english paper 1 sample essay

Study Guide for Paper 1 and Paper 2

We understand navigating our website can be tough.  There are literally 125+ videos to choose from, and it’s easy to get lost.  No worries!  Our complete Paper 1 and Paper 2 Study Guide is streamlined and includes just the essentials. No more aimless clicking.  All you need is right here in one place!

english paper 1 sample essay

The Complete Study Guide for Paper 1 and Paper 2 is part of our IBDP English A Student Toolkit and includes:

  • 250+ pages of updated review material!
  • The best of our website videos and documents 
  • NEW content not available on our website
  • 20 highlighted papers with examiner notes 
  • Discussion videos justifying marks on sample papers
  • Full assortment of graphic organizers
  • Sentence stems and guidance for analysis

Paper 1 Exam Review Video Course

Looking for more detailed instruction?  Try our Paper 1 Exam Review course.  This complete course features two non-literary texts to prepare you for the next Lang/Lit Paper 1 assessment.  We’ll show you how to read closely, write a strong response, score your own work, and make a personal improvement plan.  This is for serious students…go for it!

english paper 1 sample essay

Part of our  IBDP English A Student Toolkit , this resource includes:

  • 8 synchronous lessons with downloadable documents
  • More than 100 minutes of NEW instructional video
  • 2 exam texts
  • 2 highlighted model responses with examiner comments and discussion video
  • Paper 1 checklist
  • Paper 1 scoring and reflection guide

FREE Study Sessions - May 2024 Exam Prep!

We know students are gearing up for exams, and we’re eager to help.  Join us for a FREE Study Session!

Each study session will last approximately 2 hours and review the key concepts needed for success on exam day.  Please visit the Revision Village Study Session page for timezones and register now!

Past Paper Sample Responses Now Available on RV!

We’ve joined forces with Revision Village to provide videos and sample responses for all past papers for Lang/Lit for the current course.  This includes both Paper 1 and Paper 2!  

This site is loaded…be sure to check it out!

New Videos for 2024

Political Cartoons – Reading

Political Cartoons – Writing

Poetry – Reading

Poetry – Writing

Advertising – Reading

Advertising – Writing

Prose Fiction – Reading

Prose Fiction – Writing

Comics – Reading

Paper 1 – Quick Tips and Tricks For All Students

We get it. Sometimes you don’t have the time to watch lots of videos and sort through lots of documents. If that describes you, then Andrew and Dave highly recommend checking out the videos below. They are short, sweet, and have loads of critical tips and tricks to help you succeed on Paper One.

Watch this before your next Paper 1 for important reminders.

Ten Tips for Paper One

Don't make these mistakes! Easy fixes that add points.

Ten Pitfalls to Avoid for Paper One

Nobody wants to sound like a robot. Add some voice, would you?

Adding Voice to Academic Writing

Start with a firm handshake and finish strong.

Sample Intro and Conclusion

Remember: Discuss HOW the author USES text to impact the READER.

Discussing Reader Effect

Criteria B demands evaluation of the effectiveness of authorial choices.

Adding Evaluation

Don't forget to read between the lines and discuss implications.

Discussing Implications

Watch this video right before your exam. Don't miss this checklist!

Paper 1 Checklist

Best of luck to May 2024. You've got this!

Exam Pep Talk

Language and Literature - Countdown to Paper 1!

Do you have a summative assessment or mock exam coming up?  Are you cramming content at the last minute?  If you are a Language and Literature student and this describes you, then you have come to the right place.  Each of the following TEN text types has CLOSE READING and SAMPLE RESPONSES WITH EXAMINER COMMENTS.  There are also documents with text type conventions and various other resources you need to achieve academic success.  Watch the videos and crush Paper 1.

TEXT TYPE 1: WEBSITE

Conventions

Stimulus Text

Student Response

TEXT TYPE 2: SPEECH

Conventions More Conventions Stimulus Text

TEXT TYPE 3: LETTER

TEXT TYPE 4: PRODUCT REVIEW

Conventions Stimulus Text

TEXT TYPE 5: COMIC

LINK: BoW Grant Snider

TEXT TYPE 6: FILM REVIEW

TEXT TYPE 7: BROCHURE

TEXT TYPE 8: PSA

TEXT TYPE 9: TRAVEL WRITING

TEXT TYPE 10: TABLOID COVER

TEXT TYPE 11: ADVERTISING

TEXT TYPE 12: INFOGRAPHICS

Political cartoons.

Political cartoons are self-contained commentaries on an important current event or key aspect of society, and they’re humorous.  Look out for colors, symbols, and other hidden ideas lurking in the subtext.  Remember: just like literary authors, cartoonists make a series of choices in their work intended to shape meaning.  Look carefully.  Detect nuances and implications.  Evaluate.  Ace Paper 1.

Learn how to deconstruct political cartoons.

Cartoon Terms

Cartoon of Cartoon Terms

Now that you’ve learned some basic terms, let’s apply them to more cartoons.

Apply your new cartoon skills to academic writing.

Cartoon and Sample Writing

Sentence Stems for Analysis

Put it all together and check out this 7.

Advertising

They’re everywhere on our phones and screens.  Advertisers work to cut through the clutter, grab our attention, and subtly influence us to make choices to buy, buy, and buy some more.  Accordingly, Dave and Andrew believe it’s essential to learn the tips and tricks companies use to manipulate our attention and persuade us to act.  Check out these videos.  Not only will you improve your Paper 1 performance, but you will also be a more skilled and savvy consumer who is attuned to the features our favorite brands employ in their ads.

Learn key terms and how to break down ads.

