Earlier this week 116,845 pupils began their Leaving and Junior Certificate exams in Ireland. As always, the 13-day long exams started with the notoriously difficult English Paper I. Interestingly, this year’s Leaving Cert paper featured a strong New York influence.
The influence showed firstly with Belinda McKeon’s Irish Times article on the centenary of the opening of Grand Central station followed by Emily Nussbaum’s article 'Tune in next week - the curious staying power of the cliff-hanger' published in The New Yorker.
New York City has always had an alluring quality for generations of young Irish students about to enter into the working world, and it would seem this year will be no different. Belinda McKeon herself studied English and Philosophy at Trinity College Dublin and University College, Dublin before moving to New York to continue her education at Columbia University.
Overall students reported to be happy with the paper, particularly the comprehension questions.The Irish Second Level Student’s Union blog showed an across the board interest in the New York based articles, with one student saying “All in all the paper wasn’t too bad which seemed to be the general consensus of my fellow students. The composition titles weren’t too bad and were quite broad and there seemed to be something for everyone. With paper 1 it’s hard to know how well you have done.”
Tensions are always high for students at this time of year, but to have the English paper over seemed a great relief to many, and the New York articles in particularly seemed to inspire students writing and reignite that allure for a place that feels both familiar and exciting to many young Irish students. “ I was delighted with text 3. It was the edited text of an article from the Irish Times by Belinda McKeon ‘New York stories on a Perfect Platform’ celebrating the hundredth anniversary of the opening of New York's Grand Central Station! It’s was a really interesting article!”