Leaving Cert History Essay Titles Format

Students and teachers alike were happy with the higher-level Leaving Certificate history paper, which examined popular areas of the course and offered good choice.

Thomas Ahern, TUI representative and a history teacher at Scoil Chonglais in Baltinglass, Co Wicklow, said both the higher- and ordinary-level papers were very fair.

“The questions asked were very mainstream and the format of the paper was recognisable and student-friendly. A question on Martin Luther King and the Montgomery bus boycott would have been very popular with students and it came up on both the ordinary- and higher-level papers.”

Mr Ahern praised a question which required students to critically evaluate evidence and to give their own opinion, as opposed to learn off facts and dates.

“This is a good preparation for the kind of critical thinking they will need for college. Students were asked: ‘From Roosevelt to Reagan, would you agree that American presidents always acted for the good of America?’

“This was an interestingly-worded question with a lot of scope which didn’t force them to answer in a particular way,” said Mr Ahern.


Seán Delap, a history teacher at the Institute of Education, said that the paper was, overall, good and fair.

“Students who put in a decent amount of work shouldn’t have had any difficulties with it. The document study, on the Jarrow march, was very straightforward. The contextualisation question, in part four, gave great scope to students and wouldn’t have caused any problem.

“In topic five, one question on the Apprentice Boys of Derry was a bit tricky and, overall, the choice here may have been as good as in topic three. Some students will have been happy to see RTÉ appear in topic six, as they were hoping it would come up.”

Philip Irwin, ASTI subject representative and a history teacher at the High School in Rathgar, Dublin, said the paper was fair but testing. He particularly liked the documents question.

“Students would have been happy with the case studies which looked at sovereignty and partition, the Eucharistic Congress and the impact of the second World War on Belfast. The case study on Sunningdale didn’t show up and some students may have been disappointed by this.”

The ordinary-level paper did not ask anything unfair, he said.

The trickiest document question, on Stalin’s show trials, did not appear, and this will have been a relief to students, he added.

Try this at home: Leaving Cert history

During the period 1949-1989, what was the importance of one or more of the following: changing attitudes towards Irish language and culture; the impact of RTÉ, 1962-1972; Archbishop John Charles McQuaid?

Leaving cert History is a challenging course and requires essay style answers. Good English skills, the ability to do research and an interest in History are all important if you do this subject. Up to 20% of your final result will be based on your research project done before the exam. 

History (Late Modern) Course Content

Irish History (1815-1993) 

  • Ireland the Union,
  • Movements for political and social reform
  • The pursuit of sovereignty
  • The Irish Diaspora
  • Politics and society in Northern Ireland
  • Government society and the economy in Ireland (1949-1989) 

History of Europe and the Wider World 1815-1993 

  • Nationalism and State Formation
  • Nation states and international tensions
  • Dictatorship and democracy
  • Division and realignment in Europe
  • European retreat from Empire and the aftermath
  • The US and the World.

The Exam

A written examination paper (80%) and a research study report (20%)

At both levels, the examination paper features a documents-based question (linked to the documents-based study) and three general questions. All four questions carry equal marks.

Future Careers with Leaving Certificate History

Leaving cert History is not an essential requirement for any courses in the CAO system. History can be used in a wide variety of careers including Archaeology, Writing, Research, Education and Tourism.

Download the leaving cert History Syllabus

Download the leaving cert History Chief examiner's report (2011) 

Download the leaving cert History Guidlines for teachers 

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