Saturday 19 January 2019

More students gamble on honour level papers

Education Minister Richard Bruton
Education Minister Richard Bruton

The number of students taking a gamble and deciding to take honour level papers in the Leaving Cert has jumped, results today will show.

Students have been attracted by the first overhaul of the exam grading and CAO points systems in 25 years.

Almost all subjects saw an increase in the uptake of higher level papers where, for the first time, points are available for a grade of between 30 and 49pc.

There was a 3.2pc rise in the proportion of papers taken at higher level.

Among the 58,500 candidates receiving results today, there is a record high achieving the top grade of H1 - a score of between 90 and 100pc - the equivalent of an old A1.

There are 13 students with eight H1s, almost double last year's seven, and 63 with 7H1s, up from 47 last year.

Overall, 6,694 candidates achieved at least one H1, up 5pc on last year's 6,367. Candidate numbers overall are up only 0.1pc.

Education Minister Richard Bruton welcomed the increased uptake at higher level.

However, the higher level gamble did not pay off for all, and some may have fared better on points had they stuck at ordinary level.

However, educationalists contend that learning at higher level develops thinking skills and prepares students better for third-level study.

The new regime has ended the days when students got no points for a subject if they did not achieve at least 40pc, and are now awarded 37 points for 30 to 39pc.

However, some of those aiming higher may have sacrificed points of 56 or 46 awarded for the top grades at ordinary level.

The rise in uptake in honours papers has been accompanied by a rise in numbers not achieving 40pc.

On a strict comparison, more students sitting higher level got below 40pc this year than last year in some of the big subjects.

In English, it was 1,162 candidates out of 38,749 compared with 439 out of 36,576 last year.

In Irish, it was 486 out of 22,122 compared with 120 last year out of 20,097.

In maths, it was 1,360 out of 16,395 compared with 684 out of 15,198.

In physics, the figure was 1,116 of 6,271 compared with 612 out of 6,003 students last year.

However, unlike last year, those who get 30 to 39pc, an H7 grade, at higher level will be doubly rewarded.


As well as getting the 37 points, the H7 - deemed to be the equivalent of an ordinary level, O3 grade - allows them to meet the minimum entry requirements for a large number of courses.

Overall, there will be winners and losers in the new system, the full impact of which will not be evident until the CAO offers are made on Monday.

The rise in candidates achieving at the highest level could put pressure on points for high demand courses. Others will feel the loss of a grading scale that moved up in steps of five.

The new and wider bands require a 10pc jump to reach the next highest grade and the premium points that go with it.

However, some CAO courses will see an easing in points.

The grading changes are expected to lead to an increase in applications to view exam scripts to see where marks were won or lost.

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