Leaving Certificate
The Leaving Certificate Examinations , commonly referred to as the Leaving Cert (Irish: Ardteist) is the final examination in the Irish
Republic of Ireland
Ireland , described as the Republic of Ireland , is a sovereign state in Europe occupying approximately five-sixths of the island of the same name. Its capital is Dublin. Ireland, which had a population of 4.58 million in 2011, is a constitutional republic governed as a parliamentary democracy,...

 secondary school system. It takes a minimum of two years preparation, but an optional Transition Year
Transition Year
Transition Year is an optional one-year school programme that can be taken in the year after the Junior Certificate in Ireland and is intended to make the senior cycle a three year programme encompassing both Transition Year and Leaving Certificate...

 means that for those students it takes place three years after the Junior Certificate Examination. These years are referred to collectively as "The Senior Cycle." Most students taking the examination are aged 16–19; in excess of eighty percent of this group undertake the exam. The Examination is overseen by the State Examinations Commission
State Examinations Commission
The State Examinations Commission is the organisation that replaced the Department of Education and Science, Examinations Branch of the Minister for Education and Science in the Republic of Ireland...



There are three distinct programmes that can be followed. While the outcomes of each programme are quite distinct, each is intended to reinforce the principles of secondary education; to prepare the student for education, society and work.
  • Established Leaving Certificate: The Established Leaving Certificate, introduced in 1924, is the most common programme taken. A minimum of six subjects are presented, including the compulsory Irish; most students take six or seven subjects. Most students also present in English
    English language
    English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

     and Mathematics
    Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

    . A modern European language is often studied by students as many courses in most universities require it.

  • Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme: The Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme, introduced in 1989, is similar to the established programme. The student takes at least five traditional subjects, one of which must be Irish. Two of the student's subjects must be part of one of a list of Vocational subject groupings. They must also study a modern European language and two Link Modules, Preparation for the World of Work and Enterprise Education. The programme is designed to help the student find their potential for self-directed learning, innovation and enterprise.

  • Leaving Certificate Applied: The Leaving Certificate Applied, introduced in 1995, is taken to prepare the student for adult and working life. It consists of three elements. These are General Education, Vocational Education and Vocational Preparation. It is designed to emphasize areas of achievement and excellence which are not catered for by traditional academic programmes.

Grading and available subjects

Percentage Range Grade Points for
Points for
Points for
90 – 100 A1 100 60 20
85 – 89.99 A2 90 50 15
80 – 84.99 B1 85 45 10
75 – 79.99 B2 80 40 5
70 – 74.99 B3 75 35 0
65 – 69.99 C1 70 30
60 – 64.99 C2 65 25
55 – 59.99 C3 60 20
50 – 54.99 D1 55 15
45 – 49.99 D2 50 10
40 – 44.99 D3 45 5
25 – 39.99 E 0 0
10 – 24.99 F
0 – 9.99 NG

Below is the list of subjects available to Established Leaving Certificate students, though most schools only offer a limited number. There are three levels in the Irish exam system Higher (often referred to as Honours), Ordinary (often referred to as Pass), and Foundation. Foundation Level may only be taken in two subjects: Irish and Mathematics. All other subjects may be sat in either Ordinary or Higher Levels. Percentage ranges are given on the table below, along with the points given for each grade. In general, a Higher Level grade is worth 40 points more than the equivalent Ordinary Level grade (e.g. a Higher C1 is 70, an Ordinary C1 is 30). However no points are awarded for a grade below D3 (below 40%). Thus if a student scores 40% on a Higher Level paper he/she will receive a D3, worth 45 points. But 39% on the same paper will score zero points.

The points allocations in the table below have been collectively agreed by the third-level institutions involved in the CAO scheme, and relativities that they imply have no official standing in the eyes of the State Examinations Commission or the Department of Education and Science.

L1, Modern languages

  • Irish
    Irish language
    Irish , also known as Irish Gaelic, is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family, originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is now spoken as a first language by a minority of Irish people, as well as being a second language of a larger proportion of...

