Leaving Certificate: I did not get the results I expected – should I repeat?

It is important to work out where you went wrong before deciding what to do next

Students need to ask themselves honestly where they went wrong during the previous year. Photograph: Getty

Students need to ask themselves honestly where they went wrong during the previous year. Photograph: Getty


Thousands of students who will receive their results on August 17th will have mixed feelings as they face into what is likely to be one of the toughest points races in years.

Students will eagerly open their results and while many will be overjoyed, others will invariably face disappointment.

Those who fall short of the points requirement have a slim window to weigh up their options before answering that important question: do I repeat or not?

As it turns out, repeating the Leaving Certificate is becoming less popular as other entry routes and courses abroad have become more commonplace in recent years.

However, many students will weigh up their results knowing they could have done better and will still decide to repeat.

Many go back, seeking to score higher points while others might feel they didn’t work as hard as they should or could have.

The decision to repeat should not be taken lightly and students should look for advice from their parents and ideally from their guidance counsellor.

Repeating privately is an expensive option, the best known repeat course in the country - the Insitute of Education charges €7,150 for its repeat Leaving Cert course.

Motivation for those students to improve their performance is crucial; just repeating the year is not going to bolster your results unless you critcally reflect upon where you went wrong.

It is worth considering that repeating the Leaving Cert will be a better option for you than going ahead and opting for a college course you are not suited to and having to drop out at a later date.

This is particularly pressing for students in receipt of a maintenance grant as Susi (Student Universal Support Ireland), the body that awards grants, only pays for one first year, one second year and so on.

Susi says it is expecting to receive approximately 110,000 applications for the 2016/2017 academic year.

The same applies for students in receipt of free fees or who receive money towards paying the student charge.

Put simply, Susi will only pay maintenance grants per academic year.

Therefore, if a student drops out in first year, Susi will not pay their costs for their first year in when they start a new course but will pay for second, third and fourth year.

Students must also consider Leaving Cert courses can change, particularly subjects such as English, Irish or music. Texts change every year and those well-worn notes may have to be thrown out.

Ita McGuigan, the student liaison officer at Dublin City University, says students needed to ask themselves honestly what they did wrong in the previous year.

“Students have to ask themselves honestly what went wrong in the past year.Was it just a bad day on the day of the exam or could you have given more? You have to be brutally honest with yourself,” McGuigan says.

“Talk to your parents or guardian, talk to a councillor and genuinely ask yourself, can you give it any more or if you’re willing to go above and beyond again to achieve your points.”

“Repeating the Leaving Cert if good for a certain cohort of people but if you want to do a general subject like science, I wouldn’t say repeating the Leaving Cert is the best option. A Fetac [Further Education and Training Awards Council] or a course at a further college of education is more likely to be the better option,” she says.

“There are several institutes of further education who provide a route to third level but you have to give the year your best shot.

“For instance, the pre-nursing course is very competitive and you have to do very well to guarantee a place on the level eight nursing course.”

McGuigan says that unless your course is specific, such as veterinary or medicine, then repeating is not something that should be required.

“You have to go in with an open mind and be fully committed to doing better. You should also consider extra curricular activities to keep your mind active as it can be a slog of a year.” McGuigan also says that if family finances allow, students may consider a private repeat course.

“It is strange for some students going back into a classroom with students who were a year behind them but there are some schools that have a seventh year.

In private colleges which offer dedicated repeat years, you are more likely to be surrounded by like-minded people of a similar age who have same goals and mindset.”

“If you repeat your Leaving Certificate you don’t necessarily have to do the same subjects again. If you pick up home economics, for instance, it has a lot of overlap with biology.”

McGuigan says students who missed out by a narrow margin should get their papers rechecked before they sign up to repeat.

There is a narrow window for students who want to get papers checked and when CAO offers must be accepted.

Mary Dorgan, head of admissions at the Institute of Education in Dublin, has interviewed hundreds of potential repeat students.

