Can I challenge my Calculated Grades, and if so, how and when?

Selection of questions and answers relating to calculated grades and CAO first round offers

Irish Times Guidance counsellors Brian Howard and Deirdre Garrett will be on hand over the coming week to answer questions about the results and any questions students or their parents might have about the college applications.

The following is a selection of questions we anticipate they may be asked:

Q: Can I challenge my Calculated Grades, and if so, how and when?

If you are unhappy with the grade you received in any subject, you can appeal it. Be mindful, though, that the appeal process will not examine the accuracy of the teacher’s or school’s judgement involved in awarding your grade. Rather, it will simply check the accuracy of the data inputted.


Students unhappy with the calculated grade they receive will have access to a three-stage appeals process.

Stage 1: Checks will be undertaken to ensure that the data was recorded correctly by the school and that it was transferred correctly into the data collection system.

Stage 2: There will also be a review to ensure that the data was correctly received and processed in the calculated grade model.

Stage 3: If the student remains unhappy with the outcome after stages 1 and 2 he/she can seek a review by Independent Appeal Scrutineers.

If students are dissatisfied with the outcome of this review, there will be an opportunity to sit the examinations at a later stage when it is safe and practicable to do so. In addition, there will be oversight by an independent expert unconnected with the design of the calculated grades model to provide overall validation on the model, including the operation of the appeals system.

Work is ongoing with the higher education sector to integrate 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 1 of the appeals process may be able to take up their place in the 2020/2021 academic year.

Students who are successful at the Independent Appeal Scrutineer stage, and who receive an improved CAO offer at that stage, will receive a deferred offer to start their course in the 2021/22 academic year.

Students who opt to sit the Leaving Certificate examinations in November, and who receive 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 first year of a course becomes entitled to a higher CAO offer and chooses to accept 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.

Q: My results mean I have fewer CAO points than I need for Law TCD, is there any chance the points will drop this year?

A: You mean you have fewer points than what was needed for Law in TCD last year. Even though the points for last year give us a guide to what the points might be this year for a course, that's all they are - a guide. The number of places available on that course could be different this year, the standard of results might be higher or lower this year and the number of people applying for this course might be higher or lower this year. These are factors that affect the points for a course in any given year and they can change from year to year. As a result of changes in these factors points for a course may go up or down from year to year.

Q: My results are not as good as I expected, can I sit a Leaving Cert exam in one or two subjects and combine the results or do I need to repeat the year?

A: Yes, if you are unhappy with your calculated grades, you can sit a Leaving Certificate exam in any number of your subjects you wish, later in November. You can take your best grades from a combination of your calculated grades and exam grades to maximise your points and use these points to enter college in 2021 entry, the following year.

Q: If I accept an offer of my fourth or fifth preference will I still potentially get offers in a later round for my higher preference or does accepting preclude further offers?

A: Accepting a lower preference course in an earlier round does not preclude you from receiving an offer on a higher preference course in subsequent rounds. If you become entitled to a higher preference course in the next round you will be offered it regardless of whether you accepted the lower preference course or not. So, the advice is to accept something in round one and hope you will become eligible for a higher preference in subsequent rounds. If you do it is your choice to move up to the higher preference course (even though you have already accepted a lower preference offer in previous rounds) or remain with the earlier lower offer.

Q: Can I accept a course that is lower on my CAO list even though I have enough points for a course higher on the list? Basically, can I select the lower listed course?

A: Essentially no. The first thing the CAO computer will do is to work out which of your 10 course choices you are entitled to a place on, on the basis of your points and the cut off points of your course choices. Then you will be offered a place on the highest course preference you are entitled to, because you have instructed CAO that this is the one you wanted most. Once you have been offered this course preference all courses below this essentially disappear and will never be offered to you. The only courses that remain active in the next rounds are those higher than the one you have been offered. This basically means you can hope to move up in subsequent rounds but never down.

Q: My son has a conditional offer for a course at a British university. How do we submit his Leaving Certificate results to them?

A: Your Leaving Certificate results will be sent directly to UCAS by the State Examinations Commission and Department of Education. UCAS will then use your results to hopefully confirm your conditional offer if you have met the conditions of the offer. However, if I were your son, to be on the safe side, I would contact the admissions tutor for the conditional offer course and make sure that they have received your son's results.

Q: I don’t think I will get the points I need for my first preference this year. Is it too late for me to do a PLC or FE course for the forthcoming year?

A: Colleges of Further Education are continuing to accept applications for courses that have yet to be filled. I would advise you to act on this straight away these courses are in high demand. Use the national learners' database to find the course in which you are most interested. You apply directly to the school or college offering that course. Because the courses are work-related, you will interview before a final selection is made. These interviews offer you the opportunity to discuss your particular interest in the course.

Q: If I sit the Leaving Cert in November, can I resit the exams in June 2021 and combine the results?

A: I'm afraid not. The grade you receive from the later leaving cert in November, 2020 can only be combined with the remaining predicted grades issued to you Sept 7th, 2020. This combination will reflect the best results for you and will be your 2020 Leaving Cert grades. It is not possible to mix Leaving Certificate results from 2020 with 2021 for CAO points purposes. Students can repeat a subject or subjects in order to fulfil minimum subject entry requirements for college only.

- Brian Howard and Deirdre Garrett

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