Features of Advertising

Mnemonic for Deconstructing Ads

There's more to learn! Add these skills to your toolbox.

15 Techniques of Advertising

More Tools of Persuasion

Put it all together and write an organized piece of academic writing.

The Model Paragraph

Opinion Articles

Whether they agree with what’s happening in our world or not, writers of opinion columns implement a series of choices in their work to maximize their persuasive effect.  A close cousin of speeches, these short and complete texts pack a punch.  Look carefully at how they’re structured, how they use rhetoric, and how they end strong.  Learn this stuff.  It’s Paper 1 gold.

What tools do these writers use? Add these terms to your list.

Persuasive Elements in Opinion Articles

Now that you’ve got some basic skills and some terms under your belt, let’s apply them to three different opinion articles and see what we can do.

Put it all together and see what it looks like.

Paper One Student Sample (original)

Paper One Student Sample (highlighted)

Literary Text Types

Regardless of the course you are enrolled in, we’re all studying literature.  How is prose fiction different than prose nonfiction?  What about drama and poetry?  Are there any special skills and tips to learn?  We’ve got the answers to these questions and more down below.  Consume these resources and become a better critical reader and writer.  

Prose Fiction

What’s prose fiction?  Think novels.  Think short stories.  Think “imaginative” writing.  It’s one of the cornerstones of the course for a reason, as it teaches us about the human condition and fosters empathy.  Learn how to be a close reader of prose fiction and let your knowledge shine when you write your Paper 1.

Literature can be tough. This acronym for deconstruction will help.

SCASNI acronym for annotating fiction

Learn more about how our SCASNI protocol can foster deeper analysis.

SCASNI applied to a Paper One Text

Put it all together and check out this full Paper 1 response.

Paper One – Full Student Response

Prose Non-Fiction

This course requires exploration of nonfiction texts as well.  So what exactly is this stuff anyway?  Think memoirs.  Think travelogues.  Think philosophy and other insightful texts that present factual information in an entertaining and literary way.  We love prose non-fiction, and so do our students.  These were our mock exams as well as former IB exams.  

Remember: Paper 1 is a reading test first. Watch this video.

Assessment Text (original) Assessment Text (annotated)

Yes, diaries show up on assessments. Familiarize yourself with this text type.

Assessment Text (original)

Assessment Text (annotated)

We love a good memoir. Another former IB Lit assessment here.

Check out what this writer does. They know what they're doing!

Student Response (original) Student Response (highlighted)

Another strong Lit response. You getting the hang of this yet?

Student Response (original)

Student Response (highlighted)

Our final mock exam in this Lit series. Another strong response.

Student Response (original and highlighted) Three Different Styles of Introductions

Sure, we understand poetry is abstract, but we promise it can be fun! It’s complex and requires deep thinking, but that’s where the magic lives.  Check out the videos and documents below.  You’ll find poetic terminology, close reading strategies, and sentence stems to guide your writing.  Watch.  Learn.  Master.  You’ve got this!  

Just like any text type, poetry has its own set of terms. Learn them!

Poetic Terms

Sample Poem with Annotations

Now you know some terms. A few more pieces and you're on your way.

How to Read a Poem

Acronym for Analyzing Poetry

Words to Describe Mood and Tone

Maya Angelou Poem For Analysis

Let's practice our new skills with a nature poem from Mary Oliver.

Mary Oliver Poem for Analysis

Mary Oliver Poem (fully annotated)

Check out this former IB Exam where we break down a great poem.

Document: Poem – “Tyre Shop” by Bob Orr

Check out the full student response and compare your work to the sample.

Document: “Tyre Shop” – Full Student Response

Andrew and Dave love drama.  But, you’ve got to remember to pay attention to the stage directions. What can you see and hear on stage?  What props do you notice?  How are costume and staging used for effect?  So many things to explore!  It’s important to learn the basics for now, but stay tuned for more content in the future.  Our students love drama, and so will you.  Immerse yourself in this text type and enjoy!

We'll add more content soon. For now, master these important conventions of drama.

Dramatic Terms Annotated Passage

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International Baccalaureate (IB)

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In this article, I cover IB English Literature SL/HL , IB English Language and Literature SL/HL , and IB Literature and Performance SL exams. These are the core language A options for English speakers.

The IB English exams are essay based tests that require you to either a) analyze texts provided on the exam, or b) write analytical essays based on the books, poems, and other literature you've studied throughout the semester. That means one of the best ways to prepare for the exam is checking out past essays to see what writers did right...and where they got off track.

But where can you find IB English past papers, free and paid? Don't worry: we'll help you find past papers to study with and talk about how you can get the most out of these past papers during your study time.

feature image source: Books Stack Book Store Of /Pixabay

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These past papers are free as a bird (or birds, in this case).

Where to Find Free IB English Past Papers: Official Resources

The IB has been cracking down on illegally uploaded past papers for the past few years, so a lot of previous sources are no longer available. IB has however, uploaded a few official past exams that you can view for free online. Below are links to the official IB English Past Papers provided by the IBO.

  • English A: literature higher level/standard level: papers 1 & 2
  • English A1 higher level: paper 2
  • English standard level A2: paper 2

Since these are officially distributed by the IBO, these are the papers and exams you should use as a starting point as you study for your test. You need REAL IB English past papers to get realistic practice.

Where to Find Free IB English Past Papers: Unofficial Resources

Like we mentioned earlier, the IBO has been cracking down on unofficial English HL/SL papers online. However, there are still a few places where you can find past papers that have been uploaded by other users. 

