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The Established Leaving Certificate

Most Senior Cycle students in Ireland choose the established Leaving Certificate. The established Leaving Certificate is a two-year programme, containing a range of distinct subjects. Subjects are normally studied at either Ordinary or Higher Level. Two subjects, Irish and Mathematics, can be studied at Foundation Level.

Foundation Level is geared to the needs of students who might have difficulty with those subjects at Ordinary or Higher Level. Students normally study six or seven subjects during the Senior Cycle. If they are following the established Leaving Certificate programme they must take at least five subjects, including Irish.

In choosing Leaving Certificate subjects, students should take note of subjects that they may need for the third-level courses of their choice. For example, a student who hopes to get a place on a course at one of the universities that make up the National University of Ireland must meet a minimum entry requirement of 6 subjects, including English, Irish and a third language, two of which must be at Grade C on a Higher Level paper.

The school guidance counsellor will have the information about the subject requirements for each third-level course.Details of course requirements can also be found on the Irish National Courses Database, About 12,500 students leave school in Ireland each year without the Leaving Certificate. The legal age school-leaving age in Ireland is 16 years. The majority who sit for the Leaving Certificate examination are 17 or 18 years of age and have completed 5 or 6 years of post-primary education.

Performance of participants in the examination can be used for purposes of selection into employment, and into further and higher education

(It is important to note that the Senior cycle is currently undergoing a significant phase of review. To keep up-to-date on Consultation processes and Reports click here)

Leaving Certificate Subjects

In all, 34 Leaving Certificate subjects are available to schools. Subjects are normally studied at either Ordinary or Higher Level, although two subjects, Irish and mathematics, can also be studied at Foundation Level. In addition to the subjects listed below, the State Examinations Commission will provide examinations in any of the recognised languages of the European Union, where the status of the applicant/candidate is seen as appropriate.

Irish Physics
Applied Mathematics Physics and Chemistry
FrenchAgricultural Science
GermanHome Economics
Spanish Business
Italian Accounting
Russian Economics
Japanese Art
Latin Religious Education
Ancient GreekConstruction Studies
Classical Studies Engineering
Hebrew Studies Technical Drawing
History Agricultural Economics
Geography Economic History

Assessment and examinations

The established Leaving Certificate is assessed through a written examination at the end of the two-year programme. There are practical examinations and project work in certain subjects, such as Art, History, Home Economics, Religion, Construction Studies and Engineering. There are oral examinations in Irish and continental languages. The practical and oral tests take place during the final year of the programme. The written examination is held in June each year.

Marking system for examination grades

A new grading scheme for the Leaving Certificate was introduced in 2017. The new scale has 8 grades, the highest grade is Grade 1 and the lowest grade is Grade 8. The new 8-point grading scale replaces the 14-point scale at both Higher and Ordinary levels.

Marks between 100% to 30% are divided into seven grade bands (1-7). Each band is 10% wide. The new scheme means that the Common Points Scale used by the CAO to determine entry into higher education institutions, has also been revised. Read More

How to apply

If you are a post-primary school student, your details will be sent to the State Exams Commission by your school. If you are an external (non-school) candidate for the established Leaving Certificate, your application to the State Examinations Commission should have been sent by the closing date.

Source: copyright Irish Government Website, Oasis

and NCCA Curriculum on line website –