator, Interpreter, Secretary.