One big caveat: these resources are unvetted, which means the quality of the papers is all over the place. Only use these resources after you've worked with—and studied!—the official papers above . And of course:  do not plagiarize  the ideas in any of the unofficial papers you find! 

IBResources.org 

This student-led initiative allows users to contribute past papers and other study resources to a free repository online. There are quite a few free English A SL/HL papers available on the site. You'll have to navigate a kind of clunky file interface to find them, but once you do, you'll have many free, unofficial papers to peruse. 

Reddit.com's IBO Subreddit

By searching the subreddit, you'll be able to find user-uploaded paper examples for the English IB exam . You'll have to sift through individual threads, but with some elbow grease, you'll find more free and unofficial English A SL/HL papers here. 

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These papers aren't free...but if you're looking for high quality study resources beyond the official IBO ones above, these fit the bill.

Where to Find Paid IB English Past Papers

The only safe and reliable place to buy IB English past papers is from the IBO at the Follet IB Store . There are tons of scams floating around, so we don't recommend you purchase past IB English papers from anywhere else!

The IBO sells past IB English Literature SL papers, IB English Literature HL papers, IB English Language and Literature SL papers, IB English Language and Literature HL papers, and IB Literature and Performance SL papers from 2013 onward.

The site is somewhat hard to navigate, but using the search bar several times got me where I wanted to be eventually.

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You're already giving maximum effort. Now maximize your outcomes! 

How to Get the Most of Each Past Paper

One complete test will take you 3 hours for SL or 4 hours for HL . If you are going to invest that much time, you need to be maximizing your learning. To do so, follow these rules.

Rule 1: Build up Your Endurance

The IBO used to split the English exam up over two days, so you would take one essay each day. As of 2021 that's no longer the case, meaning you'll have to take the full exam in one sitting. 

Here's what that means for you: you'll be doing  lots  of analyzing, writing, and thinking on test day. That can be exhausting! To make sure you have the energy you'll need to succeed, start building up your mental endurance now. 

The best way to do that is to have real-time practice sessions . On a weekend, set aside the three to four hours you'll have on test day, then write sample essays based on the writing prompts from past papers.  This will help you get a sense for what test day will be like, and you'll be able to optimize your writing process so you don't run out of time. 

Rule 2: Time Yourself

You need to get used to the timing. Here is the time allowed:

English Literature SL

  • Paper 1 (Guided Textual Analysis)—1 hour 15 minutes
  • Paper 2 (Comparative Essay)—1 hour 45 minutes

English Literature HL

  • Paper 1 (Guided Textual Analysis)—2 hours 15 minutes
  • Students will also submit a pre-written essay that's 1200 to 1500 words long. 

English Language and Literature SL

English language and literature hl, literature and performance sl.

  • Paper 1 (Issues in Dramatizing a Novel)—1 hour 30 minutes
  • Paper 2 (Comparative Essay)—1 hour 30 minutes
  • Students will also submit an essay that critically analyzes a work and said student's performance of that work

Make sure you stick to this exact timing. Don't give yourself any extra time. Otherwise, you will not be prepared for the pacing of the actual test.

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Research to Action / Flickr, used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Rule 3: Review With the Mark Scheme

After completing your full test, review your answers. You must review to learn from your errors and not make them on the actual test.  And that means going over your essays with a critical eye. 

Take an hour to review. While this may seem like you are wasting time that you could be spending on other practice, it's not. You need to emphasize the quality of your practice and no the quantity of practice. I'd rather you take two practice tests with good review than eight tests with no review.

You may also consider giving your practice essays to your English teacher or other qualified mentor to review. They can give you additional insights that will help you improve your analytical and writing skills before test day! 

What's Next?

Want more tips for IB English? Then check out our complete IB English study guide for all the info you need.

Impatient to get your IB scores? Learn when IB results and scores come out.

Did you know that you can take some IB classes online? Check out our complete guide to online IB courses , including which classes you can take online and if you can get an online IB diploma.

Want to build the best possible college application?   We can help.   PrepScholar Admissions combines world-class admissions counselors with our data-driven, proprietary admissions strategies. We've guided thousands of students to get into their top choice schools, from state colleges to the Ivy League. We know what kinds of students colleges want to admit and are driven to get you admitted to your dream schools. Learn more about PrepScholar Admissions to maximize your chance of getting in:

As an SAT/ACT tutor, Dora has guided many students to test prep success. She loves watching students succeed and is committed to helping you get there. Dora received a full-tuition merit based scholarship to University of Southern California. She graduated magna cum laude and scored in the 99th percentile on the ACT. She is also passionate about acting, writing, and photography.

Ask a Question Below

Have any questions about this article or other topics? Ask below and we'll reply!

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DP Language A Language and Literature

IB DP Language A Language and Literature – Sample Paper 1 exam (2021 curriculum)

The following PDF is a paper 1 sample exam for IB DP Language A Language and Literature . Make sure you review the Paper 1 requirements and criteria. You can use a Paper 1 sample in the following ways:

  • Becoming familiar with a variety of text types including ones you have not seen before
  • Becoming familiar with a range of texts within a text type (e.g. looking at different kinds of opinion-editorials, reports, etc.)
  • Practicing annotating Paper 1 texts
  • Evaluating guiding questions
  • Brainstorming / organizing a Paper 1 response
  • Writing a Paper 1 essay
  • Practicing a real-life Paper 1 scenario under exam-like conditions

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Programmes & Qualifications

Cambridge igcse english - first language (0500).

  • Past papers, examiner reports and specimen papers

You can download one or more papers for a previous session. Please note that these papers may not reflect the content of the current syllabus.

