Abbey Community College WD
Abbey Rd, Ferrybank, Waterford,
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School Articles [43]
Senior Cycle Options
Leaving Cert Subjects and Grades 
FAQ's Subject Choice  
Senior Cycle Subjects - An Overview 
Subjects and Aptitude Tests 
Senior Cycle Subject Choice - LCVP 
Senior Cycle Subject Choice - Language & Science 
Easiest Leaving Cert subjects?  
LC Subjects-The Irish Times 
Options' Night Presentations  
Careers News
Home Economics will be a five year course from 2015  
Crisis shortage of Civil Engineering graduates in Ireland 
Careers Articles
10 Essential CV Writing Verbs 
Information for Parents 
Alternative Study Routes 
Useful Websites and Apps 
STEM Education in Ireland 
Careers Using the Irish Language 
Job Hunting and Interviews  
New Leaving Cert Points Scale 
VGI Checklist 
CAO Summary and Checklist  
CAO - Change of Mind Tips 
6th Yr Career Guidance Classes
Topics for 6th Yr Career Guidance 
Third Level Grants
How to apply for a SUSI grant? 
College Supports
Students with Disabilities  
Third Level Scolarships 
Third Level
Going to College... 
College Accomodation 
Incoming 1st Year Students
First Year Options 2017 
Detailed Information on Junior Cert Subjects 
10 tips for parents of children starting secondary school 
Transitioning from Primary to Secondary School 
Waterford Support Services
Support Services in Waterford 
Study & Exams
Making the Most of My Learning  
Avoid Exam Stress 
Study Tips 
Stress Fact Sheet  
Relax Body & Mind 
Study Abroad
Eunicas - Study in Europe 
Why Study Abroad? 
Study in the UK 

Senior Cycle Subjects - An Overview







Consider the following factors when choosing your subjects:




Consider your abilities in the different subjects and choose subjects in which you are likely to get good grades.



The Differential Aptitude Tests (taken by all 3rd Year students) consist of eight different tests. The results show where your greatest strengths lie. Consider these results when choosing your subjects as you will do well in subjects for which you have an aptitude.



Choose subjects that you are genuinely interested in as you are much more likely to study those subjects and do well in them.



In addition to the core subjects (Irish, English, Maths) there are other subjects that are essential for some courses and careers. It is important to check out these subject requirements with a Guidance Counsellor or the course provider and it is your responsibility to do this.

• Do not choose subjects based on what your friends are choosing- there is no guarantee you will be in the same classes. Similarly it is unwise to choose a subject solely because of who teaches it- again there is no guarantee you will have that teacher.









There are three subjects which are compulsory:

Irish, English and Maths. Please note that from 2012-2014 an extra 25 points will be awarded for grade D3 or above in Higher Level Maths. This is to be reviewed in 2014. 

Students must then choose a further four subjects from the following list:





Artistic Group




Laboratory Science





Applied Science/Technical

Construction Studies


Design & Communications Graphics

Home Economics (S&S)


Social Studies




Business Studies






Leaving Cert Vocational Programme

Applied Maths







French for Leaving Certificate builds on the knowledge of the language acquired for Junior Certificate. The aim is to improve students’ skills in reading comprehension, aural comprehension, written and oral work.

There is a greater emphasis on oral work, as one of the components of the Leaving Certificate is an oral test accounting for 25% of the total marks at higher level and 20% at ordinary level.  Course content for Higher and Ordinary levels is similar. However, oral and written skills are of particular importance at higher level. A grade 'B' at Higher Level in the Junior Certificate is recommended for Higher Level French at Leaving Certificate.

A motivated and hard working student can achieve a high standard of spoken and written French in Senior Cycle.  Specific careers in which French would be of benefit include teaching, translation, interpreting, journalism, media.

French is the current working language of the E.U. and one of three official languages of the U.N. 

In all career areas employment prospects are much enhanced for graduates who have a good working knowledge of a European language. 



Spanish at Leaving Certificate level is a continuation from the Junior Certificate. The skills learned are further developed, i.e. written, oral and aural. Greater emphasis is placed on oral and communication skills as they account for 25% of the total marks at higher level and 20% of the total marks at ordinary level. At higher level the standard demanded is high and at the end the students should be able to communicate at ease in the target language. The cultural aspect of the language is also very important. Spanish is the most widely spoken language in the world. It is the national language of 27 countries and is useful for careers in translation, business and education. 

