Hundreds of students to begin this year's Leaving Cert exams early
New computer science exam to be held on May 27th to help avoid timetable congestion
A pilot group of 40 schools will undertake the first-ever Leaving Cert computer science exam. Photograph: iStock
Hundreds of students are set to begin their final Leaving Cert exams in May after authorities decided to schedule the new computer science exam in advance of the traditional exams.
The first-ever computer science exam will be held on May 27th, a week before the main written exams begin on June 3rd.
A pilot group of 40 schools are undertaking the exam and the subject will be rolled out nationally for all schools commencing in September 2020, for examination in 2022.
In another first, the subject will be the first main exam where all students are required to complete it using computers.
It involves a practical coursework project to be completed on a computer – under the supervision of the class teacher – which is worth 30 per cent of the total marks.
This will be followed by a final exam on May 27th which will include a paper-based and a computer-based element, together worth 70 per cent of the total marks.
All components will be assessed externally by the State Examinations Commission (SEC).
The roll-out of computer science nationally is likely to pose challenges for some schools, especially those struggling with outdated computers or poor access to broadband.
All participating schools in the first phase of the roll-out of computer science, for example, have been selected on the basis that they have the equipment or infrastructure to allow students complete their exams.
This includes laptops with at least a 1GHz processor for each student with access to 100Mbit/s broadband.
Participating schools have each received €3,000 towards the purchase of computer equipment.
The move to introduce computer science to the Leaving Cert followed pressure from employers, who have warned about skill shortages in the Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) sector.
The new subject requires students to focus on how programming and computational thinking can be applied to the solution of problems, and how computing technology impacts the world around us.
The move towards holding the computer science exam in May is also a sign of the pressure facing exam authorities to try to accommodate a growing number of exams within a short window.
Last year, the SEC added two days to the traditional Leaving Cert written exam timetable.
This move followed the introduction of new exams to the Leaving Cert, which have led to a growing number of subject clashes and students being forced to take up to three exams in a single day.
This year, most exams will take place over 15 days, beginning on Wednesday, June 3rd and finishing on Tuesday, June 23rd.
The final exam will be physical education (PE), which is being examined for the first time this year.
A total of 80 secondary schools are piloting the PE exam this year and it is due to rolled out nationally from next September.
Students who take the new PE exam will have to submit videos of themselves demonstrating their skills in a chosen physical activity – such as athletics, rugby or ballet – for examiners to grade. This will account for 30 per cent of marks.
The remainder of marks will be given for a physical activity project (20 per cent) and a traditional written exam (50 per cent).