CAO points breakdown: Some of highest rises cause surprise

Changes in medicine modest with one of largest jumps coming in Trinity’s arts course

It's the news that CAO applicants have been bracing for – despite a 12 per cent increase in the overall number of third-level places available this year, CAO points have risen significantly.

But the points have not risen for all courses or, in some instances, not by as much as might have been expected. In other cases, however, the highest points rises have taken some observers by surprise.

Some of the highest points rises have been at Trinity College, where about 80 per cent of courses saw points rise, with an average rise of 27 points.

Here, we take a look at some of the most popular and familiar courses.

Medicine and health sciences

This year, some of the largest points increases are for courses that are already in relatively high demand.

Medicine applicants will breathe a sigh of relief that the points rises have been relatively modest: At UCD, medicine is up from 735 to 737 points; at Trinity, it's up from 730 to 735; at NUI Galway, points are up from 726 to 728; and at the Royal College of Surgeons points are up from 729 to 733. UCC's medicine degree is up from 729 to 731.

But there have been larger rises in points across the board for general nursing courses, with points up from 410 to 442 at Athlone IT, from 414 to 454 at DCU, from 389 to 429 at GMIT, from 442 to 476 at NUI Galway and from 440 to 475 at UL.

At UCD, physiotherapy is up by 36 points, from 542 last year to 578 this year while RCSI’s course is up from 532 to 566 points and Trinity’s is up from 533 to 566. Midwifery has risen by 80 points, moving from 409 to 489 points. And 413 to 422 at WIT.

Dental science courses at both UCC and Trinity are up from 590 last year to 613 points this year.

Points for all three pharmacy courses are up, with the highest rise at Trinity College (from 555 last year to 590 this year).


Points for commerce at UCD – one of the most popular courses in the country – are up from 498 to 521, despite the university adding an extra 14 places to the course. Indeed, points for most commerce courses are up.

Trinity’s business, economic and social studies course is up from 518 to 543 points.

Despite the unprecedented woes experienced by the aviation industry, even DCU’s aviation management and aviation management with pilot studies courses have seen points rise, from 463 to 476. This may reflect a feeling that the industry’s current travails may be worked out by the time the first years of 2020 graduate.

Engineering and computer science

Points for general engineering courses, which had already seen high growth in recent years, are up in most third-level institutes, with rises in Cork IT (from 381 to 411 points), DCU (381 to 422 points) and TU Dublin (400 to 402 points). Although UCD has increased places on its engineering course from 265 to 319, CAO points are up from 511 to 531.

Only GMIT bucks the upward trend, with points for its common entry course down from 346 to 340.

Points for computer science, which leads to a qualification in one of the most in-demand professions, are up significantly, with UCC's course rising from 402 to 468 points, UCD's from 488 to 510 points, TU Dublin's from 451 to 476 points and Trinity's from 465 to 509 points. Data science at Maynooth is up from 434 to 445 points.


Not unexpectedly, points for science courses have risen this year. UCD’s science course is up from 521 to 533 points, DCU’s from 454 to 498 points, Maynooth University’s from 350 to 360 points, and WIT’s from 302 to 308 points.

Specialised science courses have also seen points rises, with UCC’s biological and chemical sciences, chemical science, and physics and astrophysics courses showing significant rises (from 498 to 510 points, 457 to 485 points and 511 to 554 points, respectively), and there are similar rises for DCU and Trinity College’s specialised science courses.

CIT and UCC’s jointly-offered biomedical science course is up from 546 to 565 points.


Points for law courses are generally up, with rises in UCC’s Law Pathways degree (from 453 to 507 points) and, in particular, for its law with French or Irish degrees. TU Dublin’s law degree rises from 422 to 451, NUI Galway’s from 473 to 499 points and Maynooth University’s law (options) course rising from 410 to 451 points. Trinity’s law degree is up from 532 to 566 while its law with language courses also sees rises (for example, law and French is up from 532 to 565 points).

Business and law courses have seen points rise, with UCD’s course up from 521 to 545 points.


Points for primary teaching courses have risen, although applicants will be relieved to see the increase is lower than they might have expected. Points at Marino are up from 452 to 484, at DCU from 462 to 488, at Mary Immaculate from 473 to 495 points and, at Maynooth University's Froebel course, from 496 to 507 points.


UCC’s agricultural science course is up from 457 to 496 points, UCD’s from 420 to 456 and IT Letterkenny’s from 300 to 307.

Arts, social science and journalism

For the past decade, the points for arts courses have been on a downward trajectory.

This year, with rises for most other subjects, that pattern is somewhat broken. DCU's arts degree jumps a significant 29 points to 376, while UL and Mary Immaculate College's joint course rises from 329 to 348 points and points for arts at Maynooth University move from 316 to 318.

UCD’s three-year joint honours programme is down from 336 points to a new low of 310, while the four-year humanities degree, which includes a year abroad, a research project or an internship, is down from 348 to 340 points.

But, surprisingly, the single largest points increase at Trinity is for the university’s drama and theatre studies course, which is up from 495 to 564, a rise of 69 points. A college spokesperson cheekily suggested that this might be due to the influence of the TV hit Normal People, which was largely set on the Trinity campus, although they acknowledged that points have risen across the board.