     (mandatory with exceptions)
  • English
    English language
    English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

L2, Modern and Classical languages

  • Arabic
    Arabic language
    Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

  • Bulgarian
    Bulgarian language
    Bulgarian is an Indo-European language, a member of the Slavic linguistic group.Bulgarian, along with the closely related Macedonian language, demonstrates several linguistic characteristics that set it apart from all other Slavic languages such as the elimination of case declension, the...

  • Czech
    Czech language
    Czech is a West Slavic language with about 12 million native speakers; it is the majority language in the Czech Republic and spoken by Czechs worldwide. The language was known as Bohemian in English until the late 19th century...

  • Danish
    Danish language
    Danish is a North Germanic language spoken by around six million people, principally in the country of Denmark. It is also spoken by 50,000 Germans of Danish ethnicity in the northern parts of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, where it holds the status of minority language...

  • Dutch
    Dutch language
    Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

  • Estonian
    Estonian language
    Estonian is the official language of Estonia, spoken by about 1.1 million people in Estonia and tens of thousands in various émigré communities...

  • Finnish
    Finnish language
    Finnish is the language spoken by the majority of the population in Finland Primarily for use by restaurant menus and by ethnic Finns outside Finland. It is one of the two official languages of Finland and an official minority language in Sweden. In Sweden, both standard Finnish and Meänkieli, a...

  • French
    French language
    French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

  • German
    German language
    German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

  • Greek
    Greek language
    Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

  • Ancient Greek
    Ancient Greek
    Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

  • Hebrew
    Hebrew language
    Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

  • Hungarian
    Hungarian language
    Hungarian is a Uralic language, part of the Ugric group. With some 14 million speakers, it is one of the most widely spoken non-Indo-European languages in Europe....

  • Italian
    Italian language
    Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

  • Japanese
    Japanese language
    is a language spoken by over 130 million people in Japan and in Japanese emigrant communities. It is a member of the Japonic language family, which has a number of proposed relationships with other languages, none of which has gained wide acceptance among historical linguists .Japanese is an...

  • Latin
    Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

  • Latvian
    Latvian language
    Latvian is the official state language of Latvia. It is also sometimes referred to as Lettish. There are about 1.4 million native Latvian speakers in Latvia and about 150,000 abroad. The Latvian language has a relatively large number of non-native speakers, atypical for a small language...

  • Lithuanian
    Lithuanian language
    Lithuanian is the official state language of Lithuania and is recognized as one of the official languages of the European Union. There are about 2.96 million native Lithuanian speakers in Lithuania and about 170,000 abroad. Lithuanian is a Baltic language, closely related to Latvian, although they...

  • Polish
    Polish language
    Polish is a language of the Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages, used throughout Poland and by Polish minorities in other countries...

  • Portuguese
    Portuguese language
    Portuguese is a Romance language that arose in the medieval Kingdom of Galicia, nowadays Galicia and Northern Portugal. The southern part of the Kingdom of Galicia became independent as the County of Portugal in 1095...

  • Romanian
    Romanian language
    Romanian Romanian Romanian (or Daco-Romanian; obsolete spellings Rumanian, Roumanian; self-designation: română, limba română ("the Romanian language") or românește (lit. "in Romanian") is a Romance language spoken by around 24 to 28 million people, primarily in Romania and Moldova...

  • Russian
    Russian language
    Russian is a Slavic language used primarily in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Turkmenistan and Estonia and, to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics...

  • Slovak
    Slovak language
    Slovak , is an Indo-European language that belongs to the West Slavic languages .Slovak is the official language of Slovakia, where it is spoken by 5 million people...

  • Spanish
    Spanish language
    Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

  • Swedish
    Swedish language
    Swedish is a North Germanic language, spoken by approximately 10 million people, predominantly in Sweden and parts of Finland, especially along its coast and on the Åland islands. It is largely mutually intelligible with Norwegian and Danish...

Applied sciences

  • Technology
    Technology is the making, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems or methods of organization in order to solve a problem or perform a specific function. It can also refer to the collection of such tools, machinery, and procedures. The word technology comes ;...

