Subject Overview

There is a common syllabus framework for the teaching and examining of modern languages in the Leaving Certificate. Syllabus content draws on and develops many aspects of the aims, objectives and content of languages at junior cycle. The aims are

  • To foster in learners such communicative skills in the target language as will enable them to:
    • take full part in classroom activities conducted in the target language
    • participate in everyday transactions and interactions
    • extract information and derive enjoyment from the mass media
    • consider as a realistic option the possibility of pursuing leisure activities, further study and/or career opportunities through the medium of the target language
  • To give learners a critical awareness of how meaning is organised and conveyed by the structures and vocabulary of the target language, and thus to contribute to their understanding of the workings of human language in general
  • To help learners develop strategies for effective language learning
  • To equip learners with a broad acquaintance with the cultural, social and political complexion of countries in which the target language is a normal medium of communication and thus to help raise their awareness of cultural, social and political diversity generally.


The three broad components of the syllabus are:

  • Basic Communicative Proficiency
  • Language Awareness
  • Cultural Awareness

An integrated approach to these components is recommended.

  • Basic Communicative Proficiency builds on the repertory of communicative targets established by the Junior Certificate programme. The communicative skills acquired in the junior cycle will be maintained and continually reactivated during the senior cycle.

The objectives specified in this section relate to:

  • practical challenges that might be faced by the learner when operating in the target language community for example
  • meeting and getting to know people and maintaining social relations
  • coping with travel and transport
  • buying goods and services
  • dealing with emergencies
  • activities and discussion that are likely to take place through the target language in the classroom for example
  • understanding, seeking and giving information about climate and weather
  • understanding, expressing feelings and emotions
  • engaging in discussion
  • passing on messages

Language Awareness

Aspects of the junior cycle syllabus referring to the development of learners' language awareness are further developed in the Leaving Certificate syllabus

The objectives specified in this section relate to:

  • raising the learner's awareness about the workings of the target language
  • raising awareness abut the learner's own encounter with the language
  • fostering effective use of the language
  • developing awareness of relevant aspects of the mother tongue and other languages known to the learner.

Cultural Awareness

Aspects of the junior cycle syllabus referring to the development of learners' cultural awareness are further developed in the Leaving Certificate syllabus. The objectives in this section should contribute to cultural and intercultural education generally The focus is on

  • the target language community and
  • its relationship to Ireland and the Irish way of life.

Issues referred to go beyond cultural divisions.

The objectives specified in this section relate to

  • learning in the target language about the present-day culture associated with the target language
  • reading modern literary texts in the target language
  • describing and discussing everyday life in the target language community
  • understanding, describing and discussing aspects of the relations between the target language community and Ireland
  • understanding, describing and discussing in general terms issues that transcend cultural divisions.

Spanish Leaving Cert

The Spanish syllabus aims to help students develop an appreciation for the Spanish language. The language skills learned during the Junior Cycle will be built on and developed at Senior Cycle.The aim of the syllabus is to improve basic communication proficiency and to make students aware of language and culture.

Spanish Exam

The Spanish exam is given at two levels at Leaving Cert - ordinary and higher. The exam for both levels takes the same format. Students have to complete an oral exam prior to the written paper, this is generally held in the two weeks after the Easter mid-term. Students should practice speaking Spanish as often as possible prior to the exam. The oral exam takes between 10-15 minutes  and the examiner examines students on their pronounciation ,vocabulary,structure  and communication skills.

The oral exam is worth 20% for ordinary level and 25 % for higher level.

The aural exam takes place the day of the exam and generally lasts for about 40 minutes, this tests students listening and comprehension skills. Students listen to different passages,dialogues etc.

The aural exam is worth 25% for ordinary level and 20 % for higher level.

The written paper tests students written, reading and comprehension abilities.

 Oral – 15 minutes (100 marks or 25%) 

•The oral exam usually takes place around Easter time.

•The general conversation happens first and lasts around 10 minutes. It is worth 70% of the oral exam.

•All the topics on the syllabus are covered in the book El español bien hablado. There is a summary of these questions below. 

•Never give sí/no answers and avoid one sentence answers as well. Keep talking; this is your chance to show off what you have learned and all the practice you have put in. At the same time never rote learn chunks of information, it will be very obvious and the examiner will interrupt you immediately. 

•Practice is the key for the oral exam. Begin practicing in September; do not leave it to a month or two before the exam, remember you will be extremely busy then with your mock exams.

•Marks are awarded for both understanding and speaking. Remember to include verbs in all your sentences and ensure you are using the correct tense. Listening carefully to the examiner will let you know which tense to use. Use a variety of tenses and structures that you have learned to show how well you can communicate in Spanish.

•The general conversation is followed by the role-play. You will be given one minute to go over one of the five role-plays chosen at random. 30% of the marks are awarded for this section.

•You should be extremely familiar with the role-plays and practice them frequently including the unseen question that is asked at the end. Again there are sample unseen questions below.

 Reading & Writing – 2 hours thirty minutes (220 marks or 55%)

•There is a list of useful Spanish websites at the end of this article to help you practice for the reading section, which will also come in useful for the writing section.

•The opinion piece often seems the most challenging but with plenty of practice and revision of key vocabulary and expressions it is a lot less daunting. See notes below.

•A good grasp of basic Spanish grammar, vocabulary and idioms are needed to score top marks in the written section

•You must try to keep to the approximate timings for each section or else you will find that you will run out of time!

Check spellings and remember you are in control – it’s your opportunity to shine and show the progress you’ve made since the Junior Cert – if you know something is incorrect do not use it!

 Listening – 40 minutes (80 marks or 20%) 

•The exam takes place approximately five minutes after the written exam ends and usually last about forty minutes. 

•When you are given the paper read the questions and highlight or underline the key words such as when, where, what etc. 

•Times, numbers, days, dates and months are always asked so make sure you listen carefully for these not to mention that you revise them thoroughly. 

•There are always seven listening sections where you write your answers in English. The sections include: un anuncio, un diálogo, descriptivo, el tiempo and una noticia. You will hear each one three times before you hear the next one. 

•The only section that comes up every year is the weather forecast, it is always section 6. Revise all weather vocabulary thoroughly and practice past exam papers on this section. 

•Look out for Give full details or Give two details. You will lose marks if you do not do so.  

•There is a list of useful Spanish websites at the end of this article to help you practice for the listening section.