More Leaving Cert students than ever taking higher level subjects

Changes to CAO points means candidates can secure points for old ‘E’ grades at higher level

A total of just under 55,770 students are due to sit the Leaving Cert, a figure similar to last year. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

A total of just under 55,770 students are due to sit the Leaving Cert, a figure similar to last year. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

 

The proportion of Leaving Cert students taking on higher level subjects has climbed to a new high.

It is a sign that pupils are trying to make the most from recent changes to the CAO points system which reward students for what used to be E grades, or fails.

In all, almost 121,000 Junior Cert and Leaving Cert students are due to begin their exams on Wednesday in 5,000 test centres across the country.

There are increases in the proportion of students who have applied to sit higher level exams in the Leaving Cert for many other subjects

Among Leaving Cert maths candidates, a record 37 per cent have registered at higher level to sit the more challenging paper, up from about 20 per cent in 2011.

The increase follows the introduction of bonus points for higher level maths in recent years, along with wider changes to the CAO points system.

There are also increases in the proportion of students who have applied to sit higher level exams in the Leaving Cert for many other subjects.

For example, just over half of students have opted for higher level Irish for the first time, while almost three-quarters of those sitting English have opted to take on the more challenging paper.

The numbers taking the Leaving Cert applied programme are continuing to drop, with 2,744 students due to take it this year

However, the numbers who end up sitting the actual exams at higher level is likely to fall slightly, given that some students opt to take an ordinary level paper on the day of the exam.

Official figures compiled by the State Examinations Commission show a total of just under 55,770 are due to sit the Leaving Cert, a figure similar to last year.

The numbers taking the Leaving Cert applied programme are continuing to drop, with 2,744 students due to take it this year.

A longer term decline in the numbers completing this more vocational exam has been blamed by teachers on cuts in staff numbers and resources.

At Junior Cert level, almost 62,000 students are due to sit the exam, a similar figure to last year.