  • Engineering
    Engineering is the discipline, art, skill and profession of acquiring and applying scientific, mathematical, economic, social, and practical knowledge, in order to design and build structures, machines, devices, systems, materials and processes that safely realize improvements to the lives of...

  • Home Economics
    Home Economics
    Home economics is the profession and field of study that deals with the economics and management of the home and community...

    , Scientific and Social
  • Design and Communication Graphics
  • Construction Studies

Laboratory sciences

  • Physics
    Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

  • Chemistry
    Chemistry is the science of matter, especially its chemical reactions, but also its composition, structure and properties. Chemistry is concerned with atoms and their interactions with other atoms, and particularly with the properties of chemical bonds....

  • Biology
    Biology is a natural science concerned with the study of life and living organisms, including their structure, function, growth, origin, evolution, distribution, and taxonomy. Biology is a vast subject containing many subdivisions, topics, and disciplines...

  • Agricultural Science
    Agricultural science
    Agricultural science is a broad multidisciplinary field that encompasses the parts of exact, natural, economic and social sciences that are used in the practice and understanding of agriculture. -Agriculture and agricultural science:The two terms are often confused...

  • Physics with Chemistry
  • Applied Mathematics
    Applied mathematics
    Applied mathematics is a branch of mathematics that concerns itself with mathematical methods that are typically used in science, engineering, business, and industry. Thus, "applied mathematics" is a mathematical science with specialized knowledge...

Arts and Humanities

  • Art
    Art is the product or process of deliberately arranging items in a way that influences and affects one or more of the senses, emotions, and intellect....

  • Classical Studies†
  • Geography
    Geography is the science that studies the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of Earth. A literal translation would be "to describe or write about the Earth". The first person to use the word "geography" was Eratosthenes...

  • History
    History is the discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of information about past events. History can also mean the period of time after writing was invented. Scholars who write about history are called historians...

  • Music
    Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch , rhythm , dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture...

  • Religious Education
    Religious Education
    Religious Education is the term given to education concerned with religion. It may refer to education provided by a church or religious organization, for instruction in doctrine and faith, or for education in various aspects of religion, but without explicitly religious or moral aims, e.g. in a...

Exam format

Each subject is examined with at least one written paper (English, Mathematics, Irish and some of the optional courses contain two written papers). Some subjects such as Art and Technology involve a practical exam which is supervised by an external examiner. Language courses are examined through both oral and aural-known as 'tape'- methods, as well as the written. The oral exams take place some months before the written exams, and the aurals take place in the same weeks as the written. Some subjects, such as Chemistry, and Agricultural Science, involve the keeping of a 'book' by students, or the creation of a project. However, not every book or project is examined, with inspectors being sent to a small few, randomly selected schools each year, or simply examining a small selection of projects from each class to check the standard.


Each subjects paper at Leaving Certificate level may have as few as two variants, or as many as six. They are divided by level: Higher and Ordinary, and in the case of Irish and Mathematics, Foundation. Each subject level-variant will also have provisions for both English and Irish speakers, with the exception of English and Irish themselves (which are printed exclusively in the relevant language). Certain subjects are printed in a combined English/Irish format, such as French or German. This leaves such subjects with only two versions: a bilingual Higher, and a bilingual Ordinary. However Mathematics in contrast has a total of six: three levels: Higher, Ordinary and Foundation, each with both English and Irish versions.

Higher Level papers are printed on pink paper, while Ordinary Level papers are printed on powder blue
Powder blue
Powder blue may refer to two different colors.The paler variant is often associated with powder snow.-Powder blue :The web color powder blue is shown on the right....

 paper. In the case of certain subjects, such as Geography, full-colour photographs need to be printed and as such, all pages but the cover are white.

