Grading the Leaving Certificate


Sir, Pat O’Brien is correct (Letters, November 13th). The Leaving Cert exam has many faults but the calculated grades fiasco proves that anonymously marked exams are a must.

However, the so-called “severe overestimating ” of grades that occurred this year might not all necessarily be the result of teacher generosity. Perhaps the Leaving Cert marking procedures and guidelines that are strictly implemented each year are too harsh? Do they severely underestimate student potential? Maybe we should be asking for more transparency on how the infamous bell curves are arrived at? Actually, no. Best to blame the teachers! – Yours, etc,



Dublin 15.

Sir, – Pat O’Brien points out some shortcomings of the Leaving Certificate, including the tendency to focus almost exclusively on rote learning, which no doubt is in large part due to lack of student interest and time constraints.

While this approach might make sense for certain subjects like history, others, like the sciences and engineering, etc, could benefit from far more practical work and in-depth projects respectively.

Granted, this would also entail far more work on a per subject basis, and as such would be a great argument for Ireland to adopt a system more akin to the fully elective British A-levels wherein students pick a smaller number, say four or so, subjects that they have a genuine interest in and which are actually relevant to their further education. – Yours, etc,


Bray, Co Wicklow.

Sir – Pat O’Brien writes: “When teachers marked scripts anonymously, they concluded that less than one student in 20 merited the top grade. But when the same teachers were asked to assess their own students, they decided that more than one in eight students merited a H1 grade.”

These statistics are striking, but it should be noted that many of those who graded the 2020 Leaving Certificate were not “the same teachers” as those who had experience of working as examiners on contract with the State Examinations Commission.

That might have been part of the problem. – Yours, etc,


An Cheathrú Rua,

Co na Gaillimhe.