Students leaving Cert are giving themselves the best chance to take advantage of this year’s guaranteed set of outstanding grades.
he record number of registrants are registered to take the “honorary” tests, which offer the highest points for university entrance.
With more students aiming high, this will increase competition in the CAO’s points race for higher education places.
Candidates raised their focus in a year where honors papers are more accessible due to more choice between and within questions, and fewer questions to answer.
Students were also assured that the overall results will be at least equivalent to last year’s inflated grades.
The number of Leaving Cert students increased by more than 3% this year, to 63,651, including 3,182 in Leaving Cert Applied (LCA). This matches demographic trends and compares to 61,519 in 2021 and 59,656 in 2019.
Such an increase is automatically taken into account in the number of places available at the college but, in addition, the share of candidates opting for the higher level is also increasing.
The higher level trend is most evident in the entries for higher mathematics, where a minimum mark of 40 pc comes with a bonus of 25 points.
Almost half – 44% – of candidates currently plan to pass the highest paper, up from last year’s record 40%, when pre-exam intentions were measured in May 2021.
It is well ahead of the interest in higher level mathematics of previous years. Adoption has increased since the bonus was introduced, but, before the Covid-19 pandemic, interest at this point in the year was at mid-30%, waning somewhat on review day.
While the increase in students’ intentions to pursue higher courses in mathematics is particularly marked, the upward trend in applicants’ ambition is visible in virtually all subjects, according to figures provided to the Irish Independent by the State Examinations Commission (SEC).
English has seen an increase in the number of candidates preparing for the honors test (78% – compared to 75% in 2021), as has
biology, 90% (88% in 2021); geography, 89pc (87pc); French, 78pc (75pc); business, 90pc (86pc); story, 83pc (80pc).
Students may change their minds about the level at which they take the paper, and an SEC spokesperson said the data presented was preliminary and subject to change.
“The final data for the Leaving Certificate 2022 will only be known after the exams have been held,” the spokesperson said.
But any drop in higher copy count on exam day will come from an all-time high and will likely remain relatively high.
In 2019, across the same sample of popular subjects, adoption of higher-level items that day was: math, 33%; English, 74 pieces; biology, 79 pc; geography, 83 pc; French, 67 pc; business, 80 pc; story, 75pc.
Figures over several years show a general shift to higher standards in many subjects, but the trend has accelerated in the Covid era when traditional exam modalities have been abandoned.
The past two years have seen the use of grades based on teacher estimates. Last year, students also had the option of taking exams, but with more choices and fewer questions to answer.
The changes resulted in considerable rating inflation. Last year, 1,342 candidates scored the maximum 625 points, more than double the figure for 2020 and a sixfold increase from 2019.
While 2022 is just a return to exams, candidates are guaranteed that the results profile will not be lower than in 2021.
In addition to papers with fewer questions to answer within the standard time, candidates’ work will be graded so that the results are at least the same as last year’s results.
Education Minister Norma Foley made the pledge due to concerns that 2022 OAC candidates could be at a disadvantage compared to Class of 2021 and 2020 candidates, if the grades profile returned to pre-Covid standards .
On average, individual results will be 60 CAD points higher in 2022 than they were in 2019 and, depending on their intentions, students are clearly looking to maximize their chances.
Meanwhile, Irish oral exams for around 500 students – which were due to take place over the weekend – have been postponed to early May as examiners were unable to attend due to Covid-19.