Unlock more content

This is only a selection of our papers. Registered Cambridge International Schools can access the full catalogue of teaching and learning materials including papers from 2018 through our School Support Hub .

Past papers

  • -->June 2022 Mark Scheme Paper 11 (PDF, 244KB)
  • -->June 2022 Insert Paper 11 (PDF, 1MB)
  • -->June 2022 Mark Scheme Paper 21 (PDF, 219KB)
  • -->June 2022 Insert Paper 21 (PDF, 903KB)

Examiner reports

  • -->June 2022 Examiner Report (PDF, 6MB)

Specimen papers

  • -->2020 Specimen Paper 1 Mark Scheme (PDF, 187KB)
  • -->2020 Specimen Paper 1 Insert (PDF, 155KB)
  • -->2020 Specimen Paper 2 Mark Scheme (PDF, 981KB)
  • -->2020 Specimen Paper 2 Insert (PDF, 143KB)
  • -->2024 Specimen Paper 1 Markscheme (PDF, 1MB)

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The Knowledge Loft - Free notes for General Paper (GP) tuition

Category - Paper 1 Essay

We will be uploading sample GP essays that cover a range of popular GP topics and address essay questions taken from past exam papers. More than just Content, we hope you pick up Language Skills and Essay Organization Skills through these essays. If you’d like to have more in-depth analyses of the essays and improve your Essay Writing for Paper 1, do sign up for our GP tuition lessons  here  or whatsapp us at 98-333-156 !

english paper 1 sample essay

GP Essay #66: ‘The adoption of online trade has made traditional businesses irrelevant in this digital age.’ How far is this true of your society?

 “Out with the old, in with the new” is a common catchphrase that proponents of technological change proudly extol. Underlying this confident proclamation is the view that new is invariably better and the retail industry is one...

english paper 1 sample essay

GP Essay #65: ‘What an individual eats or drinks should not be...

 Hippocrates, the father of medicine, once famously said “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be...

english paper 1 sample essay

GP Essay #64: Do you agree that the biggest challenge that...

“In this age, in this country, public sentiment is everything. With it, nothing can fail; against...

english paper 1 sample essay

GP Essay #63: To what extent should disadvantaged groups be...

 “There is nothing more unequal than the equal treatment of unequal people.” Thomas Jefferson’s...

english paper 1 sample essay

GP Essay #62: To what extent is charitable giving desirable?

When the Russian-Ukraine conflict broke out, many around the world were looking for ways to provide...

english paper 1 sample essay

GP Essay #61: ‘Advertising is largely about persuading people to...

 “Just Do It”. Nike’s iconic slogan is certainly one of the most recognisable advertising phrases...

english paper 1 sample essay

2022 GCE A-Levels General Paper (GP) Paper 1 Essay Questions

Our JC2 students have just completed their GP exams for this year, and here are the Essay Questions...

english paper 1 sample essay

GP Essay #60: Is competition essential for effective education...

“Intelligence plus character- that is the true goal of education.” This quote by Martin Luther King...

english paper 1 sample essay

GP Essay #59: Discuss the effectiveness of social media activism.

“Can a click make a difference in the world? By itself, probably not, but when combined with tens...

english paper 1 sample essay

GP Essay #58: ‘If you want to be happy, be.’ Does happiness seem...

‘’If you want to be happy, be.” This statement provides us with an attractive notion which many...

Fisher Library Homepage

IB Language and Literature: Excellent Exemplars

  • IB Language and Literature General Resources & Information
  • Books in the library
  • State Library
  • National Library
  • Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
  • The World's Wife
  • Chronicle of a Death Foretold
  • A Doll's House

Excellent Exemplars

  • The Social Dilemma
  • Seamus Heaney
  • Home This link opens in a new window

english paper 1 sample essay

Exemplar Podcasts

english paper 1 sample essay

  • Podcast Exemplar 1 Stephanie Cho

Exemplar PDFs

english paper 1 sample essay

  • Exemplar Mock HL Essay 1 Demonstrating the Ability & Disruptive Power of Photography Giles Peress Challenges the Underlying Causes of Global Complacency & Ignorance Through the Use of Photographic Journalism
  • Exemplar Mock HL Essay 2 How Does the Amanda Knox Documentary Highlight the Way in Which the Media Manipulates Legal Cases?
  • Exemplar Mock HL Essay 3 In What Way Does Judith Wright Challenge Contemporary Attitudes Towards the Australian Landscape?
  • Exemplar Paper 1 response to Alex Perry Extract From Alex Perry's 'Oscar Pistorius & South Africa's Culture of Violence' - How Does Perry Alert Readers To The Problems in south Africa?
  • Exemplar Paper 1 Response to Monbiot
  • << Previous: A Doll's House
  • Next: The Social Dilemma >>
  • Last Updated: Feb 20, 2024 12:44 PM
  • URL: https://geelong.libguides.com/ibenglish

Leaving Cert Notes and Sample Answers

The Leaving Cert personal essay is a well loved and virtually permanent feature of Paper 1 (here is some evidence ).

It belongs in the 100 marks Composition section, the single biggest chunk of the English exam.

What is the personal essay?

It calls for a confessional, introspective tone.

Do you like the sound of these questions:

  • Remember those times when you did not say what you really thought or felt. Why didn’t you? How do you feel about it now?
  • How would you feel about a terrible event of your past if it happened today?
  • What did you learn about building family relationships based on the experience of your parents and grandparents?

You get the message – this is serious life stuff! The Leaving Cert personal essay may be one of the only times you truly get to be yourself in a standardised exam.

