The new grading system for the Leaving Certificate introduced this year has resulted in more students taking higher level papers across almost all of the available subjects. Fewer students have also failed exams this year, with a record number of top grades achieved.
Statistics released by the State Examinations Commission (SEC) show that 58,543 students sat the Leaving Certificate examination this year, up just 0.1% on last year (58,465 students). So how did the Class of 2017 perform and what are the key trends emerging from the results under the new system?
The changeover to a new grading system was part of a wider process aimed at easing the pressure on students associated with the transition from second-level to higher education. The full impact of the new system is yet to be ascertained, but the initial impact seems to be positive.
Take-up at higher-level in the three core subjects increased as follows:
- Irish up 10% (22,122)
- Maths up 8% (16,395)
- English 6% (to 38,749)
For the first time ever, points are available for a higher level grade of between 30-39 percent (H7). Students can get 37 points towards college entry for achieving the H7 grade.
Explore the 2017 interactive Grade Trends Table 2017 here
In total, 6,694 students achieved at least one H1 grade this year, the top grade possible under the new system, meaning they scored between 90-100 percent in the exam and representing an increase of 5 percent on top grades last year.
13 students achieved eight H1 grades this year, while 50 students got seven H1 grades, and 130 got six H1s.
STEM SUBJECT AREAS
Biology: Biology continues to be the most popular science subject. Participation at higher level is up almost 6% this year, at 26,684 compared to 25,212 in 2016 and the highest number of exam candidates second only to English, which had 38,749. 74% of biology exam candidates achieved honours grades in 2017.
Chemistry: 8,172 candidates sat the higher-level paper compared to 7,658 last year, with 11.2% achieving grade H1 and 74% achieving honours grades overall.
Physics: 6,271 sat higher-level papers, up again on the last two years. 68% achieved honours scores of H1-H5.
Agricultural Science: 6,376 students sat the higher level paper, a small increase on the figure for 2016 (6,270). Almost 72% of the exam candidates achieved honours grades in 2017.
1,367 students sat Technology at higher level, up from 1,244 last year. 89.3% of candidates achieved honours grades in 2017.
4,586 students sat the higher level engineering paper in 2017, with 87% achieving honours grades. 4.6% scored a H1 grade.
Maths: The fail rate for maths is just over 7% between Higher, Ordinary and Foundation level candidates this year.
For students who took higher level maths, it was worth the risk. Just 344 (2.1%) of the 16,395 students who sat the higher level maths paper did not manage to achieve the required 30 percent, losing out on the 37 points available for a H7 grade, while 5.8% achieved a H1 grade.
The top grades at the ordinary level are worth 56 points for an O1 and 46 points for an O2 and a comparable 37 points for an O3. 32,334 students sat the ordinary paper with 3.9% (1,261) not achieving an O7 grade.
A grade H6 in maths gives an additional 25 bonus points for college entry - a total of 71 points, making the effort really worthwhile for those who achieve it.
5,936 students sat Foundation Maths with 4% achieving F1 grades and 1.3% with F8 grades (77). Across the three maths levels, just 1,682 failed to achieve the 30% level. This compares to a fail for over 4,000 students last year, based on the minimum grade D, or 9.2% overall in 2016.
There was a mixed picture for languages again this year.
English: Uptake of higher level English increased by 6% to 38,749 this year. Of this number, 2.9% achieve H1 grades (1,124 students).
Irish: 22,122 sat higher level Irish this year. Of this number, 5.2 % achieved a H1 grade, with 89.7% achieving an honours grade (H1-H5) in the higher paper, up a little on last year.
Russian: 310 students sat higher level Russian. 72% achieved H1 grades - the highest percentage of all subjects again this year.
Spanish: The numbers taking Spanish at higher level increased again this year from 4,405 to 4,915. A total of 8.4% received a H1 grade.
German: 5,618 sat the higher level paper this year, compared to 5,257 in 2016. 5.4% secured a H1 grade.
French: was as in previous years, the most popular language, taken by 15,934 students this year. A total of 83.6% scored grades between H1 - H5, compared to 74% honours last year.
PRACTICAL AND SOCIAL
Subjects such as design and communications graphics, engineering, construction studies, home economics and art, which include a high level of hands-on activity are showing particularly high marks this year. Many of these subjects involve some form of practical work or submitted work alongside written papers.
At honours level in 2016:
Design and communications graphics: Taken at higher level by 4,455 students with 6.5% achieved a grade H1
Construction studies: 7,451 took higher level, with a grade H1 for 2.9%
Home economics: 9,412 sat the higher level exam with a grade H1 for 3.15% of candidates.
Art: 7,737 sat the higher level exam, a small decrease on candidate numbers from last year, with a H1 grade for just 1.2% of candidates.
For those who have questions about their results today, the National Parents Council helpline will be up and running:
Helpline Number 1800 265 165
You can also visit What Next - our comprehensive area for students and parents, aiming to answer any questions you may have at this point.
The CareersPortal Team