Leaving Cert students angry over three exams in one day

State Examinations Commission confirms some students affected by scheduling clash

Some Leaving Cert students face the prospect of sitting three exams over the course of nine hours in a single day due to a scheduling clash.

Almost 900 students across more than 40 schools are due to sit the new politics exam for the first time this June.

However, teachers and students say they have been “kept in the dark” over the timing of the exam and only found out in recent days it will clash with another subject, design and communications graphics.

As a result, a total of 16 Leaving Cert students will now have to sit their politics exam in a special evening sitting.


Some of these students –11 in total – will end up sitting three exams in a single day. This means they will sit their first exam at 9.30am and will not finish until 8pm.

Gerry Sutton, a teacher based in Castleknock Community College, said students and teachers were angry and frustrated over the timing of the politics exam.

A date or time for the exam was not included in the official exam timetable produced late last year. Teachers, he said, only learned last week when the exam is due to take place.

“Students are due to be examined in two months. Word has only just trickled down to us that some students will now end up sitting three exams in one day,” he said. “It compromises the fairness of the Leaving Cert. It is quite irresponsible on the part of authorities. I know they are under pressure, but there has been a real lack of communication on this.”

He also said students and teachers were still unaware of the marking scheme or assessment criteria for the exam, even though it was now just a number of weeks away.

Sharon Gleeson, the parent of one student who is due to sit three exams in a single day, also expressed frustration. "The exams are stressful enough as it is, but this is making it worse," Ms Gleeson said. "My son is aiming for a course that requires about 570 points, so every point counts. This was an exam he was targeting to do well in."

The State Examinations Commission said the exam timetable was framed to minimise subject clashes as much as possible, but "unfortunately some clashes will occur".

In these cases, it said a balance must be found between protecting the integrity of the examination – which involves all candidates sitting their examinations at the same time – and allowing students to have access to a State exam within the prescribed examination period.

“Appropriate arrangements are made, therefore, for the candidate to sit one of the subjects later on the evening of the day scheduled for that subject,” it said.

The commission said it did not include the timing of the politics on the official exam timetable produced late last year in order to find a slot which minimises the impact on students.

Following a review of subject choices by students, it chose the afternoon of June 20th for the exam.

For students who face sitting a special evening exam, it said “appropriate arrangements” will be made by exam superintendents and school authorities so candidates are provided with a supervised break between exams.

They means they will not be given any opportunity to access the exam paper taken by the other candidates earlier that day.

The commission also said the planned rollout of additional subjects such as PE and computer science will “further increase pressure on the timetable”.

A spokesman said the commission will explore “alternative solutions” with education partners to address the issue of timetable congestion in the longer term.

This could, potentially, lead to some exams being held on Saturdays, as has been suggested by the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent