Q&A: Wealth of choices open to Leaving Cert students - inside and outside of CAO places

Q&A: Wealth of choices open to Leaving Cert students - inside and outside of CAO places
Trish McGrath, principal of Hewitt College.

For those who did not get the results they wanted, or indeed needed, repeating the Leaving Certificate is probably the first option they will consider, writes Trish McGrath, principal of Hewitt College.

For those who did not get the results they wanted, or indeed needed, repeating the Leaving Certificate is probably the first option they will consider.

Around 2,000 students repeat the Leaving Cert each year in Ireland. Others make different choices, such as opting for a Post Leaving Certificate course.

For some, it is often the best option. Falling a few points short is disappointing, but not the end of the world. With the right structures in place, they'll do better second time around and get on with their original plan.

But is repeating the best idea for everyone?

We ask Trish McGrath, principal of Hewitt College, a leading private college in Cork, to help students with the choices they may now be considering.

Q1. Is repeating the Leaving Certificate a good idea for everyone?

Not always. If a Leaving Certificate student hopes to study a course such as Arts or Business Studies, a Post Leaving Certificate course (a PLC) is often a much better route to pursue. For those hoping to study Primary Teaching, Occupational Therapy or Speech or Medicine, postgraduate conversion courses are available.

However, these courses can be expensive – for example, the two-year conversion course for Speech Therapy in the University of Limerick costs over E8,000 per year.

Also, certain courses are heavily subscribed so there is no guarantee of obtaining one of these coveted places. In this case, repeating the Leaving Certificate examination is the quickest, most direct and most cost-effective route of entry.

Q2. Does the success rate vary for those who opt to repeat?

There are many reasons a student decides to repeat; some seek to increase CAO points, some repeat as first time round, they hadn’t worked to their full potential, for others it’s an opportunity to take up new subjects and broaden horizons, feeling that they just aren’t ready for third-level or don’t know what course to choose.

As with any stage in school, the more that you put into a repeat year, the more you will get out of it.

For many of our repeat students, this year is simply, “the makings of them”, they will significantly increase their points score (often in excess of 100 points), take up new subjects, discover new areas of interest, make new friends and sometimes will opt for a completely different course choice armed with their new experiences and knowledge. A repeat student may be older, but generally they are also wiser!

Q3. Does the repeating route require a different strategic approach?

Absolutely! It is very important to note that while students may not combine different sittings of the Leaving Certificate for points purposes, they may be combined to meet entry requirements (note – this does not apply to Medicine).

Generally, repeat Leaving Certificate students will drop one or more of the subjects required for college entry (English, Irish, Maths and | or a third language) and choose one or more new subjects that highlight their areas of strength. Popular options in Hewitt College are Accounting, Agricultural Science, Biology, Business, Construction Studies, Engineering, Geography, Home Economics, Music, Politics and Society and Technology.

Trish McGrath, principal of Hewitt College.
Trish McGrath, principal of Hewitt College.

Q.4. If a student is repeating, can they keep some of their points from the previous year?

No. Combining of Leaving Certificate examinations for points purposes is not allowed. However, if a student performed better in a previous Leaving Certificate, the higher total is the one that counts for CAO.

Q5. A figure of a 100-point improvement is sometimes mentioned; is this achievable?

Absolutely. A repeat student has the great advantage of knowing where they went wrong before, they are often more mature and more focused second time round as they have had more time to grow and reflect upon their choices.

Q6. What common characteristics are shared by people who succeed second time around?

The successful repeat student knows that there is no point going to college to study a course in which they have absolutely no interest. They are willing to give repeating their best shot. As Stephen Covey teaches in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, it pays to “begin with the end in mind”.

A successful repeat student starts the year with a clear idea of the end goal, which ensures that the steps taken are always in the right direction.

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