“In some cases there are extenuating circumstances such as illness, bereavement or family conflict and that can have a huge influence on a student’s results. They make very good very good repeat students because they have had a difficult year,” says Dorgan.

“Students who didn’t have extenuating circumstance need to ask themselves, ‘Why did I perform beneath my ability? Am I likely to improve what was my study like at weekends?’ You’re not going to improve your results just by repeating – you have to work harder and change your mindset,” she says.

“There are so many more options these days – the numbers repeating are decreasing every year.

“Students who get lower than average points should perhaps consider a PLC [post-Leaving Cert] as it would be a better option than repeating,” she says.

Dorgan says that while she can only speak from the point of view of private colleges, it does have its advantages over a regular secondary school.

“A place like the institute or other dedicated repeat colleges is exam focused. They are more focused on results and students get to learn study skills, exam techniques that they may not get in their own school,” Dorgan says.

“We always interview people coming in here and identify their strengths and weaknesses. If they weren’t good at Irish they can drop it – or take up another subject – we do fifth and sixth year in one year – that’s the advantage of going private.”

“There is nothing else going on except study so it focuses students. Our study halls are open from 8am to 8pm and weekends. It narrows the focus of a student because they are surrounded by others who have similar mindsets and there are less distractions,” she says.

Dorgan says that whether students choose to repeat in their own secondary school or go private, it is still down to the student to produce the results.

“There has to be buy-in from the student whether they choose public or private. Step back and really assess the whole thing in an honest light. Be honest with yourself.

“Repeating will not get you more points if you don’t figure out where you went wrong or aren’t prepared to do more that you did the last time around,” says Dorgan.


Returning to your former secondary school – if public – is much less expensive. There is also less travel time, you will be familiar with your surrounds and you are more likely to know all your peers.

One drawback of going back to your old school is that students are turning 18 or 19 years of age and feel more like young adults than innocent first years. Students might also feel left behind as their peers begin college life without them.

A number of schools and private colleges offer dedicated repeat years, where classes tend to be small and where students are treated as young adults.

Education and Training Boards (ETB) – the former VECs offer repeat Leaving Certificate courses in a number of colleges throughout the country.

Alternatively a number of private colleges offer repeat Leaving Certificate courses. Enrolment and advice on subject choices normally takes place from the beginning of August to mid-September each year, depending on the college. The cost of doing a repeat Leaving Cert varies.

ETB colleges are the less expensive option, however students are advised to check with their local ETB to see what exact costs are involved.

In the Dublin ETB area, repeat leaving certificate classes are offered in Plunkett College, Whitehall; Pearse College, Crumlin; Rathmines College and Ringsend College.

Schools with dedicated repeat classes include CBS Coláiste Mhuire, Mullingar Co Westmeath and St. Aloysius, Athlone, Co Westmeath.

Other Dublin schools with dedicated repeat classes are Marian College, Ballsbridge, O’Connell’s school North Richmond Street and St Joseph’s school, Marino.

Private colleges, such as Yeats College, offer courses in Galway and Waterford.

While in Dublin there is the Institute of Education on Leeson Street and Ashfield College, Templeogue.

Hewitt College in Cork and Limerick Tutorial College also do “repeat” years, but there are fees to be paid.


Coláiste Mhuire, Mullingar; Marino College, Dublin – free; O’Connell’s School, North Richmond Street, Dublin – free; O’Fiaich College, Dundalk, Co Louth; Portlaoise College; Rockwell College, Tipperary; St Flannan’s College, Ennis, Co Clare; St Joseph’s CBS, Fairview, Dublin; St Joseph’s College, St Laurence College, Loughlinstown, Dublin.

Bruce College, Cork – €6,950 ; Hewitt College, Cork – €6,950; Ashfield College, Dublin – €6,495; Institute of Education – €7,150; Limerick Tutorial College – €6,400; Yeats College, Galway and Waterford – €6,600.