Leaving Cert: Boys twice as likely to cheat - or get caught at it

SEC says of the 66 candidates who had results withheld this year, 49 were male

Teenage boys are more than twice as likely as girls to cheat - or get caught cheating - in the Leaving Cert exam.

Figures from the State Examinations Commission (SEC) show that of the 66 candidates who had their results withheld in various subject this year, 49 - or 74 per cent - were male. The remaining 17, 26 per cent, were female.

The figures for 2016 show that of the 100 candidates whose papers were withheld, 65 were male and 35 were female.

Over the past three years, 267 students have been adjudged in total to have cheated in the Leaving Cert, as 101 were detected in 2015.


This year a total of 55,770 students sat the Leaving Cert, with marginally more females sitting the exam, at 27,901, compared to 27,869 males. Last year, 55,707 students sat the exam, made up of 27,908 males and 27,799 females.

A lot of it is due to societal pressures, and from an early age the need to be so competitive and a 'win at all costs' attitude is drummed into boys

Cheating in the Junior Cert is on a much smaller scale, with a total of 40 candidates having papers withheld in various subjects over the past three years. This number is made up of 11 this year, 18 last year and 11 in 2015.

Breakdown declined

Following a request under the Freedom of Information Act, the commission declined to provide a county-by-county breakdown of those found to be cheating and an incident report in each case, due to data protection issues.

However, the subjects that candidates cheated at in 2017 and 2016 go beyond the core subjects of Irish, English and Maths.

According to the SEC, the other subjects where cheating was detected include history, geography, French, biology, agricultural science, business, economics, home economics, religious education, construction studies and technology.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Moosajee Bhamjee said he was "not surprised" that more boys cheat than girls.

“A lot of it is due to societal pressures, and from an early age the need to be so competitive and a ‘win at all costs’ attitude is drummed into boys .”

Dr Bhamjee said he did not believe the figures show girls may just be better at cheating than their male counterparts and less likely to be caught. “I think the figures would be a fair reflection of the gender breakdown of those who engage in cheating.”

Dr Bhamjee said teenage boys are more reckless in their decision-making than teenage girls, and this is also a factor. “Boys are bigger gamblers than girls and you see this later in life where there is a much greater number of male gambling addicts than female ones,” he said. “I also think that girls deal better with the pressure when it comes to the Leaving Cert - and that is another reason why boys cheat more.”

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan is a contributor to The Irish Times