In all career areas employment prospects are much enhanced for graduates who have a good working knowledge of a European language. 




The NUI universities and colleges require a pass in a third language for most of their courses:


-      UCC

-      NUI Galway

-      UCD

-      NUI Maynooth

-      The Royal College of Surgeons

-      St. Angela’s College, Sligo

-      Pontifical University, Maynooth

-      Shannon College of Hotel Management


• Other colleges have a third language as a requirement for certain courses that have a large language component, e.g. European Studies, Languages & Marketing, Hotel Management, Languages & International Tourism.

• Entry to the Cadetships in the Defence Forces requires a third language.

• NCAD requires a third language or Art

• Many science and engineering courses include the study of French or German ab initio (from scratch).

No Third Language is required for:

• Trinity College, University of Limerick, D.C.U., and the Institutes of Technology, unless it is a specific course requirement (a pass in Irish will suffice).

• *No language for Engineering & Science NUI Maynooth

• *No language for Engineering, Science & Ag. Science in UCD (except for DN037- Biomedical, Health & Life Sciences)

• *No language for Engineering, Science & Food Science UCC

• *No language for Engineering & Science NUI Galway (except for GY304- Biotechnology)

• Gardaí, Nursing, Apprenticeships and most PLC Courses

***Health Sciences (e.g. Medicine, Pharmacy, etc) do require a third language in NUI universities and colleges.

This information is subject to change - check with the course provider or your Guidance Counsellor.

Not everyone is gifted with languages.  If you are struggling to get a pass in the language at Ordinary Level in the Junior Certificate, you will find Leaving Certificate very difficult.  Please discuss this with your subject teacher.



  • Students need NOT have studied music at Junior Cert providing the student is willing to sing or perform on an instrument for 25% of the paper.  Music is an excellent subject to take up in 5th year and if you like listening to music you will enjoy this subject which will make it easier to achieve high points from this subject.  Students generally do very well in this subject with a significant number achieving A's and B's every year.   

There are three parts to the course:

  • Performing: students are expected to perform on their instrument or instruments of choice for a practical exam worth up 50% (the voice being an instrument).  Music technology can be worth 25% or 50% for the practical exam. 

  • Composing: students will learn how to compose a 16 bar melody and will also use harmony. (25%)

  • Listening: 4 set works to be analysed, Irish music and also students will be tested on their ability to comment on music they have not studied. (25%)

  • All students study the same course and the only difference between levels is 1) the difficulty of the questions and, 2) Ordinary level students perform fewer pieces for their practical exam and have the option to just do music technology for the practical exam. 

  • Careers

    Music is useful for Primary Teaching, Second Level Teaching, Sound Technician, and any area of the Music Business, performing or production.
    If a student likes to sing and/or plays an instrument they would be advised to take this subject as the practical performance can be worth 50% of the leaving cert exam. This goes for classically trained musicians, members of rock bands, brass bands, traditional groups and singers of any sort. Learning to read music is not a long or painful process.  


Course Content:

Two thirds of the course is practical and one third is art history.  Whilst lessons are mainly practical in nature, developing skills in observational drawing, painting and craftwork options, there is also an art history and appreciation element covered each week.  Written assignments  & essays in preparation for the history and appreciation examination at the end of the two year period are required, with at least one visit to galleries/museums in fifth and sixth year. Students will develop their style, expression and awareness. 
Examinations may be taken in Higher or Ordinary Level in each of the following areas:

  • Imaginative Composition or Still Life – 25%

  • Design or Craftwork – 25%

  • Figure/Life Drawing – 12.5%

  • Art History and Appreciation – 37.5%

  • While the course content is the same for both levels, Higher Level students must show evidence of more elaborate expression through written and practical examinations.
    Transition from Junior Certificate Art, Craft and Design.

    It is expected that students choosing to study Art, Craft and Design at Leaving Certificate level will have completed the Junior Certificate course. Significant differences will be experienced, most notably the change from working with a theme based project (Junior Certificate) to a time restricted examination (Leaving Certificate).  Theory and art history are introduced and is a huge change from the practical based Junior Cert. 

