Brian Mooney: Waiting almost over for Leaving Cert students

New grading system and CAO points structure may cause confusion

The Leaving Cert results are available on Wednesday, online, by post or in schools.

External candidates who registered individually with the State Examinations Commission (SEC) had the option of receiving their results by post on Wednesday at their home address.

The SEC will make all Leaving Cert results available online from noon on Wednesday on

To access the results online a student or their representative will need both their Leaving Cert examination number and an individual pin code supplied to them earlier this year by their school. Anyone missing either number can secure it through their own school .


Most schools announce in advance what time they will be distributing the results, in individual envelopes to each candidate, usually between 9-10am. At around 7am the school principal will have visited the local post office to collect the all-important envelope from the SEC.

Before the students arrive each principal, along with their deputy and guidance counsellor, will review each student’s results to identify anyone whose grades may cause disappointment, upset or distress. This enables teachers to approach these particular students after they open their envelope and put the outcome of their Leaving Cert in context. They will also be able to advise any student about all options open to them.

New grading system

This year’s Leaving Cert sees the introduction of a new grading system and CAO points structure.

At higher level there are seven bands of 10 per cent each, from 100 down to 30, for which CAO points are secured.

Crucially, students who secure 30 per cent on a higher paper from 2017 onwards are deemed to have met the requirement set by colleges whose entry requirements require specific subjects to be passed.

This new regulation applies retrospectively to all previous Leaving Cert results where a students secured a grade E at higher level. At ordinary level there are six bands between 100 and 40 per cent which similarly secure CAO points.

CAO points calculations

There is likely to be some confusion in some schools on Wednesday morning as both students and teachers translate the new Leaving Cert grades into the new CAO points associated with each grade, not forgetting the 25 bonus points awarded to those who secure a minimum of 40 per cent in higher level maths, or whose LCVP (Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme) grade is among the best six the student secures.

Both students and parents need to be careful in calculating their scores. The Irish Times will include a CAO points calculation chart in a supplement in Wednesday's edition of the paper.

In previous years both students and parents have looked to the previous year’s CAO points’ requirement for their listed courses to speculate which course they are likely to be offered a place on next Monday, August 21st, by the CAO.

This will be somewhat of a pointless exercise in 2017 given that the new scores associated with each grade are totally different to the previous system, other than that a H1 still attracts 100 CAO points.

Offers of CAO Places in 2017

The CAO points score of the student offered the final place on each course, which determines the points score requirement which will be published in next Monday's Irish Times supplement, will probably not be too far removed from last year's number.

The level of variation from one year to the next in CAO points requirements is determined by any change in the level of demand for places on specific programmes, or by an increase in the number of places offered, which will result in a lower points requirement as more students further down the list of applicants receive offers.

The CAO has already offered places to mature applicants (over 23 years of age) in early July, and to students applying on the basis of Further Education (FE) awards on August 4th.

Although those securing offers next Monday are the third cohort of this year’s 80,000-plus applicants to do so, the CAO refers to next Monday’s offers as the first round because it is as such for those applicants who did the Leaving Cert in 2017.

Joy and disappointment

If I am to give one piece of advice to both parents and students prior to receiving the Leaving Cert results on Wednesday morning, it would be that there is no such thing as a bad result.

There are progression opportunities available to every Leaving Cert student. Securing a CAO place is by no means the appropriate pathway to follow for every young person. There are excellent, totally appropriate, FE options suitable for thousands of school-leavers, which in many cases will lead them back into the CAO system a year from now, academically stronger and more prepared to take on the challenges of college life.

Furthermore, there is now a whole series of new apprenticeships in insurance, accounting, ICT (information and communications technology) and financial services among others, available to school-leavers.

The options for young people are endless, so don’t be disheartened whatever the result. Every student’s result should be a cause for celebration.

The Irish Times will operate an online helpline service, staffed by highly qualified guidance counsellors, from Wednesday morning until the middle of next week. They will answer questions from any parent or student regarding either the consequences of an exam result or a CAO college offer or non-offer.

I will be writing advice columns daily in The Irish Times from this Thursday until the end of next week to support our readers and their sons and daughters in navigating their way through this important decision time in their lives.