Transition Year students and Junior Cert students intending to go straight into the Leaving Cert programme will soon be faced with the big decision of choosing their Leaving Certificate subjects. Many students really struggle with this decision and it is not unusual for students to spend weeks considering their options, seeking advice from guidance counsellors and teachers and discussing ad nauseam with friends and family.
So what’s so difficult about this decision?
Before embarking on the Leaving Cert. programme students must consider their future educational goals as decisions they make now can have consequences for future college applications. This decision needs careful thought and some moderate planning to ensure students set the foundation for a good Leaving Cert programme that they can excel in and also keep options open for college applications.
How many subjects do I need?
The majority of students will take the core subjects English, Irish and Maths. There are some exemptions for Irish based on length of residency in Ireland and specific learning difficulties. Students on average take between six to eight subjects for Leaving Cert. Only six subjects can be counted for CAO points.
What to consider before you make your choice.
- Third Language
Most students will study a continental language. This is a good choice as a third language is a requirement for matriculation for the vast majority of courses in the NUI colleges. If you want to keep all your options open stick with the language studies. Some schools offer Japanese as an option and this language can be taken up from scratch in 5th year.
- Science Subjects
Choosing a subject in the field of science is also a popular choice. A lot of courses require a science subject especially those in the area of medicine, engineering and science. Biology is a firm favourite but this doesn’t mean it’s the easiest. Biology is a long course that requires a lot of rote learning. Mathematically minded students might do better in Chemistry or Physics. Be aware that some medical courses require two science subjects e.g. courses in Dentistry and Medicine. And chemistry is a requirement for Pharmacy (TCD, RCSI, UCC), Veterinary Science (UCD), Dentistry (UCC) Medicine(UCC), Medical and Health Sciences (UCC), Human Nutrition and Dietetics(DIT).
- Practical Subjects
Choosing a practical or creative subject can be a good option for students. The practical subjects have project work that accounts for a substantial percentage of the overall grade. This can ease the burden on students. Having a practical focus can add variety to your Leaving Cert subject combination and if you have a passion for the subject the practical element can be an outlet for stress, this can be especially true for art students, musicians or wood-turners.
- Course Work and Projects
Many subjects now contain a course work or project element and unfortunately the deadlines for these projects fall very closely together. The deadline for the DCG coursework is in late February. March sees the deadline for projects in Home Economics, Engineering, Art, Technology and LCVP. Agricultural Science coursework deadline is early April and the end of April sees the coursework deadline for the big hitters History and Geography, as well as Religious Studies, Music, Home Economics (textile elective) and the Construction Studies project. It is wise to consider the coursework involved in the subject combination you are thinking about before making your final decision.
- Interests and Aptitude/Ability Assessments
It is a good idea to choose subjects that you are good at and that you have an interest in. Most schools will administer aptitude tests such as the DAT or CAT and offer feedback on your performance. You may show signs of having natural aptitude in one or two areas. Some areas you might show strengths in include: verbal or numerical reasoning, spatial awareness, mechanical reasoning. Strengths in these areas will point you in direction of career areas that could compliment your ability.
Interest assessments can be very enlightening for students. Through answering a series of preference questions interest assessments can reveal a lot about your work preferences. The Career Interests Profiler on CareersPortal takes about 15 minutes to complete. This instrument provides you with a free printable report containing a summary of your career interests, along with some occupations that match your interest profile. Being armed with this information helps students to pick subjects that might feed into these careers.
- Complimentary Subjects
Everyone wants to reduce the workload so think about what subjects might overlap. Home Economics and Biology overlap in human anatomy sections, Home Economics also overlaps with Construction Studies and Business Studies. There is a strong correlation between Physics and Applied Maths, and Agricultural Science has some overlap with Geography and Biology. The Link Modules in the LCVP programme are deeply rooted in the Business Studies course. So if a student chooses complimentary subjects they might be able to cut down on some of the study.
A few final tips
Do your research –Talk to teachers about the subjects you are considering. Many subjects are very different from their Junior Cert equivalent so make sure the course is what you imagined it to be. Talk to students who are currently in 5th and 6th year about the subjects they are taking to get an idea of the topics covered and the workload involved. Browse through the Leaving Cert textbooks to gain a greater insight into the courses.
And lastly. . .
Be independent; well meaning parents may try to make the decision for their sons and daughters but ultimately this is your Leaving Cert and you should take responsibility for the decision. Try not to be overly influenced by your friends, choose the subjects you want to do and not the subjects all your friends are doing.
CareersPortal offers detailed information on Leaving Cert subjects
For more tips on choosing your subject check out the CareersPortal Guide to Subject Choice.
The CareersPortal Team