The marking scheme allows us to interpret the term “personal essay”’ liberally, potentially even entirely or partly as personal (first person) narratives.

How to do well in the personal essay?

Reading such an essay, you should get the feeling that you are learning someone’s deeper thoughts and reflections. It shouldn’t feel like an opinion piece in a newspaper.

Even though a certain stream of consciousness quality is usually acceptable with these essays, remember that clarity (the P of PCLM) always gets priority .

By reading the correct and H1 sample essays below, you will learn how much to write, what kind of themes come up again and again and how you may be able to differentiate yourself from the crowd.

‘To live is the rarest thing in the world, most people just exist.’ – Oscar Wilde

Read more about the article Personal essay: pleasures particular to you for Leaving Cert English #625Lab

Personal essay: pleasures particular to you for Leaving Cert English #625Lab

  • Post author: Martina
  • Post published: April 18, 2019
  • Post category: #625Lab / English / PCLM / Personal essay

Write a personal essay on what you perceive to be the pleasures particular to you. #625Lab. Corrected by an experienced examiner, graded as 83/100 with feedback on how to improve…

Personal essay: a time in your life in which you felt you were treated unfairly for Leaving Cert English #625Lab

  • Post published: March 22, 2019

Write a personal essay on a time in your life in which you felt you were treated unfairly. #625Lab. Corrected by an experienced examiner, graded as 79/100 with feedback on…

Personal essay: moments of insight and revelation for Leaving Cert English #625Lab (Divorce)

  • Post published: September 23, 2018
  • Post category: #625Lab / English / Personal essay

Write a personal essay in which you reflect on moments of insight and revelation you have experienced. (2017) #625Lab. Theme: divorce. Some parts of this essay are outstanding, but it…

Personal Essay: Uncertain about what you want for Leaving Cert English #625Lab

  • Post published: April 23, 2018

Write a personal essay in which you reflect on an occasion in your life when you felt uncertain about what you wanted. #625Lab. Wonderfully reflective, revelatory personal essay dealing with loss.…

Personal essay about significant endings for Leaving Cert English #625Lab

  • Post published: April 7, 2018

Write a personal essay about your response to an ending, or endings, in your life that you consider significant. (100 marks)   Stellar stuff via #625Lab. If you want to send…

Personal Essay: Moments of Insight and Revelation for Leaving Cert English #625Lab

  • Post published: February 25, 2018

Write a personal essay in which you reflect on moments of insight and revelation you have experienced (2017). This is a good attempt at a personal essay showing a lot…

Write a personal essay about one or more moments of uncertainty you have experienced #625Lab

  • Post published: February 15, 2018

This essay below is a beautiful exemplar of the genre of personal essay, full of cathartic confessions, teenage going on middle-aged angst and some incredibly deep insights and lessons learnt.…

Personal Essay: Experience of Dramatic Arts for Leaving Cert English #625Lab

  • Post published: November 9, 2017

Write a personal essay about your experience (as a performer and/or audience member) of the dramatic arts; plays, musicals, concerts, comedy etc. (2010) You may also like: Complete Guide to…

Leaving Cert English Personal Essay: Irishness #625Lab

  • Post published: October 1, 2017
  • Post category: #625Lab / English / Personal essay / Too long

“The shoes of Irishness fit me well.” Write a personal essay in which you explore your sense of what it means to be Irish. (2001) This is a good essay…

Leaving Cert English Personal Essay: Pretence and Unvarnished Truth #625Lab

  • Post published: September 18, 2017

“Let’s stop all this pretence and tell each other the unvarnished truth for a change.”   Write a personal essay in response to this statement. (2006) This is an essay…

Leaving Cert English Personal Essay: Useless Clutter #625Lab

  • Post published: September 10, 2017

The village shops in Sara Baume’s novel contain a “surplus of useless clutter”.  Write a personal essay in which you reflect on the “useless clutter” that is a feature of…

Write a personal essay on the tension you find between the everyday treadmill and the gilded promises of life

  • Post published: June 5, 2017
  • Post category: English / Personal essay

Write a personal essay on the tension you find between the everyday treadmill and the gilded promises of life. (2013) Themes: social norms, choice, philosophy, religion ‘To live is the…

Leaving Cert English Personal Essay: one or more moments of uncertainty you have experienced.

  • Post published: June 4, 2017

Write a personal essay about one or more moments of uncertainty you have experienced. Themes: social disadvantage, divorce, homelessness Note: this is a personal essay, but it has a plot…

Write a personal essay in which you describe a place that you consider beautiful

  • Post published: February 1, 2017

Themes: religion, family Please note that we are apolitical. We just like good essays. This came up on the 2008 paper. This essay is on the short side of the…

Personal Essay: Not all problems are physical

  • Post published: October 23, 2016

'Not all problems are physical'. Write a personal essay about your response to this statement in light of experiences your life that you consider significant. Themes: mental health, anxiety ‘It is…

Personal Essay: Moments of Uncertainty

  • Post published: September 26, 2016

  Write a personal essay about one or more moments of uncertainty you have experienced.  Themes: sexuality, social conflict Candidates may adopt a variety of approaches (serious, humorous, anecdotal, discursive,…

How To Improve Your Grade If Your Teacher Isn’t Giving You Feedback

  • Post published: November 3, 2014
  • Post category: Durcan / English / Hamlet / Personal essay / Short Story / T.S. Eliot / Video

- How to write a strong introduction- How to craft impactful sentences- Common grammar, syntax and style problems- How to stay relevant to the question- Examples from Hamlet, Personal Essays,…

Exam guide, practice papers, past paper solutions.

