At Leaving Certificate 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.

Why Study English?

  • Universities generally require a student to pass English
  • Leaving Certificate English invites students into rich experiences with language so that they become fluent and thoughtful users of it and more aware of its significance in their lives. It develops a range of literacy and oral skills in a variety of areas, personal, social, and cultural. Students develop a wide range of skills and concepts. These will allow them to interpret and enjoy a range of material so that they become independent learners who can operate independently in the world beyond the school.
  • If English is your subject and you want to further your studies then you have a wide variety in terms of course choice.

What kind of Student would English suit?

Anyone who has ambitions for a career in creative writing, politics, or entertainment sectors. English also forms a key part of journalism courses and good presentation skills will be required for courses in History, Politics and law and almost all other courses.

Students looking to develop and improve their communication skills.

Course Overview

English is a core subject and is compulsory in all schools.

The exams at both higher and ordinary level require students to sit two papers. Junior Certificate results are often a good indication of what level a student should choose for English. A large number of students take English at higher level but should not underestimate the amount of work required to obtain a high grade.

Course Content

Core Elements


Students are required to study the following five designated areas of language in a wide variety of contexts, functions and styles.

  • The Language of Information.
  • The Language of Argument.
  • The Language of Persuasion.
  • The Language of Narration.
  • The Aesthetic use of Language.


  • Students are required to study one literary text from a list of prescribed texts.
  • Students are required to study three other texts in the Comparative manner, according to the comparative modes prescribed for that year.
  • Students are required to study at least six poets from the eight poets prescribed at Higher Level, at Ordinary Level 36 poems are prescribed.

Compulsory elements: At Higher Level a Shakespearean Play must be one of the texts chosen for study on its own or as an element of the Comparative study.

Exam Structure

Paper I Higher and Ordinary Level – 170 mins. – 200 marks.

  • Section I: Three texts – one which is visual – are presented to students on a general Theme. Two sets of questions, an A and a B follow each text. Candidates must answer a question A on one text and a question B on a different text. (100 marks)
  • Section II (Composing): Candidates must write an extended composition in a specific genre of language from a list of seven choices. (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)Higher Level
    • Unseen poem (20 marks)
    • Prescribed poetry (50 marks)
Ordinary Level

  • Unseen poem (20 marks)
  • Four poems will be printed on the exam paper and students must answer questions on one of the four. (50 marks)

Optional Elements

At Ordinary Level the study of a Shakespearean play is optional.

Career Possibilities

English is useful for careers including:

  • Speech Therapy
  • Advertising, Broadcasting
  • Politics
  • Journalism
  • Law
  • Librarian
  • Teacher
  • Sales Representative
  • Translator.