    Career Options:

    Art is beneficial for: animation, art historian, art teaching, art therapist, archaeology, architecture, computer design, industrial design, fashion/costume design, craftwork, curator, graphic design (Visual Communications), interior design, illustration, photography........

    A portfolio of artwork may be required for entry into some college/university courses. Students who intend to apply to colleges of art and design should aim to have some of their portfolio completed in fifth year. 





If you are applying for anything in the Engineering, Medical, Paramedical, Health Science (Radiography, Physiotherapy, Human Nutrition/ Dietician, Pharmacy, Medical Laboratory, Podiatry, Veterinary Nursing, etc.) or Science areas at Universities/3rd Level Colleges, you need to have a pass in at least one Laboratory Science Subject.

A science subject is also necessary for Nursing and some beauty therapy courses.

Home Economics with Biology requires a science subject. Home Economics with Religious Education / Irish / Economics require a science subject or home economics.

Some courses require 2 laboratory science subjects.

Course requirements should be checked on an individual basis.

Chemistry is required for:

• Human Nutrition & Dietetics, Public Health Nutrition: DIT

• Dentistry, Medicine, Pharmacy: UCC (plus either Physics or Biology)

• Medicine (5 year course): RCSI (plus either Physics or Biology)

• Veterinary Medicine: UCD

• Pharmacy: TCD (plus either Physics/Biology/Maths/App. Maths/Geog)

Biology is required for:

• Genetics, Dental Hygiene: UCC

• Human Health & Disease: TCD (plus Physics or Chemistry)

• Veterinary Nursing: (Dundalk IT)

• A high grade in Biology if taking Biology as an elective in Arts Maynooth

• Very useful for P.E. teaching with Biology in D.C.U.

Physics is required for:

• Theoretical Physics: TCD

 Anyone considering courses in Engineering or Electronics would be encouraged to study Physics.

2 Science Subjects are required for:

• Dentistry, Medicine, Pharmacy: UCC (HC3 Chemistry & HC3 Physics or Biology)

• Medicine (5 year course): RCSI (HB3 Chemistry & Physics or Biology)

• Medicine, Dental Science: TCD (1HB + 1HC)

• Physiotherapy: TCD (2HC – Can include HL Maths)

• Human Health & Disease: TCD (HC3 Biology plus HC Physics or Chemistry)

•Science: TCD (2HC – Can include HL Maths, HL App. Maths, HL Geog.)

• Pharmacy: TCD (HC3 Chemistry plus 1HC – Can include HL Maths, HL App. Maths, HL Geog.)

•Human Genetics: TCD (2HC – Can include HL Maths, HL App. Maths)

•Medicinal Chemistry: TCD (2HC – Can include HL Maths, HL App. Maths, HL Geog.)

• Earth Sciences: TCD (2HC – Can include HL Maths, HL App. Maths, HL Geog.)

• Nanoscience, Physics & Chemistry of Advanced Materials: TCD (2HC – Can include HL Maths, HL App. Maths)

•UK Paramedical Courses



Topics covered include:

• Light/Sound

• Mechanics

• Temperature/Heat

• Electricity

• Magnetism

• Radioactivity

• Particle Physics or Applied Electricity for Honours candidates

 Mandatory Experiments to be completed.

• A student with good mathematical ability does well in Physics, as problem-solving skills are needed.

Physics helps students with real life situations- for example:

Car crashes/car safety,

How speed traps work,

Does the space shuttle orbit the earth?

How does a motor work?

Why do diamonds sparkle?

Why is the follow through in golf and snooker important?

Students who are interested in the following careers would be advised to study Physics:

Electrician, Optician, Doctor, Dentist, Engineer, Computer Technician, Programmer etc...



A branch of Science mainly based on an understanding of atoms and their interactions.  The topics from Junior Cert will be covered in more detail eg; atomic structure, acid base titrations, water treatment.  Important new topics will be explored such as; organic chemistry, the chemistry of carbon and its involvement in fuels, plastics, solvents etc...  The course is completed with a brief chapter on radioactivity and Industrial chemistry.

Experiments and analysis of results are a necessary and interesting part of the course.  The course content is examined by means of a terminal exam at both higher and ordinary level.  The Ordinary level covers the same topics but is not as detailed. 

For those wishing to study Chemistry for the Leaving Certificate a minimum C grade at higher level is desirable in the Junior Certificate.  A reasonable knowledge of Mathematics, though not a necessity, at higher level is an advantage.  

