Girls continue to outperform boys in Junior Cert

More girls than boys secured A grades in 18 out of 21 higher-level subjects this year

Girls continue to outperform boys at Junior Cert level, with more female than male students scoring A grades in 18 out of 21 higher-level subjects this year, according to the 2017 results.

Girls also scored higher than boys in most subjects at ordinary level. However, the female uptake in technology-related subjects, metalwork and Latin remained low in 2017, while home economics only attracted a small number of male candidates.

The gender breakdown of the Junior Cert 2017 results, published by the State Examinations Commission on Friday, shows the only subjects that boys outperformed girls in with higher level A grades were mathematics, metalwork and environmental and social studies.

Slightly more boys than girls sat the Junior Cert in 2017 with 31,305 male candidates and 30,349 female candidates, marking a 2.3 per cent rise on the overall number sitting the exam.


Unlike other subjects, English results were presented using the new assessment format with students graded using terms such as “merit”, “achievement” or “distinction”.

‘Not graded’

There is no longer an official failure grade in the Junior Cert, with scores under 20 per cent deemed as “not graded” and scores from 20-40 per cent securing a “partially achieved” grade.

However, more than one in 10 boys sitting higher-level history scored an E, F or NG grade, while a higher number of boys than girls received E-NG grades in French, German, Spanish and Italian.

In higher level maths, 15 per cent of boys (2,549 students) scored an A grade compared to 13.1 per cent of girls (2,346 students). However, a higher proportion of boys also received either E, F or NG marks in the maths higher level exam.

Girls outperformed boys at higher level in a number of subjects including Irish, history, geography, French, business studies, music and science where 2,567 girls scored an A grade compared to 1,730 boys.

In the Irish higher-level exam, 15,560 female students achieved A-C grades compared to 9,858 male students. In French at higher level, 10,603 girls scored A-C grades compared to 6,585 boys.

While more than 40 per cent of female students taking Latin scored an A at higher level, it’s worth noting that only 41 girls sat the Latin higher-level exam compared to 206 boys.

Only one-third of students who sat classical studies were female while nearly 85 per cent of students sitting material technology were male. However, a higher proportion of girls than boys scored between an A-C grade in the material technology exam.

Technical graphics

There was a similar trend with technical graphics at higher level, with less than a quarter of the exams taken by girls. However, 85.5 per cent of girls sitting technical graphics scored between an A-C grade, slightly higher than the 75.5 per cent of boys in the same grade bracket.

Home economics has continued the tradition of being a predominantly female dominated subject with 16,475 girls taking the exam compared to just 2,397 boys.

At ordinary level, boys outperformed girls in geography, Italian, music, material technology and environmental and social studies. A significantly higher number of girls than boys achieved A grades in religious education, business studies, art, history and technical graphics at ordinary level. However, similar to numbers taking technical graphics at higher level, just 531 girls sat the ordinary level exam compared to 2,969 boys.

At foundation level, girls outperformed boys in the Irish exam, while boys scored higher than girls in mathematics.

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast