More subjects may get bonus CAO points

Concern mounts that additional points for higher-level maths is distorting choice

The rise in popularity of higher-level maths at Leaving Cert is seen as a welcome development by policymakers. Photograph: Getty Images

The rise in popularity of higher-level maths at Leaving Cert is seen as a welcome development by policymakers. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Leaving Cert students could receive bonus points for subjects relevant to the courses they are applying for under new proposals being drawn up.

The introduction of 25 bonus points for higher level maths paper since 2012 has led to a dramatic increase in the numbers taking the subject. But there is some concern it has distorted subject choice among students.

A task force of the Irish Universities Association is examining the potential of bonus points for other subjects related to the courses for which students apply.

For example, a student who studies French in the Leaving Cert and applies to study modern European languages at third level could receive bonus points for the subject.

Details of the proposals come as more than 50,000 Leaving Cert students prepared to receive their exam results on Wednesday.

A record number of Central Applications Office suitors, along with increased numbers taking higher-level maths – which attracts bonus points – is likely to push more college courses through the 500 points entry threshold.

Latest figures indicate that points increases are likely in courses linked to the recovery – such as architecture, engineering, construction and business-related courses

In latest discussions over bonus points for other subjects, meanwhile, it is likely that additional points would be smaller than those for maths.

Points strategy

Prof Philip Nolan, president of Maynooth University and chair of a universities task force which is discussing the proposals, said there were concerns that students were simply choosing courses to maximise their points.

“The concern is that some students are not taking on too many science subjects because they feel the burden is too high, or they avoid a language because they feel it is too hard to get a grade in,” he said.

“The idea is that modest bonus points could encourage more rational subject choices.”

The rise in popularity of higher-level maths at Leaving Cert is seen as a welcome development by policymakers. Some 35 per cent of candidates have registered at higher level, although this is likely to have slipped a few percentage points by exam day. Typically, about 2,000 students each year decide to drop down to ordinary level late in their preparations.

The number of students sitting the exam at higher level is set to jump further next year, when students now getting an E grade at higher level will receive equivalent CAO points as a grade C at ordinary level.

Leaving Cert examiners have expressed some concern at the lack of basic skills of some students who are sitting the higher-level paper.

In a report published in April by the State Examinations Commission, it said a significant minority of candidates were struggling to complete simple procedures.

On a more positive note, it found the highest-achieving candidates at higher level showed a good depth of understanding of the whole syllabus, along with an ability to be both flexible and accurate in their work.