Quick Guide to Choosing your subjects
The following information is a brief summary of things to consider when choosing a course.
Although studied by virtually all students, higher-level Irish is taken by less than a third of students, with nearly three times as many girls as boys taking the subject. Many students seem to have a mental block when it comes to studying Irish. For those who do not, Irish is an attractive higher-level subject. As it is essential for entry into primary teaching, the lack of male students taking higher-level Irish at Leaving Cert, translates to less male teachers in primary school classrooms.
This is a good higher-level subject for the average student, provided they are prepared to read extensively. Strong written expression is required to achieve a good result.
Less than 20% of Leaving Cert students take maths at higher level, with many students falling back to ordinary level when the pressure builds up in sixth year. It is a relatively straightforward subject for those who are good at maths, but tends to be perceived as time-consuming. The roll-out of the Project Maths programme has been a factor in increasing take-up at higher level among students, however, the introduction of bonus points for students securing a D3 or higher, in higher level maths has resulted in a striking change in higher-level uptake.
The history course has been extended beyond military and political history to include social and cultural issues. Students can secure up to 20% of their overall marks by submitting a research paper on a selected topic from a range set out by the State Examinations Commission. The research project is graded before the actual exam. Students must present three essays in the higher Leaving Cert paper, plus a documents question.
This subject studies the relationship between human activity and the physical environment. It is an extremely wide curriculum. Students can undertake a geographic investigation worth 20% of the overall marks in the final examination. This is pre-submitted in April of sixth year and graded before the actual exam. It is worth noting that geography is accepted as a science subject for entry to both science and pharmacy at TCD.
Whether you study French, German, Spanish, Russian, Italian or any other continental language for Leaving Cert, the three main elements are comprehension, oral and written presentation. Emphasis is on the ability to both understand and converse in the language studied. This is reflected in the fact that one-third of the final marks awarded are for aural and oral work. Many colleges require students to hold pass grades in languages for matriculation. These include all NUI colleges, Trinity College Dublin and University of Limerick (UL). These institutions require entrants to hold a pass in English, Irish and a third European language, or English and another language.
A very suitable subject for the student taking higher-level maths and physics. Some students complete the programme as an additional after-school subject, taken in one or two periods per week, over the two years of the Leaving Cert.
Physics has a strong maths element (though it can be taken comfortably with ordinary level maths) and requires learning-off many formulae. Students must maintain a laboratory book, as there are 24 mandatory experiments, four of which are examined on the Leaving Cert paper.
Students taking chemistry must learn-off the chemical components of a series of prescribed experiments. They will be required to present the elements of four such experiments in their examination.
Students undertake 24 mandatory experiments, the details of which they record in their laboratory book. It is often perceived as an easier subject than physics or chemistry but this is not so. There are high failure rates at ordinary level.
This is a combination of cooking, home economics, biology and business. It’s an interesting subject, but not the easy honour that some imagine. 20% of the marks are for a course work journal, completed within normal class time, and pre-submitted in October of sixth year, prior to the written examination. The study of food science is a central part of this subject. Students also have the option of studying one of social studies, textiles or home design.
This subject deals with current realities of a fast-changing business environment. It requires constant attention to the business pages of the quality newspapers. It looks at how organisations are formed, financed and run. It also explores the services that support businesses such as insurance, banking, transport, as well as public service bodies.
Economics has a mathematical slant as well as graphic and theoretical work. It explores the inner workings of companies, and how they measure their success and progress. At a macro level, it examines the bigger picture - international trade, the role of government and the EU in controlling the economy, competition and markets. A good subject for the analytical student.
Students who enjoyed the bookkeeping part of Junior Cert business should consider accounting. Analysis and interpretation of accounts is the core activity at Leaving Cert level. For those with strong numeracy and reasoning skills.
Students are introduced to the dialogue between science and religion in the exploration of meaning and values in our societies. 20% of the marks are for the journal, which is submitted and graded prior to the examination.
MUSIC AND ART
Most students taking either option will be following on from Junior Cert. At Leaving Cert, art involves work on the history and appreciation of art alongside the design and craftwork.
CONSTRUCTION STUDIES, ENGINEERING,
DESIGN & COMMUNICATION GRAPHICS
These practical subjects give students hands-on experience of working with tools and machinery. Students also undertake theoretical and background work for their final examinations.
Technology gives students a basic understanding of the principles of engineering, design and project management. If you enjoyed the technology programme at Junior Cert level, and like hands-on activity, this subject may develop an interest in a career in engineering or technology.
Explore our Detailed Guide to Leaving Cert subjects here.
Adapted from Irish Times article written by Brian Mooney