Exams are under way this morning as more than 120,000 students start more than two weeks of Leaving Certificate and Junior Cycle examinations.
Examinations in 91 subjects, including those at higher, ordinary and foundation levels, will take place in 5,223 exam centres. Examination centres have also been established in 13 prisons and other places of detention to facilitate prisoners sitting exams.
According to figures supplied by the State Examination Commission (SEC), 55,770 students are expected to sit the Leaving Cert this year while almost 62,000 students are due to sit exams at Junior level.
Some 4 million examination papers have been distributed to examination superintendents involved in supervising the written examinations.
This year, students in 41 schools will will sit a new examination paper in Politics and Society for the first time, following the introduction of the subject on a phased basis in September 2016.
Students are tested with a written exam accounting for the majority (80 per cent) of points while a citizenship project accounts for 20 per cent of the final marks.
Leaving Certificate candidates may also undertake examinations in one non-curricular language subject and this year, just over 1,600 students will sit an in one of 18 languages. The non-curricular languages include Polish, modern Greek, Danish and, for the first time, Maltese.
Oral tests in Leaving Certificate language subjects were conducted in the two week period between Monday 9th and Friday 20th April, along with the practical tests in Leaving and Junior Certificate Music and Junior Certificate Home Economics.
The examinations run until Wednesday 20th June for Junior Certificate/Cycle subjects and Friday 22nd June for Leaving Certificate subjects.
Yesterday, Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton sent his best wishes to students, who, he said, "should be very proud" after putting in "a huge effort to get to this point".
Mr Bruton pointed out that there are multiple pathways now in place for students to realise their ambitions.
“As well as higher and further education courses, we now have a very broad range of apprenticeship and traineeship programmes available, in very exciting new areas, such as ICT and financial services, as well as the traditional craft courses.
“These are very attractive options that lead to very rewarding careers, when considering your next steps,” he said.
Mr Bruton also paid tribute to teachers, principals and parents for supporting their students prepare for these exams. We are very fortunate in Ireland to have such a dedicated and committed teaching profession.
“Teachers and school leaders have a transformative impact on a child’s life and make an invaluable contribution to our society. Thank you for your efforts again this year and the best of luck again, to all students sitting the state exams,” he said.
The examinations run until Wednesday 20th June for Junior Certificate/Cycle subjects and Friday 22nd June for Leaving Certificate subjects. The written examinations in the Leaving Certificate Applied programme finish on Thursday 14th June.
Clive Byrne, director of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals, pointed out the importance of rest.
“The Leaving Cert is an immensely stressful time. While you should be working hard, you shouldn’t be pushing yourself to the edge of a nervous breakdown. You need to be calm and collected on the day.
“You won’t be productive if you study for twelve hours straight, locked away like a monk in a cell. Take regular breaks and reward your work by doing something that you enjoy. Listen to music, go for a walk, and talk to your friends and family.” he said.
ASTI president Ger Curtin urged students to keep things in perspective over the coming weeks: "While some level of anxiety is completely normal, it's really important that you keep things in perspective. Exams are just one small aspect of life. They are not everything. It is much more important to focus on how you are, rather than how you are performing, over the coming weeks. Eat well, get plenty of rest, take exercise, build in relaxation time, organise yourself so that you have everything you need each day and so that you are not rushing to get to an exam in time," he said.
The 2018 Leaving Cert results will be available on Wednesday 15th August while results of the Junior Certificate/Cycle will be available in mid-September.
The Irish Times will provide comprehensive coverage of the Leaving and Junior Certificate exams featuring student and teacher reaction to exam papers, Leaving Cert student diarists and more. For more, visit irishtimes.com/examwatch/