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05th Jun 2019

What was the soundtrack for your Leaving Cert cram sessions?

Leslie Ann Horgan

We might not have the weather, but we’ll always have the tunes.

Ah the Leaving Cert, the pinnacle of Irish scholastic life, the Mount Everest of exams and an experience that – good, bad or downright traumatic – will stay with you for a lifetime.

Today, 59,656 sixth-year students across the country began a two-week journey into the recesses of their memories, where they will experience the highs of Yeats coming up/not coming up, the lows of Maths Paper 2, and hand cramps like they have never felt before.

Meanwhile, those of us for whom the Leaving Cert is a recent or even distant memory are watching on from the sidelines and doling out pitying looks and platitudes about the exams not defining the rest of your life. On the surface level, it may look as though we’re only paying attention to the Leaving Cert for the spell of good weather it’s supposed to bring (like seriously, anyone else had the heating on this week?). Scratch a little deeper, however, and you’ll find that we all still carry vivid memories of revision notes, ink-stained hands and a sense of low-level panic that never quite goes away.

And nothing brings you back to your own Leaving Cert experience quite like the tunes you listened to when you were studying. In an attempt minimise the distraction of your siblings thundering about the house, your neighbour cutting the grass for the millionth time and your mother suddenly feeling the need to Hoover – why, mam, why?! – you cranked up the volume on a reliable score to help drown out the world.

Of course, it couldn’t be just any old music. The ultimate Leaving Cert soundtrack had to be good enough to pull your focus away from external distractions, but not so good that it became a distraction itself. For some people it had to have a mellow, calming effect, while others needed a thumping dance tempo to raise their game. And, most importantly of all, it had to be currently charting – yes, classical music might get you more points but does it add to your street cred?

For every Leaving Cert student that ever was there is a track, album or mix that, even decades later, will time machine them straight back to their final exams. Below is what the Her team had on repeat – what were you listening to?

Leaving Cert: 2012
Music: Maroon 5, Rihanna, Rizzle Kicks, Jay Z

Leaving Cert: 2005
Music: Damien Rice, O

Leaving Cert: 2010
Music: Classical

Leaving Cert: 2011
Music: Franz Ferdinand, Tonight

Leaving Cert: 2012
Music: Rain

Leslie Ann
Leaving Cert: 1999
Music: Blur (The Best Of)