2009 Leaving Certificate leak

On the first day of examinations on June 3, 2009, the second paper of the Leaving Certificate English examination, (initially scheduled for June 4), was accidentally distributed instead of Paper 1 at an examination centre in St. Oliver's Community College, Drogheda, Co. Louth. It was confirmed that a number of candidates had seen the paper before the mistake was acted upon. The examiner had failed to report the incident straight away and was immediately suspended. A State Examinations Commission official had visited the examination centre on the day in question as part of a routine inspection, and no report was made by the invigilator to the official. Due to the time at which the SEC was informed, it was unable to distribute the contingency paper in time for the following morning. Details of the leaked paper had circulated onto many messenger boards and social networking sites, many hours after the incident had taken place. The exam was rescheduled for Saturday 6 June, from 09:30 to 12:50. About 10 Jewish students, who could not sit the exam at the rescheduled time because it conflicted with Shabbat
Shabbat is the seventh day of the Jewish week and a day of rest in Judaism. Shabbat is observed from a few minutes before sunset on Friday evening until a few minutes after when one would expect to be able to see three stars in the sky on Saturday night. The exact times, therefore, differ from...

, were sent to an Orthodox
Orthodox Judaism
Orthodox Judaism , is the approach to Judaism which adheres to the traditional interpretation and application of the laws and ethics of the Torah as legislated in the Talmudic texts by the Sanhedrin and subsequently developed and applied by the later authorities known as the Gaonim, Rishonim, and...

 household in Dublin, where they were sequestered from all electronic media
Electronic media
Electronic media are media that use electronics or electromechanical energy for the end-user to access the content. This is in contrast to static media , which today are most often created electronically, but don't require electronics to be accessed by the end-user in the printed form...

 (as is normal for Shabbat) and kept under supervision until they sat the exam on Sunday morning.


Matriculation is administered by the Central Applications Office
Central Applications Office
The Central Applications Office is the organisation responsible for overseeing most undergraduate applications in the Republic of Ireland....

 (CAO) following requirements laid down by the universities. Applicants must present English and usually Mathematics and Irish. Some courses require specific subjects to be taken at secondary level. For example, veterinary medicine
Veterinary medicine
Veterinary Medicine is the branch of science that deals with the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease, disorder and injury in non-human animals...

 applicants must present with a minimum grade of C3 in Chemistry at higher level. Most commonly, engineering and science programs require Mathematics and/or a physical science. Other courses, such as medicine, have similar matriculation requirements. The greatest score that can be achieved in the Leaving Certificate is 600 points, equivalent to six higher level A1's.

Generally, students will be required to have pass grades in English, Irish and Mathematics to gain entry to university in Ireland. Up until 1995, any candidate who failed any one of these subjects was deemed to have failed their leaving cert, and would not be awarded a certificate.
This classification was removed in 1995, and now the concept of failing the leaving certificate is not applied.
If demand exceeds supply for a course (which it usually does), the CAO will award candidates points based on their Leaving Certificate performance in six subjects. The majority of candidates take six to eight subjects, including English, Mathematics and Irish (exemptions available) and usually a foreign language, with the points from their six highest scoring subjects being considered. Once base criteria have been met, course places are offered to the applicants with the highest points.

Subjects taken at foundation level are rarely counted for matriculation to university.

The University of Limerick
University of Limerick
The University of Limerick is a university in Ireland near the city of Limerick on the island's west coast. It was established in 1972 as the National Institute for Higher Education, Limerick and became a university by statute in 1989 in accordance with the University of Limerick Act 1989...

 awards up to 40 bonus points for Mathematics (Higher Level) in an increasing scale of points starting at 5 bonus points for a C3 continuing up to 40 for an A1 grade. This is an attempt to correct the recent decline in demand for scientific subjects. In 2009, 16.2% of students attempted the higher level Mathematics paper. It also reflects a return to earlier times, pre 1982, when the points scored for mathematics were doubled. This bonus for achievement in mathematics was removed mid 1980s because of a populist reaction against bias being shown towards persons who were supposedly "naturally" talented at mathematics, and being unfair to persons who were not mathematically inclined. Recent Minister for Education, Batt O'Keeffe
Batt O'Keeffe
Bartholomew "Batt" O'Keeffe is a former Irish Fianna Fáil politician who served as a Teachta Dála and Senator from 1989 to 2011. He also served as Minister for Education and Science and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation .-Early and personal life:O'Keeffe was born in Cullen, County...

