Leaving Cert results and CAO helpdesk: Your questions answered

We talk to our career guidance counsellors about the most common queries they receive – and how they answer them

Irish Times Results Helpdesk guidance counsellors Deirdre Garrett and Brian Howard work to answer questions. Photograph: Sara Freund

Irish Times Results Helpdesk guidance counsellors Deirdre Garrett and Brian Howard work to answer questions. Photograph: Sara Freund


There are three guarantees in life: death, taxes and the inevitability that some students will be upset or confused about their Leaving Cert results. We can’t help you with the first two, sorry. But, from August 13th, The Irish Times free online exam helpdesk is here to answer questions from parents and teens about the implications that the 2019 Leaving Cert results might have for them.

The helpdesk will be manned by Deirdre Garrett and Brian Howard, who are both members of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors. Garrett is a guidance counsellor at St Paul’s Secondary School in Monasterevin while Howard is a guidance counsellor at Newbridge College.

Our guidance counsellors aim to respond to all your online queries within half an hour but, particularly on results day itself, the huge volume of queries means it can take longer before they get back to everyone. Due to changes in how the exam results are being delivered this year, there may be fewer guidance counsellors in some schools – and students and parents may be more likely than ever to contact The Irish Times helpdesk.

“We’ve never had a question we don’t have the answer to, but if we didn’t know, we find out,” says Garrett. “Our key advice: stay calm, research your options and if you feel you don’t know what your options are, get on to the helpdesk.”

What sort of questions does the helpdesk receive, and how do they answer them?

1. New online portal

Queries tend to be similar from one year to the next but, with the introduction this year of an online portal where students will be able to access their results online from as early as 10am, Howard anticipates a larger-than-usual volume of calls about the new system.

Last year, a student missed out on a place on a veterinary medicine course in UCD as a result of examiners incorrectly totting up her points. She took a High Court case and won, prompting the State Examinations Commission to undertake a reform of the system so that other students wouldn’t go through the same ordeal.

“As a result, there’s a new student support portal and every student has been given a PIN number and encouraged to register with this,” says Howard. “From 10am, they can go online and get their results. This will probably mean that fewer students go to their school to collect the results. The possible downside is that students don’t have immediate access to the school’s principal and guidance counsellors if they go online, but the upside is that, this year, they will get the results and CAO offers much faster, and the appeals process will be sped up too. They will only have to wait two days between results and CAO offers. Students will also get a breakdown of how they did in the different parts of the exams, including orals and practicals, and be allocated a time to go back to the school and view their scripts.”

This year, scripts for some exams were scanned and marked online, and students will be able to view these through the portal.

When the CAO first moved online, it was dogged by crashes, and there’s a possibility the volume of students logging on could cause delays.

What if students have lost their log-in details for the new portal? “They will have to go back to where they sat the exam,” says Howard.

2. Confusion over Hear and Dare offers

“There is often confusion over [higher education access route] and [disability access route to education] offers,” says Garrett. “On the day they get their results, Hear and Dare students may get, for instance, 400 points for a course that is normally 405, and they wonder if they will get in. A percentage of places are reserved for Hear and Dare applicants but if, for instance, there are three reserved places, they will go to the Hear and Dare applicants with 404, 403, and 401 points before they go to the student with 400 points. So it’s a bit more of a waiting game.”

3. Why didn’t I get a place? Minimum entry requirements

If a student was exempt from Leaving Cert Irish and got the required CAO points for their chosen course in a NUI college but hadn’t applied for the exemption or let the college know, then they will be considered as not having met the minimum entry requirements. The same could apply if they don’t have a European language when applying to another university.

Hope is not lost, however: they could still get in on round two.

4. Calculating points

“Sometimes parents contact the helpdesk because they’re not sure of how to add up the points, especially for the Leaving Cert Vocational Programme,” says Howard. “For the LCVP, you add up the points for the six best subjects and, if the points for the LCVP are among your six best, leave them in – if not, take them out and replace them with the points for your next highest grade.”

There’s a big misconception about bonus points for honours maths. “You only get 25 bonus points if maths is one of your six best subjects,” Howard says.

5. Viewing scripts, rechecks

The exam helpdesk receives a lot of queries about the dates for viewing scripts and when rechecks will be completed. Students will have received an exam handbook with all the information needed, and it can also be downloaded as a PDF from Examinations.ie – The Irish Times helpdesk can provide information too.

6. Results disappointment, offer fear

Students only need to wait two days for their offer this year, but there’s very understandable anxiety for those who aren’t confident of getting the course they hoped for. And when the offers do come out, some will be disappointed.

The Irish Times guidance counsellors will be on hand to talk students through their options, which include the pros and cons of repeating; details of PLCs and how they can be a route into a college course; apprenticeships and training; studying abroad; and the value of other options, including a year out.

The helpdesk receives queries from students who applied for medicine and want to know if they are in with a chance of an offer.

7. Have points but not minimum entry requirements

A student could get 550 points and still miss out on a course that only requires 500 points. “This could happen if, for instance, they applied for primary school teaching but didn’t get a H4 in Irish,” Garrett explains. “We advise that they have the option of only repeating Irish; they could study in their own time while doing a PLC course or working.”

Brian Howard and Deirdre Garrett, both members of the Institute of Guidance Councillors (IGC), are operating The Irish Times’ Results and CAO helpdesk and will be on hand to answer your questions from 9am on August 13th. To submit a question to our counsellors, please visit irishtimes.com/resultsandoffers2019