Careers rarely develop the way we plan them. Our career path often takes many twists and turns, with particular events, choices and people influencing our direction.

We asked Fergus O'Connell from BioPharmachem Ireland to give some advice for people considering this job:

Fergus O'Connell

Quality Officer

BioPharmachem Ireland

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Fergus O'Connell
A broad science background is very important. An ability to recognise small inconsistencies is equally important. For example do you recognise small discrepancies between different camera shots of the same scene in films and TV series?

An ability to question everything and think laterally is important. Also the ability to say 'no' (not everyone is comfortable doing this). Working in quality is not about being popular and definitely not about being a tyrant but one needs to be approachable, consistent and have good interpersonal skills.

Not all of your decisions are going to be popular but they need to be based on a sound rationale and you need to be able to support them. One also needs to be acutely aware of the fact that your opinion won't always be right.

One must always be open to being convinced of an alternative argument.

The Social person's interests focus on some aspect of those people in their environment. In all cases the social person enjoys the personal contact of other people in preference to the impersonal dealings with things, data and ideas found in other groups.

Many will seek out positions where there is direct contact with the public in some advisory role, whether a receptionist or a counsellor. Social people are motivated by an interest in different types of people, and like diversity in their work environments. Many are drawn towards careers in the caring professions and social welfare area, whilst others prefer teaching and other 'informing' roles.
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How are points calculated?

Why do the CAO use points?

The CAO converts your grades (from either Leaving Cert or QQI / FETAC exams) into points in order to make it easier for them to know who did better at their exams. The colleges offer places to the students with the highest points first, so if there are more students looking for a course than there are places in the class, they give those places to the students with the highest points!

Note - sometimes there are specific subject requirements also - so it doesn't matter how many points you get you won't be able to study Theoretical Physics in TCD unless you have a H3 in Maths and Physics - which seems sensible enough!

How are points calculated?

For students sitting exams in 2017 onwards, the following tables show you how to convert your exam grades into points.

Leaving Cert Students

Firstly, find out your grades from your marks as follows...

Grades % Marks
H1 / O1 90 - 100
H2 / O2 80 < 90
H3 / O3 70 < 80
H4 / O4 60 < 70
H5 / O5 50 < 60
H6 / O6 40 < 50
H7 / O8 30 < 40
H8 / O8 0 < 30

Next, find out your points from your grades as follows...

Higher   Ordinary  
Grade Points Grade Points
H1 100
H2 88
H3 77
H4 66
H5 56 O1 56
H6 46 O2 46
H7 37 O3 37
H8 0 O4 28
O5 20
O6 12
O7 0
O8 0


  • If you take Higher Maths and get a H6 or more, your maths score will include an extra 25 bonus points
  • You add up your six highest scoring subjects to get your final CAO Points
  • Your bonus points in maths can only be counted if the total for maths (points + bonus points) is one of the six highest subjects used to calculate the total (which it usually is, but not always)
  • If you are taking the LCVP, use the following table to find your points from your grades:
LCVP Grade LCVP Points
Distinction 66
Merit 46
Pass 28

QQI / FETAC Students

For Further Education students taking QQI awards, every module you take has a credit value. Short modules have fewer credits than longer modules. Completing a module means you have achieved all the credits for that module. Typically, QQI modules are 15 credits each so completing 8 modules = 120 credits. 120 Credits are needed to achieve a QQI Major Award.

However, sometimes a module will have as much as 30 credits, so completing one large module (30 Credits) plus 6 more normal modules (6 15 = 90) would achieve the 120 credits needed. Some courses also offer additional modules, in which case you use the scores from your best ones to calculate your points, but this makes figuring out your points trickier.

We strongly recommend using the online QQI / FETAC Calculator to work out your points for you, as the manual method is not very easy to follow - instructions are here if you are interested.

What if I sat exams before 2017?

The current grading scale was introduced in 2017, and is significantly different from previous scales. The document below discusses the current and previous scales and how results from previous sittings of exams are converted into the current system.