The New Leaving Cert Grading System Explained


The New Leaving Cert Grading System Explained


This summer will see the first leaving cert exams under the revised grading format. The reason behind the changes is to reduce the pressure on students, and to encourage real learning as opposed to gaming the marking scheme. Below, we look at how points will be allocated from now on.


In previous years there were 11 attainable grades which would yield CAO points. These ranged from D3, just above a fail, to an A1, indicating that 90% or more of the marks were obtained. Where these grades were divisible by 5% increments, the new system leaves larger gaps of 10% between grades. The thinking here is that minor errors and lucky guesses are less likely to determine third level options. Learners are urged to examine and understand the material, as opposed to learning by rote exactly the answer the question is looking for.


In the past there has been a tendency for capable students to drop from higher level to ordinary level in fear of falling below the 40% line, thus attaining none of the possible contribution to their final points. The thinking has been that it is better to coast and bank on a sure thing, instead of stretching one’s ability to aim higher. While the recent addition of 25 extra point to those taking higher level maths (which will be continued) has been a step in the right direction, it fails to address this critical issue. With this in mind, students taking higher level subjects whose result is between 30% and 40% can still get points equal to between 70% and 80% in an ordinary level exam.


Percentage scores and their associated points value are broken down below, where “H” grades are higher, and “O” grades are ordinary.

Leaving Cert Grade Revisions.jpg


As illustrated here, results above 30 but below 40 are worth a H7 with 37 points at higher level and an O7 with 0 points at ordinary level. Remember that decimal places are counted when marking an exam so while it’s possible to get 49.9%, the grade will still be a H6/O6 until a percentage of 50% or more is reached.


With a final grade, and potentially thirdly level options, no longer standing on the knife’s edge of a minimum 2%, all 6th years can focus more on developing a fine grasp on a subject, without having to worry about gaming the system.