Leaving Cert Options

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Choosing which subjects to study for the Leaving Cert can be difficult for students and they will need as much support as possible when making their decisions. Most students take the Leaving Certificate Established and usually study a minimum of six subjects with Irish, maths and English generally being compulsory. It is important for students to think through their subject options very carefully and seek advice from teachers and past students as their choices could mean the difference between getting into college or not. Though it is important for students to choose subjects they like and enjoy, it is also crucial that they choose subjects that they can excel in and which are appropriate for their intended future studies or career. After all, some Leaving Certificate subjects may be a requirement for entering onto third level courses.

For example, those wishing to study engineering, technology, IT or another related discipline at university will need a Leaving Certificate in higher level maths. Similarly, most science subject courses at third level require applicants to have studied at least one honours science subject at Leaving Certificate level. More specialised disciplines such as medicine, dentistry and veterinary science require candidates to take at least two honours science subjects at Leaving Certificate level. Thus, it is vital that each student chooses the right subjects for them as their choices could affect their future academic and career paths. You can help by researching the available options with them.

The following subject options are readily available for the Leaving Cert Established: Applied Maths, French, German, Spanish Italian, Russian, Japanese, Arabic, Latin, Ancient Greek, Classical Studies, Hebrew Studies, History, Geography, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Physics and Chemistry, Agricultural Science, Home Economics, Business, Accounting,Economics, Art, Music, Religious Education, Construction Studies Technical Drawing, Agricultural Economics, Technology, Design and Communication Graphics, Students can choose to take the Leaving Cert Established at higher or ordinary level.

Taking the ordinary level in subjects that they find particularly taxing and difficult can be a good idea but it is important to think this option through carefully as the ordinary level exams are worth less points. The number of points required for third level entry is very competitive and so the more points a student gains the better their position. Some courses also specify the need for higher level honours in certain subjects and it is sometimes a prerequisite for entry onto certain courses so it is vital to check this before it is too late. Students who have great difficulty in Maths and Irish and are struggling to gain a pass even at ordinary level have the added option of taking a foundation paper in these two subjects, although again they are worth fewer points.

A breakdown of the points at higher and ordinary level awarded for Leaving Cert grades is outlined below:

Grade     Higher Level   Lower LevelA1                  100                   60A2                    90                   50B1                    85                  45B2                    80                  40B3                    75                  35C1                    70                  30C2                    65                  25C3                    60                  20D1                    55                  15D2                    50                  10D3                    45                    5

There are also two Leaving Cert alternative programmes to the Leaving Cert Established: the Leaving Cert Applied and the Leaving Cert Vocational. Both of these programmes focus more on preparing the individual for the workplace but they are still acceptable routes into third level education too so it is well worth investigating this option. Furthermore, if your child has their heart set on a career in a more vocational sector one of these programmes could be of more use and benefit to them than the Leaving Cert Established.

The Leaving Cert Applied is a distinct, self-contained two-year Leaving Cert programme aimed at preparing students for adult and working life by developing their personal responsibilities and self-knowledge. Courses offered are in three main areas: vocational preparation (includes work experience), general education (includes life skills, the arts, social education, and language), and vocational education. The Leaving Cert Applied is continuously assessed throughout the course and culminates with an examination that covers the following areas: English and communication, 2 vocational specialisms, mathematical applications, language, social education. The certificates awarded are pass, merit and distinction. A pass counts for between 120 and 139 credits; a merit counts for between 140 and 169 credits; and a distinction is the equivalent of between 170 and 200 credits.

The Leaving Cert Vocational combines Leaving Cert subjects with a strong vocational aspect which includes three compulsory modules on enterprise education, preparation for work, and work experience. Students are required to take at least five subjects which must include Irish and a continental language or a vocational language module. Universities and colleges recognise the link modules in addition to the Leaving Cert subjects and the modules are awarded a pass, merit or distinction. A pass is worth 30 points; a merit is worth 50 points; and a distinction is worth 70 points.


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