How to Write a Bullet-proof Thesis for Paper 1

Learn the two main ingredients that make or break a thesis statement for IB English Paper 1.

If you have deconstructed a text successfully, as explained step-by-step in the previous lesson, you will now have three things:

  • several main ideas
  • annotations of techniques
  • the writer's overall purpose

Now we need to summarise these three things in a single sentence called the thesis. At this point, we still haven't started writing the essay yet. We are still in the planning phase. By doing all of this planning, the writing process will be much easier.

  • What is a thesis?

The thesis is a single sentence in the introduction of the essay that states how the writer achieves his overall purpose. (Also make sure your thesis answers the guiding question and uses the same keywords to show the examiner you're answering the guiding question.)

This sentence—this thesis—is also the main argument that you are trying to prove in your essay. The examiner can usually judge the strength of your analytical skills just from your thesis alone, so it needs to be well-written.

  • How to write a strong thesis

A good thesis must tick two boxes:

  • clear and concise
  • conveys writer's intention

Be clear and concise

Students often write a long, winding sentence for their thesis. This is bad because the marker cannot easily distinguish your thesis from the rest of your introduction. This is particularly bad when you realise that a marker spends only a couple of minutes reading through each essay (ain't nobody got time for dat).

As such, you should always write a clear and concise thesis that is no longer than ~30 words.

“In the story, the author looks at how the main character is sad and how he always fights with his parents when he returns home from school.” (27 words)

This is a bad thesis:

  • The language isn't clear. In particular, the verb “looks” is too vague and informal. The word “how” is also informal.
  • The sentence isn't concise. The thesis should focus only on the main ideas: sadness and familial conflict. The contextual detail of “coming home from school” is distracting. Avoid excess information in the thesis.

A better thesis looks like this:

“In the prose extract, the author conveys the sadness of the protagonist through the portrayal of his frequent conflict with his parents.” (21 words)
  • The language is clearer and more sophisticated. Notice how instead of writing “In the story”, we can write “In the prose extract”.
  • The sentence is also more concise. The language in “conveys” is much better than “looks at”.

Another great thesis might look like this:

“In the prose extract, the author characterises the protagonist as a sad teenager who suffers frequent conflict with his parents.”
  • Here, the thesis is explicit about the literary focus of the essay by including the term “characterization.”
  • In the poem/prose extract/article, (author X) explores/ criticizes/ ridicules/ portrays/ highlights/ illustrates the (subject) in order to (purpose).

In general, use this formula for clear and concise thesiss.

In the poem / play / prose extract / article ( genre ), the writer explores / criticises / ridicules/ portrays / highlights / illustrates ( some verb ) _________ ( idea, effect, or meaning ).

Our thesis is now clear and concise, but there's one problem. It feels too simplistic. There's no depth. The reason is because we're missing something essential.

Sprinkle the writer's purpose

At the moment, our thesis is simply saying: “In the text, the writer does this.” But that's only half the picture. We need to add the writer's purpose. The thesis needs to say:

“The writer does this, this and that in order to achieve a purpose.”

By explaining not just what  the writer does but also why  the writer does it, the thesis immediately becomes deeper and more complete.

For example:

“In the prose extract, the author characterises the protagonist as a sad teenager who experiences frequent conflict with his parents in order to highlight the harsh estrangement of adolescence .”

where the bolded part of the thesis expresses the intention (why) behind the writer's use of characterisation (what).

The thesis sounds even better if we move the author's intention to the beginning of the sentence:

“ In order to highlight the harsh estrangement of adolescence , the author characterizes the protagonist as a sad teenager who suffers frequent conflict with his parents.”

Or, we can be a little less explicit about the purpose by expressing it as a theme: .

“In the prose extract, the author explores the distressed emotional landscape of adolescence through the portrayal of the teenage protagonist's constant melancholy and familial conflict.”
  • Here the writer's message is expressed instead as a central theme: the distressed emotional landscape of adolescence.

We now have a new template for writing strong thesiss that have both clarity and depth.

In the poem / play / prose extract / article ( some genre ), the writer explores / criticises / ridicules/ portrays / highlights / illustrates ( some verb ) _________ ( idea, effect, or meaning ) in order to __________ ( some purpose ).

After you get used to using this template, it will start to feel formulaic and boring. At that stage, feel free to do away with the training wheels and express your thesis however you like, as long as it is clear, concise and conveys the writer's intention.

  • Improving a real thesis by a real student
Student's version “Banville utilises situational irony created by the characterisation of the parents, and the situational irony of the narrator's depressing holiday to express a bittersweet tone by the narrator.” ( 28 words )

One of my lovely students (in real life) wrote this thesis for a Higher Level Paper 1 essay. We are going to identify what's wrong with it, and then we will improve on it.

  • First, the thesis is not concise . Situational irony is mentioned too many times, and the overall idea of the narrator's depressing memories can be conveyed more succinctly.
  • Second, there's an issue with the purpose . The student has made the bittersweet tone the writer's core purpose. But tone is never the purpose. Ever. Tone is a technique used as a means, a vehicle, a way to achieve a purpose. So the purpose needs to change.
Fixed version “Banville ironically constructs the narrator's depressing memories of her childhood holidays in order to portray the fractured relationships within her family.” (21 words)
  • This version is clearer and more concise. It's seven words shorter. The two uses of situational irony have been replaced by just one use of “ironically”. The reason for doing so is because situational irony is distracting detail that is irrelevant in the thesis but can be mentioned later in the introduction or in the points of the essay.
  • Also, the purpose is now an actual purpose. The message of the story was really about the horrible relationship between the narrator and her parents, and this purpose is now adequately summarised in the phrase, “fractured relationships within her family.” Notice how an accurate understanding of the writer's purpose is starting to become important just in the introduction; make sure you've deconstructed a text well before you even attempt to write the thesis, because otherwise your interpretation will be wrong and your Knowledge and Understanding Criterion will go down.
  • Also, I removed the reference to tone from the thesis. The reason why tone is removed entirely from the thesis is because, like situational irony, tone is a distracting detail that is not important at the Big Picture level and should instead be mentioned later in the introduction and body paragraphs.
  • Depth can kill

A common question that students ask me is this, and you might have wondered about it many times before. The question is this: “Does the thesis (or thesis, or argument) have to be  really deep ?”

