SEC Marking Schemes Translated (Paper II, Poetry)

Author: Dan Keating/22 November 2017/Categories: Leaving Cert, English

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We discuss how the SEC marks the Poetry question

SEC Marking Schemes Translated (Paper II, Poetry)

Are you a leaving cert student looking to get the edge in your revision by studying the SEC (State Examinations Commission – i.e. the body that sets the Leaving and Junior Certificate exams annually) marking schemes themselves so you know exactly what the examiner is looking for? Already bogged down by the complex yet vague language they use?

Well, if your answer is ‘Yes’ to the above, this is the guide for you. Keep reading for our translation of one example of the SEC marking schemes used annually by Irish examiners to assess Ireland’s exam students.


Leaving Certificate English Higher Level 2016


Section III Poetry (70 marks)

Candidates must answer A – Unseen Poem and B – Prescribed Poetry


An UNSEEN POEM (20 marks)


Answer either Question 1 or Question 2.



‘Students should be able to… read poetry conscious of its specific mode of using language as an artistic medium.’ (DES English Syllabus, 4. 5. 1)


This is quite philosophical. You are encourage to see and read poetry as if it were written in its very own language, something that, we guess, arguably it is.





“Students at Higher Level will be required to study a representative selection from the work of eight poets: a representative selection would seek to reflect the range of a poet’s themes and interests and exhibit his/her characteristic style and viewpoint. Normally the study of at least six poems by each poet would be expected.” (DES English Syllabus, 6.3)

Note that, in the case of each poet, the candidates have the freedom of choice in relation to the poems studied.

Note that there is not a finite list of any ‘poet’s themes and interests’.

Related: SEC Marking Schemes (Paper II, The Comparative Study)

Note that, in responding to the question set on any given poet, the candidates must refer to poem/s they have studied but they are not required to refer to any specific poem/s, nor are they expected to discuss or refer to all the poems they have chosen to study.

And it’s advised that you don’t refer to all of the poems by the poet you’re writing about; you wouldn’t be able to discuss them in sufficient depth otherwise.

In each of the questions in Prescribed Poetry the underlying nature of the task is the invitation to the candidates to engage with the poems themselves.

The examiner wants you to discuss your chosen poems in depth, not the poet’s life.

1. “Dickinson’s use of an innovative style to explore intense experiences can both intrigue and confuse.”

Discuss this statement, supporting your answer with reference to the poetry of Emily Dickinson on your course.

Mark ex 50 by reference to the criteria for assessment using the following breakdown of marks.

P 15

C 15

L 15

M 5

50 marks A + B C D E-

 100% 50 – 43 35 28 20 19 – 0

 30% 15 – 13 11 9 6 5 – 0

 10% 5 4 3 2 1 – 0

Mark-Grade range: 43+=A, 35-42= B, 28-34=C, etc.

Candidates are free to agree and/or disagree wholly or in part with the statement, but they should engage with all aspects of the question. Answers should be supported by reference to = the poems of Emily Dickinson on the Leaving Certificate course.

Indicative material:

1.      use of an innovative style can intrigue and confuse – inventive approach to language, unusual imagery, dramatic personification, fragmented

2.      syntax, unconventional punctuation, contrasting rhythms, disconcerting use of humour, etc. intrigue and confuse

3.      to explore intense experiences that can intrigue and confuse – death, mental anguish, loneliness and depression: vivid/surreal moments of healing and joy, love and loss, profound reactions to the natural world, etc. to intrigue and confuse

4.      Etc.

Once again, this list isn’t exhaustive or exclusive.

 Get that H1 with


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