Pencil, pen or both? What to use in the Leaving Cert maths exam! [UPDATED 8th June 2019]
UPDATED ADVICE FROM 8th June 2019
Leaving Cert maths students can continue to use pencil for diagrams, graphs and constructions, but it is strongly recommended by the SEC that they use black or blue ink (not gel pens) for other parts of their maths exam.
Notwithstanding this recommendation, we believe that students will not be penalised if they used pencil throughout, as long as it is clearly legible using an appropriate pencil e.g. a HB, B or 2B pencil.
Exam superintendents have been instructed that it is not up to them to stop any candidate from writing in pencil.
Based on the latest instructions from the SEC, and the instructions on the LC maths papers, we recommend to all students to use a HB pencil for graphs, diagrams and constructions, and to use a black or blue pen (not gel pens) for other parts of their Leaving Cert maths exams.
Students must make sure to stay within the spaces provided for answers.
Supplementary paper will be provided if required, and should be correctly labelled with the relevant question number.
Background and full details of the latest recommendations are given below for information.
The State Examinations Commission (SEC) will be scanning (digitising) exam scripts for Leaving Cert Maths in 2019. This led to rumours that pencil would no longer be allowed as a writing implement, and that everything would have to be written, drawn or constructed with ink pens. This would have been a big issue for drawing graphs, diagrams and constructions.
The SEC issued a circular in early May 2019 stating the following:
1. Blue or black ink pens (not gel pens) should be used for other parts of your answers.
2. Students can continue to use pencil for drawing graphs and diagrams.
3. Students should write answers only in the spaces provided on the exam paper, and must stay within these areas.
4. Supplementary paper (extra paper) can be requested only when needed, and students should make sure to put the relevant question number in the right hand margin of the extra paper.
We participated in further online discussions with Irish maths teachers regarding the pen or pencil issue, and it emerged that some teachers had received updated advice via email from the SEC.
We contacted the SEC again and we received the following advice on 10th May 2019: “Candidates can use pencil for completing the Leaving Certificate Maths exams this year.” This is in line with the email advice received by other teachers.
However, the actual exam paper for LC maths in 2019 has the following instruction on it: “Write your answers in black or blue pen. You may use pencil for graphs and diagrams only.”
and the “General Instructions for Superintendents” document issued to exam superintendents in 2019 contains the following: “Our strong recommendation is that candidates use blue or black pen for writing their answers. We have said that the use of pencil (incl. coloured pencil) should be restricted to graphs and diagrams.”
On this basis, we recommend to all students to use a HB pencil for graphs, diagrams and constructions, and to use a black or blue pen (not gel pens) for other parts of their Leaving Cert maths exams.
Note that the “General Instructions for Superintendents” also states: “It is not up to you to stop any candidate from writing in pencil if they decide to do so”, so if an exam superintendent challenges you about using a pencil in your exam, please refer them to their instructions document, specifically page 16 on the 2019 version.
If you have any questions about this, please get in touch with us at any time.