Bonus Points – Higher Level Maths

Guidance Counsellor Aoife Walsh explains the bonus points system for higher level maths and urges students to be cautious when choosing what level of the subject to sit in the June exams.

Since 2012, Leaving Certificate candidates who pass higher level maths (minimum D3 grade) are allocated 25 extra points for the purpose of the CAO college application process. While this is well known among students and parents, there is still confusion about how these points are assigned, and their advantages. The scheme was introduced to encourage students to take higher level maths.

Before this, many students who had the ability to pass honours maths were not willing to take on the subject as a result of the large work load. It certainly seems to be working as, last year, 14,326 students sat the higher level maths paper. This is double the number who took this paper before the bonus points were introduced. In Leaving Cert 2014, 96pc of those who sat the exam achieved at least a grade D.

Calculating Points

When calculating points, students should first add the 25 points to their maths score and then add together their best six subjects – on the basis of the points they have achieved for each one, rather than their best six grades.

NOTE: Some students believe that they may only use their 25 bonus points for maths if maths is one of their top six grades- this is not the case as the addition of bonus points can bring the points for maths above that achieved in another subject.

There are some very helpful examples of how to add up CAO points, including the honours maths bonus points, available in the CAO handbook 2015 and in the student resource section of The addition of the 25 bonus points means that students could potentially receive more points for a D3 in higher level maths than an A1 at ordinary level, a C1 in another higher level paper or a distinction in LCVP.

Since the introduction of the bonus points system in 2012, the CAO cut-off points for many courses have increased. If a course, such as engineering, lists higher level maths as a minimum entry requirement then it should follow that all applicants are indeed sitting the higher level paper, otherwise they would be automatically ruled out of consideration because they lack a minimum requirement.

If they all achieve a minimum D3 ,they will all receive the 25 bonus points and none will gain a points advantage. Courses where higher level maths is not a minimum entry requirement, but where the majority of students present with higher level maths, such as general science degrees, have seen a sharp increase in points due to both the increased interest in these areas as well as the effect of the maths bonus points.The increase in points for these courses has slowed more recently although they remain high.

Maths is an extremely important subject for entry to third level and students will find their options severely restricted if they do not pass at Leaving Cert. Therefore, students should be careful when choosing what level of maths to sit in the June exams.

While the benefits of receiving 25 extra points are clear, borderline students should not put themselves at risk of failing by taking higher level if they may not pass.


Author: Francis O' Toole

Francis O' Toole is a Educational Psychotherapist & Guidance Counsellor. I set up this blog page to help students gain as much information as possible to be able to make right choices and decisions regarding their career options. I believe that we will be very successful in our careers if we follow what we enjoy.

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