Careersit is most useful for careers in Pharmacy, Ag Science, Medicine, Dentistry, Engineering, General Science and Biotechnology and those going into these faculties without it may find themselves at a disadvantage.



The course is divided into three main areas:

• The Study of Life

• The Cell

• The Organism


The Study of Life includes topics such as plant and animal nutrition, ecology and the study of ecosystems.

The cell includes cell structure, cell function, cell division and quite a large section on genetics and its recent applications.

The organism includes Diversity of Living Organisms, cell types, cell organisation, plant systems and animal systems.

Within the course there are Mandatory Practicals to be completed.  Students must write up a Report on these practicals and the Report Book must be available for inspection should a Department of Education Inspector visit the school.


• Students should be good attendees as there is only one opportunity to do these practicals.

• Students should have an interest in living things, the environment and its conservation, fieldwork, biological issues and these modern applications.

• There is extensive vocabulary for students to become familiar with and learn accurately.

• Recording information and drawing diagrams is important.

• Biology should not be seen as the easiest of the Sciences at senior level. There is quite an amount of knowledge to learn and process.





The course comprises of three parts:

• Theory 50%

• Project 25%

• Bench-Test 25%


Theory involves learning about the following topics:

Building Heritage, Architectural Awareness, Current housing issues, Planning Permission, Environmental and Safety Control, Principles of Design, Floor & Wall Construction, Fireplaces and Chimneys, Windows & Doors, Roofs, Insulation, Stairs, Electrical, Water and Heating Services, Drainage and Waste Disposal, Architectural Drawing.


The only compulsory question in the Leaving Certificate exam is Architectural Drawing. This puts students who have not done Junior Certificate Technical Graphics at a disadvantage.

In the Services section of the course there is some maths and formulae to be learned. Physics would compliment this section well.


Students can pick a subject of their choice from:

Building Heritage

Practical Craftwork

Building Science


The project must be done in class under the teacher’s supervision. The project involves researching an aspect of the construction industry, presenting the findings and making a small model to help explain the findings. Good drawing and sketching skills are required.

Bench Test:

The Bench test is a 4-hour woodwork exam. Students are given pieces of wood and an elaborate drawing of an item. Using common woodwork joining techniques the students have to make the item exactly to plan within 4 hours.

Junior Certificate Woodwork would be a major advantage here.



Introduction: Engineering is the Leaving Certificate subject which continues from Junior Certificate metalwork. It has three elements to its examination: (A) A twelve week design and make project in the final year which accounts for 25% of the total grade. (B) A six hour examination in May of the final year, along with a detailed brief, which accounts for 25% of the total grade (C) A three hour theory examination in June of the final year which accounts for the remaining 50% of the total grade.

Course Content:

The content of Engineering is split between a practical (hands on experience) element and a strong theory (written knowledge) element.

Students who take Engineering will be expected over a period of two years to complete practical projects which include the use of hand tools and electrical machinery. They will be required to fine tune these skills to enable them to complete their exam project and six hour practical (assembly) exam.

Students will use machines such as: Drilling; Milling, Lathes, Band Saws, Various Welding procedures and computer aided machinery.

Students will also be expected to design for themselves various parts of any projects they undertake. This will be of extreme benefit to them in designing their final year examination project (25%).

The main headings of the theory aspect are as follows: (A) Metals (B) plastics (C) materials testing (D) welding (E) machining techniques (F) alloy technology

(G) mechanisms and electronics.

Recommended for this subject:

It is almost essential that any student taking a subject for the Leaving Certificate has taken the equivalent Junior Certificate subject (Metalwork in this instance). It is also advisable that they have taken technical graphics or at least one of the following to Junior Certificate level: technology or woodwork. The reason for this is that some aspects of these subjects overlap.

Students will find the transition much easier if they have done well in Junior Certificate Metalwork.

Differences between higher and ordinary levels:

Both levels are quite similar in that the student is required to do each of the three aspects of the examination (Project, Practical, Theory). The practical examination is identical for both levels. However the project and the written exams are less difficult for ordinary level.

Career Options:

Engineering is useful for the following careers which do not require a 3rdLevel Degree but do require an apprenticeship or equivalent:

Mechanic, panel beater, sheet metal worker/ fabricator, welder, fitter, turner, plumber, electrician, fitter/welder etc…..

