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 Louise Mc Donald from Defence Forces to give some advice for people considering this job:

Louise Mc Donald

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Defence Forces

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Louise Mc Donald
I would advise them to get themselves physically fit and to maintain it. I would also say that a sense of humour is very important and the ability to laugh at themselves. They should have self discipline and be prepared to accept imposed discipline. Punctuality is very important as is respect for others. If they had sporting interests that would be a help.

Realists are usually interested in 'things' - such as buildings, mechanics, equipment, tools, electronics etc. Their primary focus is dealing with these - as in building, fixing, operating or designing them. Involvement in these areas leads to high manual skills, or a fine aptitude for practical design - as found in the various forms of engineering.

Realists like to find practical solutions to problems using tools, technology and skilled work. Realists usually prefer to be active in their work environment, often do most of their work alone, and enjoy taking decisive action with a minimum amount of discussion and paperwork.
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Subject Choice for Leaving Cert...

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Ed Zone

These courses enable learners to gain recognition for the achievement of considerable knowledge in a range of subject areas, as for example in the Leaving Certificate and one-year Post Leaving Certificate courses.

Courses may be academic or practical in focus, and awards that are recognised by the National Framework of Qualifications may lead to progression opportunities higher up in the framework.

Employment Opportunities
The majority of people with certificates at this level are well prepared for occupations that involve using their knowledge and skills to help others. Examples include office secretary, customer service representatives, special needs assistant, retail salespersons and childcare workers.

Level on the National Framework of Qualifications
2 Years
Duration of course
Grades Awarded

Marks Distribution 2017:
Listed below are the percentage distributions of marks from the 22122 students who sat the Higher Level Gaeilge exam in 2017.

Listed below are the percentage distributions of marks from the 22521 students who sat the Ordinary Level Gaeilge exam in 2017.

In brief... header image

Leaving Certificate Irish builds on the language skills developed during Junior Cycle. All four language skills are further developed towards enabling the learner to take an active part in the bilingual society in which we live in today in Ireland.

Students are encouraged to develop and share their views on a range of topics. The learner is also prepared during Senior Cycle for further study in or through Irish.

Video: Acmhainn Nua Oideachais | Oral Irish Leaving Certificate Examination Resource ~ TG4 Foghlaim

Why Study this?header image

What kind of student might Irish suit?

Studying Irish suits students who liked the language at Junior Cycle, who are interested in speaking the language and like to listen to Irish on the radio and television.

With 40% of the exam mark now going for the oral interview, a student really needs to like speaking the language to do well in this subject.


  • It is highly advisable that students spend some time in the Gaeltacht where language is spoken.
  • A bit of work at higher-level Irish can reap handsome rewards. It had a huge honours rate last year, when 80 per cent of students got an A, B or C at Higher Level.
  • Last year, 13.6 per cent of students were awarded an A2 or higher.

Videos & Interviews header image

Neasa Ní Chiaráin
Ollamh Cúnta le Teicneolaíocht Urlabhra agus Teanga don Ghaeilge
Neasa is a lecturer at Trinity College Dublin focused on using technology to promote Irish among learners.
View Transcript
Brian Ó Raghallaigh
Léachtóir le Fiontar & Scoil na Gaeilge, Ollscoil Chathair Bhaile Átha Cliath (DCU).
View Transcript
Cuan Ó Seireadáin
Cuan Ó Seireadáin, Choimeádaí le Conradh na Gaeilge
Cuan &Oacute; Seiread&aacute;in
View Transcript

Read what others say about their Leaving Cert. Subject Choices...
Mechanical Engineer - Afra Ronayne
Afra Ronayne, ESBIn school apart from the three basics of English, Irish and Maths I also took German, Accounting, Physics and Chemistry. Although Physics and Chemistry were not needed to get into the engineering course it was beneficial to have them as we had to take these subjects in first year.

However, I did not do technical drawing so I had to start this from scratch in first year of college so most people have at least one subject that they have never done before. 
  go to interview...
Planetary Scientist - Caitriona Jackman
Caitriona Jackman, Smart Futures

For Leaving Certificate I did the usual English, Irish, Maths, then Physics which I loved, Chemistry which I wasn’t great at (kept breaking stuff in the practicals), French, Geography and Music as an extra. I really enjoyed English actually, and even though a lot of my job involves computer programming and some hard maths and physics, I still rely heavily on my writing skills.

