Every year, normally on the second Wednesday in June, the Leaving Cert History exam takes place. Higher Level students have 2 hours 50 minutes to answer a documents based question and three long essay questions.
A top, or even 'middle-of-the-road' grade cannot be achieved without an extensive amount of writing. From the first minute to the last, the exam is a writing marathon run at a sprinting pace.
Granted, extended writing is a fundamental skill of History. It is important that young historians can produce essay type answers that show not just a dept of knowledge but also an ability to think independently. However, in setting this challenge, the State Examinations Commission should ensure sufficient time is allocated.
In the immediate aftermath of the exam, History students, hands still aching and fingers numb, commonly and justifiably complain that more time was needed. Students have to 'hit the ground running' with little or no time for essay planning and review of answers. The time allocated for the Higher Level Leaving Cert History exam should be increased from 2 hours 50 minutes to at least 3 hours.
A 3 hour exam would bring History into line with a number of other exams. Higher Level Business Studies, Engineering, Biology, Construction Studies, Design and Communication Graphics, Accounting, Physics and Chemistry are all 3 hour exams. The amount of writing required for History is, at the very least, comparable to the aforementioned exams.
The State Examinations Commission should consider allocating at least 10 extra minutes to the Higher Level Leaving Cert History exam. This would be a fair and equitable move. It would in no way compromise the integrity of the exam. It would have a positive impact on student wellbeing. Indeed, the student voice should be heard. Students should be consulted. What are their views on the time allocated to history? That consultation should begin at 4.51 pm tomorrow.
Evening Echo, 8th May 2018: Teachers appeal for history to remain a core subject in Junior Cycle
Irish Examiner, May 10th 2017- Junior cycle history format ‘will turn students off’
Read here: junior cycle history draft specification
History Matters 365 Blog
A history teacher's survival guide.
Christian O' Connor, History Teacher, St. Mary's Secondary School, Mallow, Co. Cork.
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