Junior Certificate English Higher

Exam Guide

There are two papers in the Junior Cert Higher Level English exam. Paper One examines your language skills by asking you to analyse texts (Comprehensions) you have never seen before and to answer creative (Personal Writing) and functional writing tasks. Media Studies is also examined on this paper. Paper Two looks for answers to from your studied curriculum.

  • Before you sit the examination you should make sure you know exactly what questions you will have to answer on each of the examination papers. There is a lot of confusion on Paper Two over answering question 1s and 2s – know what you must do beforehand (Ask your teacher or post a question below).
  • Think of each question as a task that you must perform. Before your pen hits the page, ensure that you are clear on what the question is asking. Locate the key term/s of the question. It is also useful to do out a rough plan of your answer (this shouldn’t take longer than 60 seconds). Use evidence or examples from the text if you can – remember the Point-Quote-Explain technique. The language you use in your answer should be appropriate to the task – this means that if you asked to write out a speech, do not write in the style of a radio presenter. You should also take care with punctuation, spelling and grammar, especially in Section 2 and 3 of Paper One.


Section 1 – Reading

  • In this section you will be given a short extract to read, and then you will be asked questions.
  • At higher level, you are expected to show an understanding of the writer’s style and technique.
  • Personal Response is advised here.
  • Remember to give the question its allocated time: that is, a 15 mark question will usually require less writing than a 30 mark question.

Section 2 – Personal Writing

In the ‘Composing’ section you will be given eight essay options, one of which you must complete. Except where otherwise stated, you are free to write in any form you wish e.g. narrative, descriptive, dramatic, short story, etc. You will be rewarded for:

  • A personal approach to the subject
  • An appropriate style
  • Liveliness and a good choice of words
  • Organisation and accuracy
  • Remember the Marking Scheme: CSEM (see Marking Scheme for Junior Certificate English)

Section 3 – Functional Writing

In this section you must choose between one of three functional writing tasks. These may include a letter /speech /newspaper review /reference /brochure /picture /fax etc. You are expected to write in the style stated. You will be rewarded for:

  • Well-structured answers
  • Clarity of expression
  • An appropriate tone
  • Good grammar, spelling, punctuation and correct use of capitals
  • Remember the Marking Scheme: CSEM (see Marking Scheme for Junior Certificate English)

Section 4 – Media Studies

In this section you must answer all of the questions on a particular aspect of media studies (Occasionally there is a choice). These questions may include an advertisement /radio or television schedule /newspaper review /cartoon/etc.


Section 1 – Drama

You must answer both Question one and Question two.

Question one is the Unseen Drama

You have a choice between Shakespearean drama or Other drama. You will be given a short extract to read and will be required to answer two of three questions on the extract. These questions tend to focus on aspects such as character, atmosphere, direction, and stage setting.

Question two is the play you studied in class (Romeo & Juliet/ Merchant of Venice/ The Field…)

You can choose one of two questions on the play that you have studied in class.

  • N.B. You must give the name of the play that you choose, and in some cases the author. You are not allowed to use the Drama excerpts from Question one.

Section 2 – Poetry

You must answer both Question one and Question two.

Question one is the Unseen Poem

The focus here is on your ability to respond to a poem that you have never seen before, to understand the central ideas and to comment on some of the issues of style (use of language, imagery, etc.).

  • Read the poem a few times to understand it fully. Firstly, read it quickly to get the overall meaning. Then perhaps you should read the questions – in fact, the questions will give some clues as to what the poem is about. Read the poem again focussing on what your now know.
  • Don’t be put off by words or phrases you do not understand; remember the focus is on your general response to the poem.

Question two examines the Poetry you have studied in class

You can choose one of two questions on the poetry that you have studied in class.

  • Don’t use the poem given in the previous question
  • You must give the title of the poem you choose and the name of the poet.
  • You may be asked to compare two poems by the same poet.

Section 3 – Fiction

You must answer both Question one and Question two.

Question one is a Fictional Extract that you may or may not have seen.

You will be expected to read the piece of fiction and answer the questions following it. The questions tend to focus on such elements of the extract as character, atmosphere, and notable features of style.

Question two is the novel /short story you have studied in class (To Kill A Mockingbird/ Goodnight Mr. Tom…)

You can choose one of two questions from on the novel /short story that you have studied in class.

  • N.B. You must give the name of the novel or short story that you choose.

15 responses to “Junior Certificate English Higher

  1. michael

    Thank you for writing this it really helped me get my head in order the morning before the exam.

  2. Cian moore

    Thanks very helpful really helped me study for maths exam p5

  3. jake

    I;m reading it now it seems really helpful

  4. Rachael

    This Is great I have my exam tomorrow so I hope it goes well ✊🏻

  5. Jamie Fagan


  6. chauncey von shnuffles

    why why
    why junior cert in four days why
    why why

  7. Andrea O'Grady

    Hey there. My Junior Certificate English exam is in two days, and I’m becoming increasingly nervous and paranoid. My teacher for the past three years has not done much to make the experience easier, in fact, on several occasions she has given us advice that is neither helpful nor relevant. So now I’m sitting here trying to prepare for Paper 2 in particular and refraining from pulling my hair out.
    I would appreciate it if you could answer this question once and for all: Can you learn off essays that you find online and write them? I’m not even referring to whether or not I could twist the answer on the day to fit the question, I’m simply confused as to whether I would lose all my marks if the examiner recognised some sentences from the essay, or did their research and discovered my essay online. What would happen? If direct plagiarism from online sources isn’t acceptable, are altered versions? Would changing a few sentences around, leaving some out and adding in a couple of my own suffice? I am asking with particular regards to the studied poetry and fiction sections because as I have said, I am stuck.
    I would appreciate a reply as soon as possible as I have less than 48 hours until the exam and am on the verge of a breakdown! Thank you.
    – Hopelessly confused student

  8. ..

    Hi,could you explain how to answer the questions on ‘your playing this character, write a profile for that character please? Do you write it in a essay format or in points and what must you include?

    • It would be in essay format or point format – up to you. A character profile is what you would usually see on the back of a play programme given to the audience prior to viewing a play. In an exam question you are basing your answer on the actual character rather than the actor. “Romeo was born into the Montague family, who bore a historical hatred for the Capulet family…”

  9. ..

    Okay thank you!

    • The next question would be how much do you write? This is a hard question to answer but I would go with the allocated marks – if the overall question is worth 50, but is split into 10, 10, 30 – allow roughly 10-15 lines/sentences for the 10 mark parts and roughly 30 lines/sentences for the 30 mark. It might help to think of it in points/paragraphs: 30 mark question will want 3 good points of 10 sentences each. Hope that makes sense.

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