Numbers taking Leaving Cert higher maths climbs to new high
Some 35 per cent intend to sit exam which attracts bonus points
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. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
The number of Leaving Cert students taking higher-level maths continues to rise with more than a third of those sitting this year’s exams declaring for the more challenging paper.
Some 35 per cent of candidates have registered at higher level, although this is likely due to slip a few percentage points on the day.
The increase in those studying higher level maths follows changes in recent years aimed at increasing the popularity of the paper, including bonus points and a reform syllabus.
Official figures from the State Examinations Commission show more than 55,000 students are due to sit maths exams this year. Of this, 19,202 are due to sit the higher level paper, up from 10,435 in 2011.
In all, a total of 117,453 students have entered for this year’s Junior and Leaving Cert exams, which start today.
A total of 55,044 are sitting the Leaving Certificate this year – down slightly on last year – although there is a record number of college applications.
Just 2,887 candidates are taking the Leaving Cert Applied, down slightly from last year. A longer-term decline in the numbers sitting this more vocational exam has been blamed by teachers on cuts in staff and resources. A total of 59,522 students will sit the Junior Cert exam, down slightly on last year’s figures.
The rise in popularity of higher level maths at Leaving Cert, meanwhile, is seen as a welcome sign by policymakers. The number who end up sitting the exam is likely to be down slightly, because 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 that 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.
Students, meanwhile, have been sent best wishes from teachers’ unions, guidance counsellors and Government Ministers ahead of the beginning of today’s exams.
Betty McLaughlin, president of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors, said that while the exams were an important milestone, they were not the only one.
“Examinations and results neither define nor detract from the wonderful young people they are, and the great citizens they will become,” she said.
“ There are vast arrays of opportunities ahead through their lifetime for the acquisition of further education and training and the development of new skills.”
Online exam coverage
Just over 120,000 students will sit down to their first paper this morning as the 2016 Junior and Leaving Certificate examinations get under way in 5,000 test centres across the country.
The Irish Times will provide coverage that will be of interest to students and parents both online and in print each day of the exam period. Coverage will feature news, analysis and expert opinion, plus advice and updates from students, teachers and experts alike. Highlights will include:
Student and teacher reaction to Junior and Leaving Cert exams;
Video vox pops of students and how they fared;
Exam diarists: Six Leaving Cert students share their thoughts as the exams progress;
‘Exam watch’ column: tips on the following day’s exams;
Advice on staying calm during exam season;
“What would you tell your Leaving Cert self?” – Celebrities and public figures share their exam experiences.
Wishing candidates well in their exams, Minister for Education Richard Bruton commended the efforts of students, saying: “I send every best wish to all students who are sitting Junior and Leaving Certificate exams from today.
“There is great value in everything that students have achieved in the classroom and in their exam preparations, and I hope that they are successful in demonstrating that over the coming weeks.”
Mr Bruton also paid tribute to the dedication of teachers “who have prepared and guided the students during their learning cycle”.
For those sitting the Junior Certificate, it will be their first taste of State examinations; candidates will be examined on their first three years of second level education and will typically sit exams in nine to 12 subjects.