Navigating the Poetry Section: Selecting and Remembering Quotations for Your Leaving Certificate Exam

Reading Time: 5 minutes

graphic image showing an English Leaving Cert Exam paper in the background, with the title 'Selecting and Remembering Quotations for the Leaving Cert Exam

As the 2024 Leaving Certificate exams draw nearer, students are now ramping up their efforts in revision. In the English LC exam, one of the most important aspects of answering poetry questions successfully is selecting and remembering quotations that are relevant in supporting your arguments. As you practise past paper questions, you will find that the poetry questions are a challenging but rewarding element of the overall English examination. This part of the exam requires students to demonstrate a deep understanding of the selected poems, including their themes, imagery, and poetic devices. One of the most important aspects of answering poetry questions successfully is selecting and remembering quotations that are relevant in supporting your arguments.

Selecting and remembering quotations

When selecting and remembering quotations, it is crucial to consider their relevance to the question being asked. Avoid simply picking random lines from the poem; instead, carefully choose quotations that directly address the key points of your answer. When it comes to choosing quotations, the guiding principle should be relevance. It is crucial to select quotes that resonate with the central themes and motifs present in the poems you are writing about. Strive for a balanced selection of quotations from various poems, showcasing the depth of your understanding. This not only demonstrates your comprehensive knowledge of the poet’s body of work but also allows you to adapt your quotes to fit a myriad of themes that might arise in the exam. Consider the following factors when selecting quotations:

  • Accuracy: Ensure that the quotation accurately reflects the meaning of the line or stanza.

  • Relevance: Choose quotations that directly relate to the topic or issue being discussed.

  • Impact: Select quotations that are vivid, memorable, and effective in supporting your argument.

  • Variety: Use a range of quotations from different parts of the poem to demonstrate your familiarity with the text.

quotation marks surrounding a speech bubble


Memorising quotations

Selecting and remembering quotations can be a daunting task, but it is essential for success in the Leaving Certificate English Poetry paper. Here are some effective strategies for remembering quotations:

Active Learning:

Engage in active learning techniques such as rewriting the quotation in your own words, creating flashcards, or using mnemonic devices. Mnemonics serve as powerful memory aids. Associate each quote with a memorable image or acronym to streamline the recall process. Use technology to your advantage by creating digital flashcards or create your own physical cards featuring the poem’s title on one side and the key quotation on the other. Regularly reviewing these flashcards will help cement your memory. For example, write “Easter 1916” on one side and the line “changed, changed utterly: A terrible beauty is born” on the other. Do not be tempted to write more than one quote on a card. This might make you trick yourself into the false belief that you know both.


Understand the context of the quotation within the poem. This will help you recall it more easily and use it effectively in your essay. Context provides the backdrop against which a quotation is set. By understanding the circumstances, events, and cultural or historical background surrounding a particular quote, you can present a more accurate and nuanced interpretation of its meaning. This depth of understanding allows for a richer and more informed analysis.


You can create images in your mind to help you to recall quotations accurately. The first step is to understand the quote. Next, break it down to help you create vivid images for each part of the quote. Youcan use different types of associations to help you remember, such as linking to a particular place, creating mental images and linking to emotions, or even using colour and sound.

Regular Review:

Regularly review your chosen quotations to ensure they are fresh in your mind. Remember to visit these regularly to strengthen the connections between your visualisation and the quotes you are learning.

How to use quotes

How do you go about choosing which quotes will support themes when selecting and remembering quotations in the first instance? Let’s look at an example. In WB Yeats’ poem ‘Easter 1916’ the quote “A terrible beauty is born.” shows the profound impact of the Easter Rising. Through this poignant phrase, Yeats grapples with the complex aftermath of the rebellion, acknowledging the birth of a new Ireland amid the tragedy and destruction.

Here are some examples of how to use quotations effectively in your essay:

  • Introduce a quotation: Begin your paragraph by introducing the quotation and its significance to the topic.

  • Analyse the quotation: Explain the meaning and impact of the quotation, using specific examples from the poem.

  • Support your argument: Use the quotation to support your central argument and illustrate your understanding of the poem.

  • Synthesis: Combine the quotation with other supporting evidence to create a cohesive and persuasive argument.

An Example from Past Papers

In the 2022 exam, students were presented with this question:

“Yeats makes masterful use of aesthetically pleasing language to communicate the insights he draws from history, myth and legend.”
To what extent do you agree or disagree with the above statement? Develop your response with reference to the poems by W.B. Yeats on your Leaving Certificate English course.”

Image with 2022 exam paper, a drawing of WB Yeats and a poetry question from the exam paper

A good example of how to answer this question can be found here on the site.

Tips for preparing for the Leaving Certificate 2024 Exam

  • Start early: Begin selecting and memorising quotations well in advance of the exam.

  • Use a variety of sources: Read widely to create an in-depth knowledge of the poetry you are studying. When revising and creating notes, use textbooks, online resources, and past exam papers.

  • Create a quotation bank: Organise your chosen quotations in a way that is easy to access and review. Some students fins creating a table with themes an easy at-a-glance way to help in selecting and remembering quotations.

  • Practise using quotations in your essays: Write practice essays and incorporate your selected quotations into your work.

  • Have a look at our blog post  Five mistakes to avoid when studying for exams for further guidance.

Why not book a place at our workshop?

Selecting and remembering quotations is an essential skill for success in the Leaving Certificate English Poetry paper. By following the advice and strategies outlined in this blog post, you can effectively use quotations to support your arguments and demonstrate your understanding of the selected poems. Remember, hard work and dedication will pay off on exam day!

Do you want an extra boost to ensure you perform well in the poetry section of the paper? Emerald Education is running an in-person workshop over two days in the Easter break, on Thursday 28th and Friday 29th March 2024, from 11.30am to 1.30pm. The workshop will provide you with in-depth notes on all of the poets and their poems in the 2024 syllabus. Click here the book your place. Remember, places are very limited, so early booking is essential.

If you wouldl like to know more about how Emerald Education Centre can help you prepare for your exams, contact Elaine through our website or DM us on WhatsApp 00353 83 8550210.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *