Francis O' Toole Author – Careers Ireland

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Mocks grades will now be closer to results / looking at college

Posted by Francis O' Toole on October 17, 2016


My students, like most around the country, have quickly gotten used to the new Leaving Cert grading system and CAO points regime. Young people are extremely adaptable and, unlike us teachers, this is their first experience of Leaving Cert. They now drop phrases like ‘H2′ and ’37 points’ into our conversations, while I have to remind myself not to refer to higher level C3s 10 times a day.

The new grading system replaces the old 28-grade system of A1s, A2s etc. with a simplified scale: H1-H8 at higher level and O1-O8 at ordinary level.

Previously, the grade changed for every 4-5pc step up in marks: for example, C3 was 55-59pc. In the new system, each grade represents around 9pc: for example, a H2 indicates that a student achieved between 80-90pc in an ‘honours’ paper.

For students, the approach to the Leaving Cert will be the same as always. They should continue to attempt as many higher level subjects as they can, and continue to aim to do as well as possible in all of their subjects. This will allow them to achieve the highest points they can and, in so doing, give themselves maximum choice, and more chance of making the cut-off for their dream course.

The new system also will remove some risk and uncertainty for students who may be a borderline higher level student in a particular subject. In the past, any student at risk of achieving below a higher level D3 (40pc-44pc) was likely to have been advised to drop to ordinary level by their teachers and guidance counsellors, because a mark below 40pc would mean they would receive no points for their efforts and, more importantly, they could fail to meet the entry requirements for their course.

The new system recognises that a student who achieves 39pc at higher level would have achieved a good score on the ordinary level paper and would have received points and, perhaps, made entry requirements if they had sat the ordinary level. So now, students who receive a H7 (30-39pc), will not only receive points for their effort but will also be allowed to count this subject as a ‘pass’ at ordinary level for matriculation and general entry requirements.

This change is likely to encourage students to stay at higher level even if they find it challenging.


Additionally, the wider grade bands – with each grade representing a 9-10pc step, for example, H6 will be 40pc-49pc – will allow students to be more confident in their predictions of how they are likely to perform at Leaving Cert, especially after their mock exams. While students can always improve their grades between the ‘mocks’ and June, grade variance is likely to be less extreme this year as, in some cases, students will need to increase their mark by 9pc in order to reach the next highest grade and, with that, an increase in points.

Students will see grade changes in some subjects but, perhaps, not as many as in previous years. This is especially true for students who have maintained a good study routine and can view the ‘mocks’ as a very real indication of where they are in relation to their exam preparation.

What is concerning current sixth years is the increased lack of ability to predict the minimum cut-off points for entry to courses in 2017, arising from both the new grading system and the new points regime. Trying to predict the cut-off points for any year was always nigh impossible and, this year, it will be impossible to do so with any accuracy. Students should simply concentrate on doing the best they can.

More to follow next week.

Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin


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