As important as it is to have technical ability in my job, it is still crucial to be able to communicate any results I find. One of the main tasks for me is to write papers for scientific journals, and occasionally to write articles for a more general audience.

My French is also useful because I collaborate with several people from a lab in Paris and they like if I make an effort to speak a bit of French, even though my accent is very embarrassing!

  go to interview...
Shift Manager - Richard Storey
Richard Storey, McDonald'sIn school I studied the basic subjects, English, Irish, Maths. I also took French Physics and Biology. These subjects stood to me in my course choice as Biology is essential in understanding how the body works when undertaking a fitness course. As we have come into difficult times recently people have zipped up their pockets and are not renewing their gym memberships, therefore leaving me struggling to obtain a job in this industry. If I could change anything I would have opted for a trade in carpentry or an electrician. 
  go to interview...
Parliamentary Assistant - Kevin Keary
Kevin Keary, EU CareersI chose a good variety of subjects at school- I did History, Biology, Geography, German and of course English, Irish and Maths.  
  go to interview...
Garda Trainee - Steven Kilgannon
Steven Kilgannon, An Garda SíochánaMaths / Geography / English / Irish / Irish / Construction / Biology

They didn't influence my career path. I spent my time working my way up in a hotel to gain experience in complaint handling and communication skills. 
  go to interview...
Guidance Counsellor - Brian Howard
Brian Howard, Department of Education and Skills

For my Leaving Certificate I studied the three compulsory subjects: English, Irish and Maths. I had a great interest in science so I chose to do two science subjects - Biology and Chemistry. I wanted to keep as many options open as possible as I wasn't 100% sure what I wanted to do on leaving school so I chose one business subject - Economics and I chose a language - French, in order to keep all the universities open also.

In hindsight I think this was a good selection of subjects as it kept a lot of doors open while also allowing me to chose subjects I liked and did well in. I eventually went on to do a science degree so my 2 Leaving Certificate science subjects came in handy. Once I had my degree this allowed me to teach and subsequently do my postgraduate in Guidance Counselling.

  go to interview...
Computer Programmer - Jason Ruane
Jason Ruane, Intel

In secondary school I took Physics and Chemistry since I loved science. I also took Business Organisation but that was for the life skills it teaches rather than an intrinsic desire. I would gladly have enjoyed doing all the science subjects, to the complete detriment of all others but in hind-sight I am glad I took a subject such as Biz. Org. as it gave a rounding aspect to my secondary schooling.

I would have liked to have done Technical Drawing possibly but had to make a choice. I was only mediocre in German and Irish but again am glad I did them for at least secondary school as it challenged me and I did not get too narrowly focused on the technical subjects (there was plenty of time for that in third-level). In hindsight I realise that Maths was more important than I imagined and the two science subjects stood me in good stead. The choices I made for the subject selection was made by my passion for the sciences. Luckily I was afforded this leeway as the points for my intended course were not particularly high at the time.

  go to interview...
Resource Teacher - Paul Galvan
Paul Galvan, Department of Education and SkillsFor my Leaving Certificate I studied English, Irish, Maths, Physics, French, Geography and History. My favourite subjects were Geography, Physics, French and English. I knew that I would like to study a combination of these subjects in further education. I think as regards a career path it’s a good idea to study subjects you like and are good at. 
  go to interview...
Teacher - Special Needs - Padraig Parle
Padraig Parle, Department of Education and SkillsHistory, Biology, French, Art, Maths, Irish and English.  Taking Art for my Leaving Cert. enabled me to go to Art College, but it was the Honours Irish which was essential to get into Primary Teaching 
  go to interview...
Mechanical Engineer - John Harding
John Harding, ESBI always knew I wanted some form of a technical or design job so I took the following subjects for leaving cert; (Maths, English, Irish - because you have to) Physics, Engineering, Building Construction & Agricultural Science. I believe these subjects have all helped me throughout my college days as they gave a great basis of what is taught in college. 
  go to interview...

Course Overview header image

Irish is assessed at three levels i.e. Foundation Level, Ordinary Level or Higher Level.

The learner’s oral competency is assessed around Easter of the final year, in an oral examination worth 40%, at each level, of the overall mark.  The other three skills; listening, speaking, reading and writing are assessed in June. Aspects of literary works must be studied at Ordinary Level while at Higher Level these same works and additional material must be studied in greater detail.

