The Leaving Certificate English syllabus aims to provide opportunities for the development of the higher-order thinking skills of analysis, inference, synthesis and evaluation. Also it is intended to develop students’ knowledge and level of control of the more formal aspects of language, e.g. register, paragraphs, syntax, punctuation and spelling. The study of thinking skills and language are emphasised throughout. Itemised lists of skills related to specific categories of language use are presented as the expected learning outcomes. Students will be expected to see every language product whether it be a memo or a poem, a political speech or a play, as a text which needs to be studied and its specific genre understood.


Furthermore, developing students’ interest in literature remains central to the syllabus. Building on the Junior Certificate syllabus, the Leaving Certificate syllabus introduces the comparative study of texts and the study of film.


The course is organised around two general domains:

(i) Comprehension

(ii) Composition

Within these two domains students are actively and creatively engaged in using language. The concept of shaping is central to these domains. Students in their comprehension tasks come to understand how language shapes experience through style, genre, and context. In composing tasks, students are afforded the opportunity of using language to shape and order experience for themselves. The integration of the two domains in the teaching of the syllabus is a vital necessity. The principle of integrating the teaching of language and literature, already central to the Junior Certificate syllabus, is of great significance here.


The aims of this syllabus, as per department of Education, are to develop in students:

● A mature and critical literacy to prepare them for the responsibilities and challenges of adult life in all contexts;

● A respect and appreciation for language used accurately and appropriately and a competence in a wide range of language skills both oral and written.

● An awareness of the value of literature in its diverse forms for enriching their perceptions, for enhancing their sense of cultural identity, and for creating experiences of aesthetic pleasure;


The Leaving Certificate course is offered at two levels; Ordinary and Higher Level.

Different levels of attainment relative to the skills and concepts outlined will be expected from students doing the Higher and Ordinary Level courses. At both levels a competence in the accurate and appropriate use of language will be a fundamental requirement. All students will be expected to be assiduous in their attention to paragraphing, syntax, spelling and punctuation.

Higher Level, as minimum requirement students should demonstrate the ability to:

● Comprehend a range of challenging texts. This means analysing in depth, inferring at sophisticated levels, speculating and questioning assumptions

● Evaluate and critically respond to texts

● identify and analyze the form, structure and style of a text and show an understanding of how all these elements constitute its genre

● Compare and contrast a range of texts under a variety of abstract categories e.g. cultural and historical contexts, authors’ viewpoint, literary form and period, etc.

● Compose effectively, with style and precision, in straightforward and complex genres, such as discursive essays, arguments and reports.

Ordinary Level, as a minimum requirement, students should demonstrate the ability to:


● Comprehend at an appropriate level a range of texts. This means showing understanding of a text at a literal level and making some inferences

● Recognise the genre of a text, identify its purpose, and describe its structure

● Relate texts to their own experience, generate personal meanings, discuss and justify those meanings, and express opinions coherently

● Compare and contrast texts under a variety of headings, e.g. hero/heroine, themes and issues, language and genre, etc.

● Compose effectively in a range of straightforward genres, such as narratives, short reports and accounts, discursive writing, and letters


Leaving Certificate English is examined at a terminal, 100% written exam.