Leaving Cert 2020: The end of a remarkable journey

If you are unhappy with the grade you received, you can appeal this assessment.

This year’s Leaving Cert sees the use of assessed grades for the first time. Photograph: Getty

This year’s Leaving Cert sees the use of assessed grades for the first time. Photograph: Getty


For the Leaving Cert class of 2020, this morning's release of the calculated grades will mark the end of a most remarkable journey. 

In previous years, collecting results was an opportunity for 6th year students to meet their former classmates outside school around 9am, before trooping in together to receive that crucial envelope from the principal, revealing how they had performed in the June exams. 

Social media and newspaper websites were filled with images of celebratory leaps of joy and hugs and kisses among students as they mark the end of six years of secondary school.

This year the experience will be very different. The calculated grades are the culmination of a process based initially on the subject teacher’s assessment of how each student would have performed had the Leaving Cert exam taken place. 

Normal results
In 17 per cent of cases the results that students receive today will not be the same as those their subject teacher submitted to the special unit established in the Department of Education and Skills to carry out the task of making sure grades conform to the normal bell curve of results achieved by students in previous years. 

The vast majority of grades, or 79 per cent, will remain unchanged while about 4 per cent are expected to be increased.

The 2020 results should now be ahead of previous years, but the additional places which the HEA has requested the colleges to create should counterbalance the somewhat higher grades, leaving CAO points in or around last year’s levels. 

Looking forward to 2021, the examination authorities have to ensure that next year’s Leaving Cert class - who have already missed a substantial portion of 5th year tuition - are not at a disadvantage in securing college places in competition with those students who receive their calculated grades on September 7th.

Therefore, when you receive your grades do not attribute any disappointment or anger towards your subject teachers or school principal. 

They are not permitted to discuss with you in any way the grades you received and cannot indicate if they have been changed since they made their initial assessment. 

If you are unhappy with the grade you received in any subject, you can appeal this assessment.

The appeal process, which opens on September 14th, will not examine the accuracy of the four-stage process which led to the grade you received, starting with the percentage mark determined by your subject teacher.

Rather it will simply check the accuracy of the data transfer from your school through the various stages of the internal DES processes. 

The Department of Education has indicated that work is ongoing with the higher education colleges to align the timing of the first stage of the appeals process with the start date for college entry. 

Students who receive an upgraded CAO place following stage one of the appeals process may be able to take up their place in the 2020/2021 academic year.

If a student were to appeal the appeal and be successful at the Independent Appeal Scrutineer stage, and consequently receive an improved CAO offer at that stage, they will receive a deferred offer to start their course in the 2021/22 academic year.

Any student can of course choose to register to sit the Leaving Cert when it takes place later this academic year. Students who opt to sit the examinations when it is safe to do so and who receive an upgrade in one or more subjects and consequentially an improved CAO offer on foot of these results, will also receive a deferred college offer to start their course in the 2021/22 academic year. 

If a candidate who has started the first year of a course becomes entitled to a higher CAO offer and chooses to accept the same in the following academic year, attendance for the first year on the new course would remain eligible for free fees and Susi funding as appropriate. 

If a student chooses to sit the Leaving Cert exam in any subject and the result is lower than the predicted grade, they will still be entitled to use their calculated grade, for CAO entry purposes in 2021-2022, or in the future. 

All of the results issued on foot of the examinations this year (calculated grades, appeals and the later examination sitting) will be considered as results of the 2020 Leaving Certificate and can be used in 2021 or in any subsequent year to apply for courses through the CAO application process. 

This is very different to the normal rules regarding CAO entry, where applicants can only be considered for entry to any course on the basis of the results secured in one sitting of the Leaving Cert. 

CAO Points
For all students and particularly those seeking CAO college places, the first task will be to turn the calculated grades into CAO Points. 

You are only likely to do this exercise once in a lifetime and it is easy to get it wrong and cause yourself and your parents’ unnecessary anxiety. 

So, take a few minutes and carefully determine your CAO points score. You should have a points chart to hand and sites such as careersportal.ie have features to enable you to enter your assessed grades and receive a CAO points calculation. 

No matter what the outcome, it is worth remembering that success comes in many forms. For one student, a score of 560 points may be devastating in terms of studying veterinary medicine at UCD; for another, 250 points may represent a huge achievement.

Remember, you count the best six scores you’ve achieved across all subjects. If you did the LCVP and your score for the module is better than your lowest of the six scores, you can include the LCVP instead. If you got at least a H6 in higher-level maths, you add 25 to the normal points score attached to the grade you achieved.

There are some slight variations in how points are calculated by some third-level colleges, and all such variations are clearly outlined in the CAO handbook. If you cannot find your copy, it is online at cao.ie.