My son needs to choose his Leaving Cert subjects – but isn’t sure what to opt for

Ask Brian: Be sure to examine entry requirements for courses he is interested in

When choosing Leaving Cert subjects, be sure to check the   minimum entry requirements for courses you are interested in. Photograph: iStock

When choosing Leaving Cert subjects, be sure to check the minimum entry requirements for courses you are interested in. Photograph: iStock


My son is in transition year and has recently been asked by his school to select his subjects for the Leaving Cert. He’s unsure what to pick and I worry he’ll close off options if he makes the wrong choices. Can you offer any advice?

Most schools administer interest and aptitude tests to students prior to asking them to select their Leaving Cert subjects. I presume your son has these results to hand to assist him in framing his decisions.

In the event he hasn’t, he can access one freely online. Try searching for “interest profiler” on, for example.

Alternatively, his school may also be able to facilitate him taking a test such as Eirquest at from home. This option will provide him with aptitude and interest results to help him – with your support – make those final subject choices.

The key to making these decisions is to fully understand the components of all subjects on offer from his school to ensure the best match between his interest, aptitude, ability level and the subjects on offer.

Most schools will provide a subject choice booklet either online or in hard copy. If not, contact your son’s school.

Unless exempted, all students study maths, English, Irish, and another European language as their first four subject choices. The only decision he needs to take in relation to these four is the level he wishes to study them at.


After that he may have up to 20 other subjects to choose from, of which he will normally be asked to nominate four or five in order of preference. Three is normally the number allocated by the school, bringing the total subject choice to seven overall.

In nominating these subjects, he needs to be aware of the minimum entry requirements of various colleges and faculties. There is a very handy tool on the website in their “useful tools” section. For example, an O6 is required in Irish for courses at NUI colleges.

Knowing what subjects are essential for specific career options or course categories is vitally important when selecting Leaving Cert subjects.

When it comes to the CAO, your best six grades are calculated for points purposes. Most students tend to focus on seven subjects, though some choose up to eight.

Furthermore, it’s best to choose subjects you performed well in at junior cycle level and enjoyed studying.

Your son may already have some ideas of what course or career he would like to pursue when he leaves school. Rather than focus exclusively on subjects associated with that career choice, a balanced programme keeps as many options open as possible. Just be sure he is still covering his minimum subject entry requirements.

Finally, if he is still unsure how to proceed, I am certain that his school’s guidance counsellor is available to speak to him online.

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