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Subject Choice for Leaving Cert...

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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 2018:
Listed below are the percentage distributions of marks from the 6271 students who sat the Higher Level Physics exam in 2018.

Listed below are the percentage distributions of marks from the 1314 students who sat the Ordinary Level Physics exam in 2018.

In brief... header image

Physics describes the laws and forces that govern natural phenomena. The subject aims to enhance students ability to think logically, to observe, to understand scientific method and to communicate effectively. It offers a general education in physics for all students. Science, Technology and Society (STS) is an integral part of the syllabus so that students can be aware of the principles of the applications of physics in the everyday world.

Why Study this?header image

Why Study Physics

Physics contributes to a student’s future career in many ways. It helps, in conjunction with the other Leaving Certificate subjects, to provide a broad, balanced education for any student. Physics teaches students to think logically and enables them to express their thoughts in a concise manner. The skills and knowledge developed through their study of physics can be useful in a wide variety of situations.

What kind of student would Physics suit?

  • Students who wonder why and ask how
  • Students who are interested in the following careers would be advised to study Physics: Electrician, Optician, Doctor, Dentist, Engineer, Computer Technician and Programmer.


  • While there is an element of maths in the physics course, honours maths is not a requirement to do honours physics. Students should not avoid physics on the basis of not having honours maths. It is entirely possible to get on well in honours physics without honours maths.
  • Pupils should become capable at drawing and reading graphs and competent in using a calculator through the course.
  • The physics syllabus has strong links with the other science subjects, especially chemistry. There are strands of physics which overlap with woodwork and construction, especially the electricity and heat sections.
  • Pupils who will gain the most from studying physics are those who have an interest in science at Junior Cert level and those who enjoy learning about how things work. The science, technology and society section allows students the chance to see where the physics they are learning applies as in TVs, car motors and electricity in the home and also, to see some of the industrial applications of certain topics.
  • For students who are interested in proceeding further with physics, check out our sector on Physical and Mathematical Sciences, and also the Institute of Physics, which provides information on the range of career options that students can follow after physics at third level. 

Videos & Interviews header image

Studying Physics - Physics

Read what others say about their Leaving Cert. Subject Choices...
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...
QA Manager - Michael Bohane
Michael Bohane, BioPharmachem IrelandMy Leaving Cert subjects were Irish, English, Maths, French, Chemistry, Biology and Business Organisation.  My main interest was science so I chose two science subjects and one business related subject to keep things interesting.

My subjects were appropriate for my University course except I was required to take Physics in the first year. This was quite challenging not having taken Physics to Leaving Cert but not impossible. I don't think I would do anything differently if I had to repeat the process. 
  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...
School Principal - Paul Meany
Paul Meany, Department of Education and SkillsIrish, English, Maths, French, Physics, Chemistry. For third level I had to chose between a degree in English and a degree in Science and I chose the B.Sc. 
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Garda Trainee - Mark Spain
Mark Spain , An Garda Sí­ochánaEngineering / Physics / Construction / French.

I'd like to think these gave me a good ability to solve problems as well as helping me to have a good hands on approach to things. 
  go to interview...
Civil Engineer - Maria O'Neill
Maria O'Neill, Smart Futures

In hindsight, I am happy to say I wouldn't have done anything differently to date! In my Junior Cert I did 9 subjects ; Maths, Irish, English, History, Geography, Science, Business Studies, French and Tech Graphics. I liked Languages and history the least. I won't lie, Maths, Geography, and Tech Graphics were the ones I enjoyed the most.

When I was choosing for my leaving Cert I still hadn't decided what I would do when I was finished. I was thinking of Engineering, Teaching or Physiotherapy. I wanted to leave my options open. To do physio you need a language (to get in to UCD) and 2 science subjects. I decided to do Maths, Irish, English, French, Geography, Physics and Chemistry for my leaving. That left all the options open.