, acknowledged that he sat mathematics at ordinary level in the Leaving Certificate because he was aware of the extensive study that would be required by this subject.

Some universities require a foreign language and Irish. Exemptions are available for learning difficulties
Learning disability
Learning disability is a classification including several disorders in which a person has difficulty learning in a typical manner, usually caused by an unknown factor or factors...

, birth outside of Ireland, not having taken Irish before the age of eleven years, and studying abroad for a period of at least two years after the age of eleven.

United Kingdom

Some Irish students go to university in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, particularly in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

 and larger British cities. Increasingly students from the Republic attend university in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

, and vice-versa.

In recognition of this, the Established Leaving Certificate underwent a process with UCAS
The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service is the British admission service for students applying to university and college. UCAS is primarily funded by students who pay a fee when they apply and a capitation fee from universities for each student they accept..-Location:UCAS is based near...

 to gain entry to the UCAS Tariff for direct entry to United Kingdom universities. This introduced the examination directly onto the UCAS Tariff, allowing it to be compared more easily with other qualifications on the UCAS Tariff. On June 8, 2004 it was decided that a Leaving Certificate (higher) subject will be worth two-thirds of an A-level (UK
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, except Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

). Leaving Certificate students undertake several more subjects (often a total of six to eight) than a typical A level student.


The exams begin on the first Wednesday after the June Bank Holiday every year, traditionally commencing with English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 Paper One, followed by Paper Two. The exams typically last two and a half weeks; the 2008 exams began on 4 June and ended on 20 June, with results released on 12 August, but for some students may last longer due to exams in uncommon subjects, such as Swedish, Polish, etc.

In 2008, the exam timetable was reorganised to reduce the intensity of exam period. Particular changes included the moving of English Paper Two to Thursday afternoon, as opposed to its usual time of Wednesday afternoon after English Paper One, to reduce the amount of writing candidates were required to do at the beginning of the exams.

The 2010 Leaving Certificate Examinations began on June 9, 2010 and finished on June 25, 2010.

The 2011 Leaving Certificate Examinations began on June 8, 2011 and finished on June 24, 2011.

International usage

Only one school outside Ireland offers the Leaving Certificate exam to their students. Since 1997 students at the ISM international school in Tripoli
Tripoli is the capital and largest city in Libya. It is also known as Western Tripoli , to distinguish it from Tripoli, Lebanon. It is affectionately called The Mermaid of the Mediterranean , describing its turquoise waters and its whitewashed buildings. Tripoli is a Greek name that means "Three...

, Libya
Libya is an African country in the Maghreb region of North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west....

 take the Leaving Cert, with Arabic being substituted for Irish. The School's principal said, "We have students from 42 countries studying at our school; the Irish Leaving Certificate programme offered us the kind of academic standard and subject spread that we were looking for".

See also

  • Central Applications Office
    Central Applications Office
    The Central Applications Office is the organisation responsible for overseeing most undergraduate applications in the Republic of Ireland....

  • Education in the Republic of Ireland
    Education in the Republic of Ireland
    The levels of education in Ireland are primary, secondary and higher education. In recent years further education has grown immensely. Growth in the economy since the 1960s has driven much of the change in the education system. Education in Ireland is free at all levels, including college , but...

  • Grinds
    In Ireland, grinds are private tuition; a major industry in Ireland, particularly at secondary school level."Grinds" is a Hiberno-English term which is used variously to refer to both the lesson and the teacher , although the latter usage is less common...

  • How to Cheat in the Leaving Certificate
    How to Cheat in the Leaving Certificate
    How To Cheat In The Leaving Certificate is an independent film directed by Graham Jones, in which six teens devise a plan to cheat on their Leaving Certificate. The film was shot in black and white on Super 16mm. After being hailed by critics it was blown up to 35mm for theatrical distribution...

    , an 1998 film directed by Graham Jones
  • Post Leaving Certificate
    Post Leaving Certificate
    A Post Leaving Certificate is an informal term covering a large range of courses and qualifications run in Ireland for students who have finished their secondary education. The majority of students who enrol on a PLC course are under 23, however mature students are welcome...

External links

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