Leaving Cert 2019: Students secure record total of CAO points
More students sitting higher-level subjects but concern for 3,700 failing maths
With more than 421,000 additional CAO points awarded because of the maths bonus points system, points for many highly sought-after programmes will increase.
Leaving Cert students have scored more CAO points than ever in this year’s exams due to larger numbers than ever sitting subjects at higher level.
The increase is linked to more generous grading changes introduced in recent years which reward students for taking on subjects at higher level.
The numbers taking and performing well at higher level have increased across the board but, in particular, in core subjects such as English, Irish and maths.
In the case of maths, for example, a record 33 per cent – or just over 18,000 students – took the higher-level paper.
The vast majority of this cohort secured the additional 25 bonus CAO points on offer for the subject.
With more than 421,000 additional CAO points awarded in 2019 because of the maths bonus points system, points for many highly sought-after programmes will inevitably increase.
However, there are concerns over more than 3,700 students who have failed maths, which may lock many out of third-level courses which stipulate a pass as a basic entry requirement.
The bulk of those who failed to secure a pass grade sat the ordinary-level maths paper, where the failure rate was just over 10 per cent, while just under 2 per cent failed the higher-level paper.
Teachers say many schools are not offering foundation-level maths tuition due to resource shortages, which means significant numbers of weaker students end up struggling at ordinary level.
In all, more than 58,000 Leaving Cert students are due to receive their results today, while CAO offers are due to be released at 2pm on Thursday, several days earlier than normal.
Students who appeal their exam grades will also receive their results three weeks earlier than normal.
The changes follow a High Court case last year which ruled that the delays in issuing appeal results were highly unfair to students and should not be repeated this year.
Meanwhile, a total of five high-achieving students scored maximum points in this year’s exams, with eight H1s (90-100 per cent). A further 60 candidates scored seven H1s, while 235 scored 6 H1s.
The record number of pupils sitting subjects at higher level follows an overhaul of the grading system introduced two years ago.
Under the grading changes, students scoring 30-39 per cent at higher level – previously considered a fail – are now awarded a pass and with it valuable CAO points. The maximum number of points awarded for ordinary-level papers was also reduced.
This has incentivised many who might previously have sat the ordinary-level paper to opt for the higher level.
The gamble has paid off for most students with a large majority securing honours grades and remarkably low failure rates.
In Irish, a breakdown of this year’s grades show one in 12, or more than 6,000 pupils, did not sit the exam.
This is because they either had an official exemption or simply opted not to sit the exam itself. While it is compulsory to study Irish, it is not mandatory to sit the exam itself.
Despite its reputation as one of the toughest subjects, a breakdown of this year’s grades shows most students performed well in it.
Some 87 per cent of higher-level students secured what used to be known as an honour, while it had one of the lowest fail rates of any major subject.
Leaving Cert students who are unhappy with their grades, meanwhile, are being urged to act quickly to apply online to see their exam scripts.
They must apply online between 9am on Wednesday, August 14th, and 5pm on Friday, August 16th.
Minister for Education Joe McHugh has congratulated this year’s Leaving Cert students, but added that there are “many more days and changes that will define your future”.
“There are many paths open to you, with a wide range of opportunities available in higher education, further education, post-Leaving Cert courses and apprenticeship and traineeship routes,” he said.
“There are also an increasing number of options and opportunities for students regionally. More lead-in courses, more choice at institutes of technology and colleges planning for technological university status.”
Teachers’ unions have also urged students to remain calm in the days ahead so that they can explore all of their options and make sound decisions.