In other words, does the writer's purpose need to be highly philosophical message about things like, “What is the meaning of life?”

The answer is a definite “No.” Don't try to make up some deep message that doesn't exist in the text. It might sound impressive, but it won't help you at all. In your thesis, simply write down what the writer's purpose is, and as accurately as you can. If you have genuinely interpreted the writer's purpose to be a deep message, like “the meaning of life”, then great. But if the writer's purpose is clearly just characterisation, then simply use that as the purpose and don't make up some corny, cheesy message that doesn't even represent the text at all.

Accuracy is what you should be worrying about, and you should not be worrying about whether the purpose in your thesis sounds intellectual or philosophical.

English - Higher

This subject will test your creativity and your comprehension of poets, plays and fiction.

In the exam, it is really important to work to the clock and get your timings correct so that you get all questions finished. Pay attention to your vocabulary, grammar, punctuation and handwriting as this all will play a part in how the examiner marks your exam. Finally, don’t forget to study Paper 1 – there is just as much potential for practice and preparation as the studied material on Paper 2.

Higher Level Course Content

  • 1 Composition (Personal Writing)
  • 1 Reading Comprehension
  • Comparative - Cultural Context (2024)
  • Comparative - Literary genre (2023/24)
  • Comparative - Theme or Issue (2023/24)
  • Comparative - Vision & Viewpoint (2023)
  • Hamlet (2024)
  • Macbeth (2023)
  • Othello (2022)
  • Poetry - Bishop (2023)
  • Poetry - Dickinson (2023)
  • Poetry - Donne (2023)
  • Poetry - Heaney (2024)
  • Poetry - Hopkins (2024)
  • Poetry - Kavanagh (2023)
  • Poetry - Mahon (2023)
  • Poetry - Meehan (2023/24)
  • Poetry - Ni Chuilleanain (2024)
  • Poetry - Plath (2024)
  • Poetry - Rich (2023)
  • Poetry - Yeats (2023)
  • Text - A Doll's House
  • Text - All the Light We Cannot See
  • Text - Frankenstein (2023)
  • Text - Pride & Prejudice
  • Text - Regeneration
  • Text - The CrucibleText - The Handmaid's Tale
  • Text - The Picture of Dorian Gray (2023)
  • Text - Wuthering Heights
  • Text- Days Without End
  • Unseen Poetry

Ordinary Level Course Content:

  • Comparative - Hero, Villain
  • Comparative - Relationships
  • Comparative - Social Setting
  • Comparative - Theme
  • Poetry - Brooks (2023)
  • Poetry - Bryce (2023)
  • Poetry - Dickinson (2022)
  • Poetry - Donne
  • Poetry - Duffy (2022/23)
  • Poetry - Eliot
  • Poetry - France (2022/23)
  • Poetry - Hughes (2024)
  • Poetry - Joseph (2023)
  • Poetry - Meehan (2022/23)
  • Poetry - Morrissey (2023)
  • Poetry - Muldoon (2023)
  • Poetry - Ni Chuilleanain
  • Poetry - Rich (2022/23)
  • Poetry - Shakespeare (2023)
  • Poetry - Shelley (2023)
  • Poetry - Williams (2024)
  • Poetry - Yeats (2023/24)
  • Text - All My Sons
  • Text - All the Light We Cannot See (2021)
  • Text - Frankenstein
  • Text - Never Let me Go
  • Text - Philadelphia, Here I Come!
  • Text - Room
  • Text - The Cove (2023)
  • Text - The Crucible
  • Text - The Handmaid's Tale (2021)
  • Text - The Lauras
  • Text - The Picture of Dorian Gray
  • Text- A Raisin in the Sun (2023)

The English exam is very understandable and approachable. The exam is designed to let you express what you do know rather than catch you out on things you don't know. The exam consists of two papers, for both Higher and Ordinary levels. 

Higher and Ordinary Level - 170 mins (200 marks)

Three texts (one of which is visual) are presented to you on a general theme.  Two sets of questions, an A and a B follow each text. You must answer a Question A on one text and a Question B on a different text.    (100 marks)

Section II 

Composing - you must write an extended composition in a specific genre of language from a list of seven choices (story, talk, debate, article, essay). (100 marks)

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)

    (i)  Unseen poem   (20 marks) 

    (ii)  Prescribed poetry  (50 marks)

    (i)  Unseen poem   (20 marks)

    (ii)  Four poems will be printed on the exam paper and you must answer questions on one of the four.   (50 marks)

Future Careers with Leaving Certificate English

A pass in English is a requirement for entry into many CAO courses. Students who like English can follow a wide variety of career paths including; Advertising, Writing, Arts, Business, Management, Journalism, Politics, and Entertainment.

