Leaving Cert: A third of students to take higher-level maths

Almost 119,000 students are registered for the State exams that begin on Wednesday

The number of Leaving Certificate students taking higher-level maths continues to rise with over a third of those sitting this year’s exams declaring for the tougher paper.

Some 33.7 per cent of candidates in the subject have registered at higher level, although this is due to slip a few percentage points on the day as roughly 2,000 students each year decide to drop down to ordinary level late in their preparations.

A total of 118,784 students have entered for this year's State exams, which start tomorrow, with the number of candidates sitting the Leaving Cert up 1.9 per cent to 55,963.

Only 2,902 candidates are taking the Leaving Cert Applied, down 6 per cent on last year, in a pattern blamed by teachers on cuts in staff and resources that had been supporting the programme.

The number sitting the Junior Cert is down 1.3 per cent to 59,919.

Last year 32 per cent of candidates declared for higher level maths but only 27 per cent took it on the day. This compares to 16 per cent in 2011, the year before 25 CAO bonus points for a D or better in the higher level exam were introduced.

Higher level

The number of students sitting the exam at higher level is set to jump further next year when students now getting an E grade at higher level will receive equivalent CAO points as a grade C at ordinary level.

The aim is to encourage students to push themselves to complete the higher-level course by reducing the penalty for just missing out on 40 per cent.

This week is a major logistical operation for the Athlone- based State Examinations Commission (SEC), which will distribute more than 4 million exam papers to 5,000 centres.

Stressful time

SEC chairman Pat Burke said: “While the commission is focused on assessing all candidates in a fair, transparent and accessible manner, it is recognised that the examinations can be a stressful time for many young people. The support, understanding and reassurance provided by candidates’ families and schools, their communities and beyond is therefore critical.”

Betty McLaughlin, president of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors, also wished students well, urging them to "believe in yourself and have confidence".

“It is also worth bearing in mind that while the State examinations are an important milestone in a young person’s life, they are not the only one.

“Examinations and results neither define nor detract from the wonderful young people they are and the great citizens they will become,” Ms McLaughlin added. “There are vast arrays of opportunities ahead through their lifetime for the acquisition of further education and training and the development of new skills.”

The SEC said the papers had been subjected to enhanced scrutiny under measures, first introduced last year, to minimise the risk of errors. This includes a review of each paper by a subject expert who had not been involved in generating the paper. The agency has also developed an errors reporting mechanism on its website examinations.ie

The Junior Cert continues until Thursday, June 18th, and the Leaving Cert until Friday, June 19th. The written examinations in the Leaving Certificate Applied programme finish on Thursday, June 11th.

The results of the Leaving Cert will be available on August 12th, and the Junior Cert results will be available in mid-September.

Joe Humphreys

Joe Humphreys

Joe Humphreys is an Assistant News Editor at The Irish Times and writer of the Unthinkable philosophy column