The NCCA is currently undertaking a review of the Leaving Certificate Syllabus.

Course Contentheader image

Students at Leaving Cert are introduced to Irish Literature and culture. The Leaving Cert exam takes the form of three parts: oral, aural (listening skills) and written examinations.

Recent revisions to the syllabus mean that there is now a greater emphasis on the spoken word and trying to be more fluent in our native tongue.

The oral exam is now worth 40% of the overall mark. It takes place after the Easter mid-term break. Students engage in conversation with an examiner and discuss different topics in Irish.

The aural exam takes place on the same day as the written paper and has been shortened in length as part of the new syllabus. The aural exam now will last about 20-25 minutes. Students will listen to a series of dialogues/conversations and answer questions about the content.

There are four components to the Leaving Certificate examination: an oral exam, a listening comprehension, a language paper and a literature paper.

A. PRÓS Gnáthleibhéal agus Ardleibhéal

  • Prescribed prose for Ordinary and Higher Level

Déantar staidéar anseo ar chúig phíosa phróis; scéal béaloideas, gearrscéal sliocht as úrscéal, sliocht as dírbheatháisnéis, agus scannán nó drama. 5 prose pieces are studied, a folk tale, a short story, an excerpt from a novel, an excerpt from an autobiography:

  • Oisín i dTír na n-Óg
  • An Gnáth Rud le Deirdre Ní Ghrianna
  • Dís le Síobhán Ní Shúilleabháin
  • Hurlamaboc le Éilís Ní Dhuibhne
  • Cáca milis.

B. FILÍOCHT Gnáthleibhéal agus Ardleibhéal

  • Poetry for Ordinary and Higher Level

Déantar staidéar ar chúig dhán.
Five poems are studied:

  • Géibheann le Caitlín Maude
  • Colscaradh le Pádraig Mac Suibhne
  • Mo Ghrá-sa (idir lúibíní) le Nuala Ní dhomhnaill
  • An spailpín Fánach
  • An tEarrach Thiar le Máirtín Ó Direáin

Déantar staidéar ar úrscéal, nó dráma, nó cnuasach gearrscéalta nó dánta breise.
In addition Higher level students study a novel, or a play, or a collection of short stories or a selection of poems.

AN SCRÚDÚ CAINTE (Beal) The oral exam
Seo a leanas an leagan amach a bhíonn ar an scrúdú cainte:
This is the order of the examination:

(i) Tugann an dalta: Ainm, Aois, Dáta breiathe, Seoladh Baile, Scrúduimhir don scrúdaitheoir
The pupil must give the examiner their name, age, date of birth, address and examination number

(ii) Léitheoireacht - Reading
Caithfear cúig dhán a ullmhú don scrúdú cainte.
Five poems must be prepared.
Roghnóidh an scrúdaitheoir ceann amháin de na dánta sin,
The examiner will choose one of the poems.
Beidh ar an iarrathóir 12 líne a léamh amach ósard.
The candidate must read 12 lines out loud.
Tabharfar nóiméid amháin don iarrthóir an dán a ullmhú

(iii) Sraith Pictiúr - Picture Series.
Caithfear 20 pictiúr a ullmhú don scrúdú.
20 pictures are prepared for the exam.
Roghnóidh an scrúdaitheoir ceann amháin as 20
The examiner will choose one to examine the student on.

Click here to view the set of twenty picture sequences (Sraith Pictúir) which will be used in the 2017 Oral Irish Examination (Higher and Ordinary Level).

Click here to view the set of twenty picture sequences (Sraith Pictúir) which will be used in the 2018 Oral Irish Examination (Higher and Ordinary Level).

Exam Structure header image

Exam Structure

Irish is assessed at three levels: Foundation Level, Ordinary Level or Higher Level.

The learner’s oral competency is assessed around Easter of the final year, in an oral examination worth 40%, at each level, of the overall mark. The other three skills are assessed in June.

Aspects of literary works must be studied at Ordinary Level, while at Higher Level these same works and additional material must be studied in greater detail.

The Irish exam is divided between two written exams and an oral exam.  The written exam carries 60% of the mark and the Irish oral exam carries 40% of the mark.

Leaving Certificate Exam Tips:

Click here to view the set of twenty picture sequences (Sraith Pictúir) which will be used in the 2017 Oral Irish Examination (Higher and Ordinary Level).