Download the  Leaving Cert English Syllabus

Download the Prescribed texts for the 2022 Examination

Download the Prescribed texts for the 2023 Examination

Download the Leaving Cert  English Guidelines for Teachers

Download the Leaving Cert English Chief Examiner's Report  (2013) 

Past Papers

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english paper 1 sample essay

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Paper 1 Marked Answers

Looking at examples of marked answers is a great way to help you understand the skills you need to show for each question and the level of detail you need to include. on each answer you'll see annotations from the examiner in the margin. these show where the student has included a skill and at what level. at the end you'll see the final mark., these are example answers from the june 2019 paper 1. .

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Leaving Cert English paper 1: ‘Accessible’ paper with universal themes

Paul murray’s the bee sting appears in exam which gave students lots of room to expand in their answers.

english paper 1 sample essay

Leaving cert students (from left) Sarah Daly, Kelsey Scully and Sophie Williams after English paper one at Trinity Comprehensive School, Ballymun, Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

The first of this year’s Leaving Cert exams was accessible and included universal themes, with English paper one students guided through the paper by specific prompts, teachers have said.

Kate Barry, a teacher at Loreto Secondary School in Cork, said the higher level paper gave students a lot of direction, compared to previous years.

“The question A comprehensions provided direction around marks and the amount of points they should give for each question,” said Barry, a subject representative with the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI).

Clodagh Havel, an English teacher at the Institute of Education, said some of these prompts were more specific than expected, but that students would have lots of room to explore and expand in their answers.

‘Students are happy and relieved’: Reaction to day two of Junior Cycle and Leaving Cert exams

‘Students are happy and relieved’: Reaction to day two of Junior Cycle and Leaving Cert exams

Active learning now the focus for the workplace

Active learning now the focus for the workplace

Most students leave exam happy after day one of Leaving and Junior Cert exams

Most students leave exam happy after day one of Leaving and Junior Cert exams

In almost 40 years of teaching, I have yet to find a teacher who prepares Leaving Cert students by ‘rote learning’

In almost 40 years of teaching, I have yet to find a teacher who prepares Leaving Cert students by ‘rote learning’

The paper focused on the theme of connections, and, overall, students would have been very satisfied with its accessibility, said Laura Daly, a teacher at St Benildus College in Dublin and subject expert with Studyclix.

This year’s paper gave students a choice of three comprehension texts.

They included an article by Irish Times journalist Fintan O’Toole, published in January 2023, on how an appreciation of the natural world can also help build connections between people; an extract from The Bee Sting, the Booker Prize nominated novel by Irish author Paul Murray; and an article from Financial Times journalist Monisha Rajesh on how travel can help us to build connections.

“English paper one sets the mood for the exams,” Ms Havel said. “The paper’s theme ‘connections’ was universal enough to allow students to draw in a wide variety of experiences while also sufficiently rooted in their world to give them something that they could really get their teeth into.”

“Each text had something in which students would likely be able to see themselves. “Tensions between teenagers and parents will be shared by all, even if the specific topic of tattoos wasn’t.

“Some students may even have been familiar with Text 2: The Bee Sting, which was fresh off the presses and adorned every bookstore window.

“Yet even for those who never experienced the text directly will find something universal and relatable: the dream of far away places. Young people, so connected with the wider world and on the cusp of a new phase of their lives will find something resonant here.”

Ms Daly, however, said that some of the part B questions were underwhelming.

“This was due to their lack of creativity,” she said. “Students had the option of composing a series of diary entries, a style reminiscent of more traditional examinations, and seen commonly at Junior Cycle level. Additionally, the paper included a dialogue and a proposal for a Tidy Towns committee.

“Notably absent were contemporary formats like blogs or podcasts, which could have provided a modern touch. Nevertheless, the absence of novel or excessively demanding tasks in this section would likely have been met with approval by the students.”

As for the essay questions, Ms Barry said some of the students may have been thrown by a question asking them to write a dialogue, but that they had other choices.

Ms Daly, meanwhile, said that the compositions revisited themes from previous papers, which would have advantaged those who used past papers.

On the ordinary level paper, Ms Daly said that it focused on the theme of challenges and was well within student capabilities.

“It offered students a variety of style of reading comprehensions to appeal a variety of learners,” she said.

“Text three in particular, which had minimal writing and utilised images as well, would have appealed to many.”

Ms Barry welcomed the inclusion of an extract from How to Build a Boat, the Booker-prize longlisted novel by Irish author Elaine Feeney.

“There was also a question in the essays asking the candidates to write a magazine article about the challenges of adapting to a new country, and that would have been welcome as many who are new to Ireland would have been able to write from personal experience,” Ms Barry said.

Try this one at home:

English, paper one, higher level

In [The Bee Sting, by Paul Murray, the character] Cass describes people who, “would stare at her a moment as if trying to solve a puzzle.” Write a personal essay in which you reflect on some of the aspects of life you find puzzling.

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    How to write a strong thesis. A good thesis must tick two boxes: clear and concise. conveys writer's intention. Step 1. Be clear and concise. Students often write a long, winding sentence for their thesis. This is bad because the marker cannot easily distinguish your thesis from the rest of your introduction.

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  21. Paper 1 Marked Answers

    Paper 1 Marked Answers. Looking at examples of marked answers is a great way to help you understand the skills you need to show for each question and the level of detail you need to include. On each answer you'll see annotations from the examiner in the margin. These show where the student has included a skill and at what level.

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  25. Leaving Cert English paper 1: 'Accessible' paper with universal themes

    Wed Jun 5 2024 - 16:23. The first of this year's Leaving Cert exams was accessible and included universal themes, with English paper one students guided through the paper by specific prompts ...