My son’s mock results were poor. Should he drop levels in some subjects?

Ask Brian: Student should get advice from teachers who are experts in their subjects

Exams scripts for the mocks exams are a vital source of learning ahead of the State exams in June. Photograph: David Davies/PA Wire

Exams scripts for the mocks exams are a vital source of learning ahead of the State exams in June. Photograph: David Davies/PA Wire


Question: My son has just received a less than stellar set of Leaving Cert mock results and scraped passes in higher level maths and Irish. Should he drop back to ordinary level and reassess his course expectations?

Answer: The most important benefit of sitting the mocks is the wealth of experience gained. In your son’s case, pacing himself through two weeks of constant writing and study, no matter how unsatisfactory the outcome, gives him the option of a far better outcome if he applies the lessons learned to his study plans over the coming three months.

Even though the correction of mock papers has nothing like the oversight and rigour of the Junior Cert and Leaving Cert, your son’s results are a vital source of learning concerning how to improve his performance in the real exams in June.

Many students do not even bother reviewing mock results. This is a huge mistake and a major missed opportunity to learn from the deficiencies.

He should now review his answers to every question he attempted across all subjects, and compare them to the content in his school textbook, answers provided previously by his teachers, or a similar question on the State Exams Commission website (, where the answers to all previous past questions are available.

After reviewing his papers, he should draw up a programme of study over the coming 12 weeks, running right up to the written papers in June.

When he sits down to do so, he will find that excluding class time in school, oral exam preparations in the coming month, his normal extracurricular and social commitments, he has a limited amount of time for effective study. He should be careful not to overdo it with late nights of studying, however.

With regard to considering dropping down to ordinary level in some of his subjects, I would always be guided by the advice of his teachers. They are the experts in their subject areas and their advice is based on years of experience.

This year there is a new factor when considering the level of paper to opt for in June. Students who secure 30-39 per cent in higher level papers will secure a new grade of H7. This will be awarded the same CAO points score of 37. This is an equivalent number of points for a student who secures 70-79 per cent on an ordinary level paper, or an O3.

Furthermore, where colleges require a student to secure a pass grade in a subject such as Irish or maths, a H7 in the new Leaving Cert grading structure will be deemed to meet that requirement.

An H6 or a minimum of 40 per cent grade in maths will also secure 25 additional bonus points, which could help your son achieve the required CAO points score to secure his preferred course choices.