Engineering is useful for the following careers which do require a 3rdLevel Degree:

Engineering teacher, mechanical engineer, electrical/ electronic engineer, structural/ civil engineering, marine engineer, computer aided manufacture, architecture, designer etc….



This subject replaces Technical Drawing.

Who should study DCG?

• Any student with an interest in construction or engineering.

• Any student who has studied Technical Graphics for Junior Certificate

• Any student with a flair for problem solving who would like to study a challenging and rewarding subject.

• Any student who likes freehand sketching and computers including Computer Graphics and CAD (Computer Aided Design)


Course Content

• The class takes place in a designated DCG room. All course work is drawn by the student using drawing instruments and freehand sketching.

• Over the 2 years the student will compile a portfolio of drawings covering a broad variety of topics from solids in contact to roof geometry. Content includes: Plane and Solid Geometry, Building Applications, Engineering Applications and a Compulsory Computer Aided Design Project

• Neatness and attention to detail are desirable attributes for any student wishing to succeed at this subject.


What career options are there?

DCG is a core element of many 3rd level options i.e. Engineering, Construction, Industrial Design and Architecture. Knowledge of DCG will greatly enhance a student’s ability to succeed in any 3rdlevel engineering based programme.

All apprenticeships include the study and completion of detailed technical drawings. Again the studying of DCG to leaving cert standard is a distinct advantage.

Is it difficult?

The subject requires good levels of concentration and commitment. Traditionally it has been viewed as difficult, but the Dept. Of Education statistics prove otherwise.

Exam: 3 hours written exam - 60%

Research and Design Project in 6th Year - 40%

Free software (CAD) is available for use for the duration of the Leaving Certificate Course.

Careers: Useful for careers in engineering, construction, interior design, architecture and all apprenticeships.




The Home Economics syllabus provides students with knowledge, understanding, skills and attitudes necessary for managing their own lives, for further and higher education and work. The learning experiences in Home Economics develop flexibility and adaptability in students, prepare them for a consumer orientated society and provide a learning foundation for a wide range of careers in food, textiles, science, design, social studies and tourism.

The core areas are:

45% Food Studies e.g. Food Science and Nutrition, Diet and Health, Food Commodities, Food Preparation and Cooking Processes, The Irish Diet and Food Industry, Microbiology, Food Preservation and Food Legislation.

25% Resource Management e.g. Components of Management, Household Technology,Housing Finance, Textiles and Consumer Studies.

10% Social Studies e.g. The Family and Society.

There are three electives of which one is chosen and researched in more depth. The elective is worth 20% of the total marks. Social Studies is the chosen elective in Abbey Community College.

Aspects of the course which continue strongly from Junior Certificate Home Economics

Food Science and Nutrition

Resource Management

Consumer Studies

Social Studies


Key Changes in this subject at Leaving Certificate.

An in-depth and comprehensive study of Food Science and Nutrition.

Coursework Assignments: five food related assignments worth 20% must be completed as part of the Leaving Certificate examination and submitted to SEC in October of 6th year.

Practical cookery is completed in conjunction with the five assignments thereby reducing the amount of practical cookery classes compared to the Junior Certificate course.

Key Points to consider

It is an advantage to have studied Home Economics and Science at Junior Certificate

There is a mandatory requirement to research and present a record of five assignments for examination.

Comprehensive written work is a core element of the Home Economics syllabus

 Home Economics is useful for careers in:

Home Economics Teaching, Restaurant and Hotel Management, Chef, Travel and Tourism, Textile and Fashion Design, Social Care, Childcare, Dietician, Food Technology, Food Science, Process Engineering, Catering, Counselling, Exercise and Health Instructor, Health Promotion, Interior Design, Environmental Health, Medicine and Nursing etc.



• Constant Acceleration

• Relative Velocity

• Projectiles

• Work Energy & Power

• Conservation of Momentum

• Circular Motion

• Simple Harmonic Motion

• Rotation around a Rigid Axis

• Differential Equations

• Newtons Law & Connected Particles


Exam: Higher Paper 6/10 questions

Ordinary Paper – 6/9 questions

Useful for careers in Engineering, Physics, Construction, Architecture.

Students taking honours Applied Maths should have studied Honours Junior Cert Maths.




