Numbers taking higher level subjects in Leaving Cert rise

Numbers taking higher level subjects in Leaving Cert rise

There was a slight increase in the number of students gravitating towards higher-level subjects, an analysis of data from the State Examinations Commission shows.

With more than a third of students opting to sit the higher-level maths exam in 2019, 92.7% of these students earned themselves an additional 25 bonus points by achieving a H6 grade or higher.

Since the introduction of the bonus scheme in 2012, the number of students opting for higher-level maths has more than doubled. This year’s data shows that 1,089 students achieved the maximum 125 marks available by attaining a coveted H1 grade in the subject.

This represents 6% of students who opted for higher-level maths and almost 2% of all students who took the subject. Overall, 2019 saw a slight increase compared to 2018 in the number of students qualifying for the bonus and a 17% increase in the numbers of students achieving top marks.

Of course, every year the maths failure rate is the subject of much-warranted scrutiny; In 2019, 326 students who sat the higher-level exam did not manage to achieve the required 30%. As such, these students did not secure any CAO points for this exam. A further 980 students achieved a H7, a grade which attracts 37 points.

A slightly smaller percentage of students this year opted for the ordinary-level maths paper, 57% in 2019 compared to 58% of students in 2018. Looking at the ordinary-level results, more than 1,350 students did not achieve 30%, with 4.3% of students who sat the exam receiving an O8.

Just 1.7% of students who took on the ordinary level paper secured an O1, the top grade which achieves 56 points. Almost 10% of students in 2019 opted to take the foundation-level maths paper, with 142 students attaining a F8 grade.

More students opted to sit higher-level Irish this year, continuing the upward trend seen in recent years. Almost 48% of 48,334 students this year opted for the Irish higher-level paper, which is roughly in line with last year’s figures and nearly 5% more students than in 2017.

This may be due to a renowned focus on the oral exam, first introduced in 2012, which sees 40% of the subject’s total marks allocated based on a 15-minute interview. A further 46% sat the Irish ordinary level exam in June, and almost 6% chose foundation level.

This year’s data shows it is still relatively rare for students to achieve top marks in both higher-and ordinary-level English, with just 2.9% and 1.5%, respectively, achieving top grades. This is roughly in line with last year.

However, it still remains relatively common for students to achieve good marks in the subject, with 60.9% of higher-level students and 57.10% of ordinary-level students achieving a H4 or O4 or higher.

Looking at the European languages, French saw an increase in the number of students receiving H1s. Almost 8% of students who sat the higher Spanish paper also achieved a top mark, and more than 6% of students who chose the higher-level German paper attained a H1.

There were no major upsets when it comes to the science subjects; However, one slight surprise may come in the form of a reduction in the number of students achieving top marks in higher level biology.

Almost 8% of those who sat the exam achieved a H1 this year, just under 2,085 students.

This compares to 3,078 students who achieved a top grade in 2018, when 11.6% of students received H1 grades.

Interestingly, 70% of home economics students who opted for the higher-level paper attained a H4 or higher as their grade, achieving a minimum of 66 points. This might be due to the fact practical coursework makes up 20% of a student’s final grade for the subject.

History, art, and Geography, subjects that also include practical coursework, all saw relatively high numbers of students achieving solid results.

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