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Guidelines to Help You Choose Your Leaving Cert Subjects

Get the facts on the impact Leaving Cert Subjects make on Your Future Studies

Guidelines to Help You Choose Your Leaving Cert Subjects

This is the time of year when Junior Cycle and Transition Year students in Ireland make important decisions about Senior Cycle Subjects - decisions that may influence the options open to them after school. Here is some advice for students, and their parents, currently making those decisions.

Choose subjects that interest you

It is important to choose subjects that are appropriate to your interests, skills, and abilities. Do some research. Look at the practicalities as well as the career, educational and personal consequences of each subject option available.

Visit the Leaving Cert Subject Choice area for a detailed look at individual Leaving Cert subjects, including subject grades explorer, links to curriculum and syllabi and related college and career articles and information.

Visit Leaving Cert Subject Choice


Focus on the practicalities before making final decisions on subjects:

  • What subjects are available at your school?
  • Is there a clash between two required subjects?
  • Be aware of any issues such as the level of difficulty of the course material.
  • Check if there are requirements such as a portfolio as part of the assessment etc.

Keep your options open

It is always advisable to keep as many options open as possible. Many college courses build on your learning in the Leaving Cert, but not all. A good example is Science.

Holding on to one Science subject for Senior Cycle (Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Physics & Chemistry, Agricultural Science) keeps several college options open including all Healthcare courses, most Science courses, Sports & Physical Education and Engineering courses.

New Leaving Cert Subjects

Politics and Society is a relatively new addition to the Leaving Cert. Last year students sat the exam for the first time. This subject is widely available in schools across the country. If this subject is not offered in your school you may be interested in taking it as an additional subject outside of school.

Physical Education (PE) and Computer Science are currently in the pilot phase so they are not available in all schools. These subjects will be examined for the first time in 2020. Currently 64 secondary schools are piloting PE and Computer Science is being piloted in 40 schools. Both subjects are due to be rolled out nationwide to all interested schools in September 2020.


It is widely believed that if a student does not study a language for the Leaving Cert they will not be able to attend third level - this is not entirely the case, but having a language in the Leaving Cert can greatly impact choices. Some schools allow students not to take a language for Leaving Cert - the decision to drop a language should not be taken lightly.

Impact of Dropping a Language

Most third level colleges do not require entrants to have a European language in order to meet the matriculation, or minimum entry requirement.

  • At Trinity College Dublin, students are required to pass English and another language, and Maths or Latin.
  • The matriculation requirements for DCU are Maths and English or Irish.
  • UL - The University of Limerick requires students to have English, Maths and Irish or another language.

So, a student who does not take a foreign language at Leaving Cert will typically meet the entry requirements for these universities, as long as they take Irish, or have an Irish exemption.

Exemption from Irish

A student with an Irish exemption may apply for exemption from the requirement to present Irish as a matriculation subject from the university they will be applying to [Find out more here]. Students can also apply to NUI for an exemption from the requirement to have a third language* [Find out more here].

Matriculation requirements

To be allowed into a college for any course offered at that college, you first meet the college entry requirements - each college has their own rules, so you must research them individually. For example, particular subjects required, grades, the number of points required etc.

From 2017 onwards, all Level 8 college courses require students to achieve two H5 grades and four O6/H7 grades in the Leaving Cert. Trinity College Dublin requires students to achieve three H5s and three O6/H7 grades.

Subject Requirement

Many college courses require that you have achieved a specific grade or above, in a particular subject to Leaving Cert level, to be eligible for entry. It is important to be aware of this when choosing Senior Cycle subjects.

The NUI universities (UCC, NUI Galway, UCD and Maynooth University) require students to have passes at ordinary level English and Irish. Students must also pass a third language* to take courses in the arts, human science, law, social science, commerce, medicine and health sciences and some other degrees.

  • *Note re Maynooth University: The National University of Ireland (NUI) have recently approved the removal of the third language requirement for over half of the course offerings. A third languages is not required for any of the MH400 and MH500 degrees; namely MH401, MH403, MH404, MH405, MH407, MH411 as well as MH501 and MH502.

Students are not required to have a language for entry to engineering or agricultural science.

The Institutes of Technology generally expect students to have O6/H7 in English and Maths - not choosing a language should have no impact on a candidate's ability to get place in one of their programmes.

PLC colleges do not require students to have taken a language.

A modern European language will also be required for application to cadetships in the Defence Forces.

So, while not choosing a language will not affect entry to the majority of third level institutions, it will restrict choice to some extent.

Advice: keep as many options as possible open.

The exact requirements for entry to individual college courses are presented each year in the college prospectus and online - use the available CourseFinder filters to explore:

The CareersPortal Team

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