The new Leaving Certificate – How does it work?

Harry Jackson Leaving Cert

The Leaving Cert as we know it has been reformed entirely, the biggest change in its structure in over two decades. The reform was announced in late April and, although it has received some scrutiny, it is believed that it will benefit all students and teachers alike.

The new system will come into play for students sitting their Leaving Certificate in 2017, and will bring about a variety of changes, the most important of which is the altering of the points system. In the present LC, students are awarded anything from 45-100 points in higher level depending on whether they received an A1, B2 or otherwise. Ordinary Level currently ranges from 5-60 points.

The Department has opted to award students a H1 – H8 for higher level subjects or an O1 – O8 for ordinary level subjects. The points for their corresponding grades are outlined below;

Higher level grade % Sample CAO points (HL) Ordinary level grade % Sample CAO points (OL)
H1 (90-100) 120 O1 (90-100) 73
H2 (80-89) 106 O2 (80-89) 60
H3 (70-79) 93 O3 (70-79) 47
H4 (60-69) 81 O4 (60-69) 34
H5 (50-59) 70 O5 (50-59) 21
H6 (40-49) 60 O6 (40-49) 8
H7 (30-39) 45 O7 (30-39) 0
H8 (0-29) 0 O8 (0-29) 0

Source: Dept of Education

So will you get points for failing? Yes you will, however its important to remember that the points system has and will continue to be marked based on a bell curve. This basically means that it only matters how you do relative to everybody else as the marking schemes will be constructed around the normal distribution. This also addresses the conflict about changing points for CAO, points will rise because of the higher maximum amount achievable (now 720) however they will all rise accordingly and courses will not become more difficult to get a place in.

It’s also worth noting that the Minister for Education is also pushing for universities to reduce the number of entry level courses and offer larger “common entry” courses for college freshmen instead.