The first phase of junior cycle reform began in 2014 with the introduction of a new specification in junior cycle English, which was first examined in 2017. New specifications in junior cycle science and business studies were introduced in August 2016 and first examined in 2019. The new specifications for the modern foreign languages and Irish were introduced in August 2017 and were due for assessment for the first time in 2020. Junior cycle geography, history, home economics, music and mathematics were introduced in schools in 2018 and were due for assessment in 2021.
The State Examinations Commission published sample papers in autumn 2021 for the subjects in the fifth and final phase of junior cycle reform, which will be examined for the first time in 2022. These are religious education, classics, wood technology, engineering, graphics and applied technology. While all new specifications are now being taught in schools, due to the pandemic, the junior cycle examinations in both 2020 and 2021 were not held for school-based candidates. The majority of new specifications will, therefore, be examined, at scale, for the first time in 2022.
The SEC advises that, as has long been the case at junior cycle level, the level of detail on examination papers relating to mark allocations may vary from subject to subject. In some cases, mark allocations are shown for questions, sections or the entire paper, and some papers provide guidance as to the length of time to be spent on particular questions. It is important to note that these are no-choice examination papers and candidates are required to answer all questions on the examination paper. In addition, the examination papers are in a completion booklet format, and the space provided for the candidate responses provides an indication to candidates of the length of the response required. The structure and format of the papers are of assistance to teachers in preparing candidates in their preparation for the examinations.
In line with long-standing practice, and in the interests of fairness, the SEC does not provide marking schemes for sample papers as the marking scheme cannot be finalised in the absence of a review of candidate work produced under live examination conditions. The SEC advises that it would not be appropriate to draw any inferences from any marking scheme for a sample paper regarding how any subsequent live paper might be marked. The SEC will publish the marking schemes at the time of issue of the provisional examination results. This can assist candidates who are considering whether they may wish to appeal these provisional results, and provides clarity to candidates and their teachers regarding how the work produced was evaluated.