Click here to view the set of twenty picture sequences (Sraith Pictúir) which will be used in the 2018 Oral Irish Examination (Higher and Ordinary Level).

Watch Video - advice for students sitting the oral Irish test for the Leaving Cert.

  • Preparation is the key to success. There are three sections in the Irish paper: oral, written and aural.
  • In preparing for the oral exam you could record yourself on an iPod and listen to your voice so you become more comfortable with it. Likewise, as you travel to and from school you could listen to an Irish CD. Getting used to the different dialects is essential.
  • For the written exam, write paragraphs regularly and time yourself to practise for the exam.
  • Extending your vocabulary and learning new phrases should become part of your daily preparation.
  • A large proportion of the marks for story/essay is for correct grammar and spelling so if you don't know how to say it, then avoid it.
  • In every study session, practise past papers and check your answers.
  • It is important to plan your answers making sure you are aware of the marking scheme.

Ardleibheal/Higher Level

It is advisable for students who wish to do Higher level to have obtained at least a grade C but preferably a grade B in Junior Cert Higher level Irish.

The course is taught in conjunction with the four main skills of learning a language: listening, speaking, reading and writing.

  • Bealtriail (The Oral exam) is an important part of the exam 240 marks (40%) from 2012 onwards). 
  • The Aural/listening exam. 60 marks (10%)
  • There are two written papers.  300 marks (50%) 

Paper one - 100 marks
A) Composition Section with a choice from the following: Write either an essay, a story, an article for a newspaper or a debate/speech.
B) Two reading comprehensions usually connected to cultural affairs, famous people, current affairs, etc.

Paper Two - 200 marks
This firstly consists of questions on compulsory prose and poetry.

There are four stories and one film/drama on the prose course which are also on the ordinary level paper.
There is a question on a theme or character or an aspect of the story or film.

There are five poems printed on the paper. These poems are also on the ordinary level paper but the standard of answering expected is more detailed. There are eight additional higher level poems on the course.

Drama/Biography/short stories/bealoideas
The candidate is required to write about an Irish language drama that they have studied. The student also must answer a question on the History of the Irish Language and Literature.

Students attempting Higher level are advised to go to the Ghaeltacht for a period in the school holidays.

Gnathleibheal/Ordinary Level

Last year, over 23,000 students sat the ordinary level paper.

(i) Bealtriail: The Oral exam is an important part of the exam. 240 marks (40%) (From 2012 onwards) 

Click here to view the set of twenty picture sequences (Sraith Pictúir) which will be used in the 2017 Oral Irish Examination (Higher and Ordinary Level).

Click here to view the set of twenty picture sequences (Sraith Pictúir) which will be used in the 2018 Oral Irish Examination (Higher and Ordinary Level).

(ii) The Aural/listening exam. 60 mks (10%)

(iii) There are two written papers - P 1:100 mks P2 200mks (50%)

Paper one – 100 marks
A Written Composition Section with a choice out of the following:
Write a letter, conversation, story or a paragraph.

Usually the letter and paragraph options are topics that are prepared also for the Oral exam.

There are also two reading comprehensions, one usually about a famous person and the other about something to do with young people, current affairs etc.

Paper Two - 200 marks
This firstly consists of questions on compulsory prose and poetry. There are four stories and one film/drama on the prose course.

Students are required to know a summary of the story/film and also discuss a theme or character. They must answer two questions and there is a choice between two in each case.

Three out of the five poems are printed on the paper. Students must answer two questions on the poems. The questions are generally about a theme, a feeling, an explanation of a line or did you enjoy the poem, etc.

Bunleibheal/Foundation Level.

Last year nearly 4,000 students sat the foundation level paper. The main part of this course is Listening and speaking. There is one written paper only and this is very similar to Junior Cert Ordinary level consisting mostly of reading comprehension.

There are no prescribed prose or poetry sections in the Foundation Level course. However, students may be asked questions about an unseen poem.

Career Possibilities header image

The study of Irish can be valuable in a range of career areas:

  • Teaching
  • Public Service and Politics
  • Law
  • Public Administration 
  • Journalism
  • Acting
  • The Media

Careers in the Institutions of the European Union are a fantastic opportunity for Irish students, as Irish is now an official working language of the Union. By 2020, a range of job roles requiring Irish need to be filled - explore Irish Voices: EU Careers here.

Career Guidance