Geography involves the study of the Earth, its Environment, its peoples and their relationship with the world in which they live. It is a subject which helps you to have a broader view of the world.

It is not specific requirement for many careers. At a general level it gives relevant background for careers in Transport, Tourism and Travel. If studied further at third level it can lead into areas such as Town Planning, Surveying, Weather Forecasting, Map Making and Environmental Assessment.

It is regarded as a social and general education subject. Students are advised that a good standard of English is necessary for Higher Level.

A field study is compulsory for the Leaving Certificate and is worth 20% of the total marks. The remainder is made up of final exam with core elective (both levels) and optional (higher level) sections.

Geography  develops an ability to think independently. Employers tend to look for people who are independent thinkers, open-minded, disciplined, good at problem solving and able to pick out the essential from the trivial.


The Leaving Certificate History syllabus was recently revised and now consists of 5 topics, each worth 20% of the overall mark. This framework is common to both Higher and Ordinary Level but the content matter differs for each level.

One of the topics for Leaving Cert History is called the Research Study Report. Students do their own project, on a person, movement or historical phenomenon they are interested in. Students’ research project reports can deal with political history, military (such as a significant battle), social (a person’s work for a particular organisation), economic, local…..There are opportunities here for students to choose a subject of personal interest.

For Higher Level students the Research Study Report should be between 1,200 and 1,500 words; for Ordinary Level students the Report needs to be between 600 and 800 words. This Report is submitted before the exam, thus having the chance to gain up to 20% of the overall mark before sitting the terminal exam.

Studying History will sharpen your communication skills. You will learn the importance of supporting your argument or point of view with relevant evidence. You will encounter a variety of types of sources when you study history, such as maps, political cartoons, memoirs, public records and photographs. History develops an ability to think independently without jumping to unsupported conclusions. Employers tend to look for people who are independent thinkers, open-minded, disciplined, good at problem solving and able to pick out the essential from the trivial.




Leaving Certificate Accounting is a continuation of the Book-Keeping Section of the Junior Certificate Business Course. It would be recommended that anyone considering Accounting would have knowledge of the Double Entry Book-Keeping system.

It does not require exceptional Mathematical skills. However you must be conscientious and thorough since it requires careful and detailed analysis of figures and data.

Leaving Certificate Accounting is a very rewarding subject at both Ordinary and Higher Level and a good grade is very achievable for students who are prepared to work hard.

Careers in Accountancy:

Accountants do well in good times and bad, as their expertise is equally in demand when people have money to invest or when the business environment is not so favourable and there is a focus on cost controls. Accountancy provides a valuable foundation for all business functions, and many of the top executives in Irish Business have an accountancy background. A good accountancy qualification that is recognised internationally can be a passport to working abroad. A minimum of HC1 is required for Commerce (Accounting) in NUI Galway.

The following are some of the main sections covered in Leaving Certificate Accounting:


• Final Accounts of Sole Traders & Companies

• Published Accounts

• Club and Services Accounts

• Incomplete Records

• Cash Flow Statements

• Analysis and Interpretation of Financial Statements



• Marginal Costing

• Product Costing

• Production Budget

• Cash Budgeting

• Flexible Budgeting

• Stock Valuation



Course Content

The course is made up of three sections:

Section A (Unit 1)

• People in Business

• Business Conflicts and their Resolutions


Section B (Unit 2,3,4,5)

• Enterprise and the Management of Business


Section C (Unit 6,7)

• Domestic and International Environment. 


It is not absolutely necessary to have studied Business Studies at Junior Certificate Level for admission into Leaving Certificate Business but it would be an advantage. It is essential to keep up to date with current affairs and news.

Higher v Ordinary Level

Course content for both levels is almost identical. The difference between the levels at Leaving Certificate lies in the exam paper where ordinary level questions require less information and the questions are also less complex.


Business would be of great benefit to anyone considering a course in Business on completion of the Leaving Certificate. It is a useful subject for careers in areas such as Banking, Insurance, Administration, Marketing, Business Management and Human Resource Management. Business would be useful to anybody contemplating starting his or her own business in the future.


Students do need to be informed before taking Business for Leaving Certificate that the course is largely theory based and therefore taking business for Leaving Certificate requires a great amount of learning. Having stated this, the material is very practical and interesting to someone of a business mind.





















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