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
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,…
- Junior Cert
- Elizabeth Bishop
- Emily Dickinson
- Seamus Heaney
- Thomas Kinsella
- Derek Mahon
- All 2014 guides on CD
- Sylvia Plath
- Eavan Boland (LC 2012)
- Patrick Kavanagh (LC 2012)
- Adrienne Rich (LC 2013)
- Gerard Manley Hopkins (LC 2013)
- Cancelled Order
- Thank You for your order
Tag Archives: sample personal essays
Tone (personal essay).
I love this cartoon from Natalie Dee on fanpop.com
Before Christmas I got my TYs (over 50 of them) and my Leaving Certs to write personal essays. Their essays for the most part were funny, sad, moving, at times mad and in many cases very very brave. Among other things I read about a childhood obsession with goldfish; a superhero granny; being an only child; falling into a river in front of the boy you absolutely love love love; suicide; a haunted church; spontaneous uncontrollable crying spells; and being wrapped in tin foil and carried off a volleyball court on a stretcher…
I also discovered that “ a commode i s the love child of a wheelchair and a portaloo! ”
I did notice however that very occasionally a personal essay didn’t ‘ring true ‘. It’s hard for me to explain how I knew that the writer was inventing or embellishing a sad story (leaning towards or sometimes completely inventing a fiction) rather than drawing on real life experiences (fact) but when I asked a couple of students about it sure enough they said what they’d written about hadn’t actually happened but they felt compelled to give the personal essay a tragic ending in order to engage the reader emotionally.
Oddly, it had the opposite effect – I enjoyed these essays up to the point where they transformed into melodrama and then I just somehow knew that the writer was trying to force a reaction out of me.
Have a look at this beautiful personal essay – but be warned:
(1) It will make you cry
(2) You could never write this. You are not a thirty-something-yr-old widower with a toddler and a dead wife. You are a 17 or 18yr old Irish leaving cert student and this is the perspective you MUST write from when you write a personal essay in the exams because fundamentally a personal essay IS NOT A SHORT STORY and IS NOT FICTION. Of course you can write about something funny that happened to someone else and pretend it happened to you; of course you can exaggerate for dramatic or humorous effect. But try to write what you know or your essay is in danger of coming across as insincere and false.
Here it is: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2013/jan/19/telling-toddler-mummys-dead?CMP=twt_gu
Now have a look at this personal essay, whose tone is much more philosophical and opinionated rather than emotional – the tone is completely different but there is no question that it also falls into the category of personal essay.
Here it is (with the longest url in the history of life the universe and everything):
I guess I just want you to realise that you can write a serious opinion piece; an emotional admission; or a funny satire and ALL will still qualify as ‘personal essays’ as long as you write in the first person (“I”) and as long as you are yourself (Irish teenager) not a fictional narrator (a witchdoctor, a talking rubbish bin or a homeless wino).
For clarification of the difference between the personal essay and memoir check this out: http://meghanward.com/blog/2012/08/21/personal-essay-vs-memoir/
That’s all for now folks. Good luck with the mocks revision!
Posted in Composing , Discussions
Tagged ireland , leaving cert english , personal essay , sample personal essays , tone
- A long slow goodbye…
- Lear’s journey
- Some themes in Lear…
- King Lear – Plot Chronology
- King Lear quotes (in translation!)
- Justice in King Lear – how to construct an answer…
- The Old Warrior and Me
- Single text options…
- Tackling the Comparative
- Reading Shakespeare (Othello)
- Game Based Learning
- Originality – Freshness – Energy – Style
- Studied poetry
- Unseen poetry
- Media Studies