I was good at Business Studies, but after looking at courses in college, I discovered you don't usually need a business subject to get into a business course. This is not the case for Science based courses. In 6th year I took up Applied Maths. Since I was doing Physics and Maths I had a good background for the subject. Twenty classes and just homework, and I got an honour. If anyone was to ask me if they should do it, if you like maths, its a great subject!

  go to interview...
Chef - David Kehoe
David Kehoe, Careers PortalMaths, English, French, Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Home Economics. All of them influenced my career as I need all of them eg. without maths I couldn't deal with the financial part of the job. 
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Science Entrepreneur - Brian Kelly
Brian Kelly, BioPharmachem Ireland

I did the following subjects for my Leaving Cert: Irish, English, Maths, French, Physics, Chemistry, Accounting and Applied Maths.

When choosing my subjects in 5th year in School I deliberately ensured that I did at least one business and one science subject because this gave me more flexibility in my choice of courses. I would recommend this strategy - particularly for those who aren't sure what they wish to study in college.

  go to interview...
R&D Engineer - Liam McCaul
Liam McCaul, Sustainable Energy AuthorityPhysics, Chemistry and French. I also studied German in college. It is good to have another language regardless of what it is. Anything to do with Engineering, I would highly suggest Maths and Physics. 
  go to interview...
Environmental Officer - Marie O'Donovan
Marie O'Donovan, CRH plc

The most relelvant subjects to my college course  which I choose for my leaving certificate were physics & chemistry.

I also had honours maths which was essential along with one science subject for entry into my college course.

These three subjects have been a useful back up throughout my career so far.

I think I choose well,  the one thing I would change about my choices would be to do technical drawing.

  go to interview...

Course Overview header image

The Leaving Cert Physics course follows directly from Junior Cert Science, and covers more topics in greater depth.

Physics is often referred to as the maths side of science, even though only a small proportion of the course is based on maths.

Physics aims to enhance the student’s ability to think logically, observe and understand scientific method.

The course is heavily based around experiments - students are required to complete and write reports of 24 practical experiments throughout the two years of Senior Cycle, and be fully aware of:

  • how to accurately record and analyse results
  • how to minimise and accommodate for experimental errors.

These laboratory experiments, along with many more non-compulsory experiments, are examined in detail on a section of the written exam paper.

Course Contentheader image

The Physics course also involves a lot of theory which is tested in the written examination. Students are expected to be able to use various formulae with respect to SI units and significant figures, and have a good understanding of the role of physics in modern society and technology.

The study of Physics for Leaving Certificate is broken down into eight sections or topic areas: 

(a) Six compulsory sections (b) Two option sections (Higher paper only, one to be done)

Compulsory sections

  • Optics / Waves: the study of light and sound and real life applications of the theory.
  • Mechanics: time, space, distance, speed and acceleration.
  • Heat: changes of state, energy conversions and mathematical problems.
  • Electricity: develops on from simple circuits to more detailed concepts.
  • Electricity and Magnetism: gravity, relationship between electricity and magnetism, study of how a motor works, ac. and dc. circuits and phenomena with real world applications.
  • Atomic Physics: cathode rays, x-rays, radioactive decay, fission and fusion, nuclear reactors and real world applications.


Particle Physics: recent type of physics, delving into the new discoveries leading to a better understanding of the formation of the universe and where we came from.

Applied Electricity: detailed study of electricity and the working of a motor developing from electricity already studied.

At Higher Level, there is a deeper, more quantitative treatment of physics.  The two option sections are omitted from the Ordinary Level Leaving Certificate course.

The course also consists of 24 core mandatory experiments complementing each section in an aim to develop students’ technical skills and enhance understanding and reinforce key concepts.

Exam Structure header image

The leaving cert exam is three hours in duration. A total of 400 marks are available for the exam.

Section A:

  • Students must answer 3 out of 4 questions
  • 120 marks: 40 marks per question
  • Questions are based on experimental procedures and use of results

Section B:

  • Students must answer 5 out of 8 questions
  • 280 marks: 56 marks per question
  • Questions are more broad and theory based


Leaving Certificate Physics is assessed by means of one terminal examination paper at each level. Students are required to keep a record of their practical work over the two years of the course. 

Career Possibilities header image

Physics is a useful subject for many courses and career areas and a good foundation for a broad range of scientific and technical careers in particular.  

Many careers benefit from the logical and numeracy skills developed in the study of physics. Many technical courses involve components of physics.

Students may move into employment or into further study following their two years of Physics at Senior Cycle. They may choose to progress to a Post Leaving Certificate course (PLC) or move on to a third level course.

Career Guidance