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Subject Choice

Leaving Certificate


Career Zone
NFQ Level
2 Years


The Art course for Leaving Cert is about developing the student's ability in a range of artistic fields and disciplines. The syllabus permits a huge number of media, from the fine arts such as sculpture, drawing, and painting, to puppet-making, embroidery, calligraphy, metalwork, and pottery.

Students are expected to spend the duration of the course practicing and developing their skills in several of these areas.

Why Study Art

If you want to study more in an artistic area, you can continue in Fine Art and specialise in painting, sculpting or printmaking. Alternatively, you could go into the design area and specialise in areas such as fashion, graphic, interior or furniture design. Studying art, as the title suggests, allows students to be creative and explore their desire for self-expression and develop an appreciation for artistic work of others, including the work of famous artists and the history of art.

What kind of Student would Art suit?

  • Students who have shown an aptitude for art, such as by getting high grades in Junior Cert Art.
  • Anyone considering a career in a creative discipline such as Architecture, Marketing, Film and Entertainment, Web Design, Fashion, Game Design, or Advertising.
  • Students who are weak in other areas, such as languages or mathematics, may find it easier to achieve points in Art.
  • Students who enjoy expressing themselves through art and like to sketch and doodle. 
  • Students who are prepared to work hard at developing their artistic talent.
  • Students who are looking for a break from intensive memory-work in their other subjects, or to reduce pressure on themselves in June by having a subject with exams in April/May.


  • For most third level art and design courses, a portfolio is required as well as the Leaving Cert.
This subject builds skills and knowledge that are particularly useful for careers in the following Career Sectors:

Grades Awarded

Marks Distribution 2019:

Listed below are the percentage distributions of marks from the 7622 students who sat the Higher Level Art exam in 2019.

Listed below are the percentage distributions of marks from the 1563 students who sat the Ordinary Level Art exam in 2019.


Explore Marks Distribution for all Subjects:

Course Overview

The Leaving Certificate Art syllabus is a broadly based course, which is made up of four units. These units link together and are based on the everyday visual experience of the student's own environment.

This subject requires a lot of work and study for the Leaving Certificate and students need to be creative and/or be able to interpret the creative work of others.

Note: that the Leaving Cert Art course has nothing to do with the portfolio submissions which art and design colleges often require. The course does not aim to build a portfolio. All marks are given for work done on the day. However, it is common to take Art while preparing a portfolio, and much of the practice work done in class can be included.


Art is examined in three ways:

  1. Still Life and Imaginative Composition Coursework – completed between Feb – April of 6th year. This is  worth 50% of marks
  2. Life Drawing – examined in May, worth 12.5%
  3. History of Art and Appreciation  – examined in June, worth 37.5%

Course Content

All students, both ordinary and higher level, follow a common course. The practical work can include Life Sketching, Still Life, Imaginative Composition, Design and Craftwork.

The History of Art and Appreciation is a broad course covering Irish and European Art, and also Art Appreciation. It requires looking at artworks through the use of reproductions, slides and art galleries, reading books and writing essays on different subjects.

Exam Structure

The exam structure is the same at higher and ordinary level

Candidate will be required to answer all four papers:

a)     Imaginative Composition or Still Life - 100 marks

b)     Design or Craftwork - 100 marks

c)     Life Sketching - 50 marks

d)     History and Appreciation of Art - 150 marks


Coursework (a) Imaginative Composition or Still Life and (b) Design or Craftwork

The Imaginative Composition or Still Life component and the Craft or Design component is executed as coursework in schools. This coursework is to be completed from Feb- April of 6th year.

These two components will be based on a single set of stimulus materials issued annually by the State Examinations Commission. Based on these materials, the candidate will choose one theme from which both components will be developed.

Each candidate will be required to create and submit a realised work for the Imaginative Composition or Still Life component and a realised work for the Craft or Design component, as well as preliminary and preparatory material.

(c) Life Sketching

Candidates will be required to make two sketches of the model. The first will be a pose of 15 minutes. The second will be a more fully worked drawing taking approximately 30 minutes. Colour may be used.

(d) History of Art Exam

The art course also features a written examination on History and Appreciation of Art, which counts for 37.5% of the marks. The exam is divided into three sections, one on Irish art, one on European art, and a final section on artistic appreciation. The course content is extremely broad, and covers everything from prehistoric art to the modern day, but students are free to focus their studies on a few narrow areas of interest such as renaissance or Celtic art. Diagrams and illustrative sketches are encouraged in the exam.


Note for Students taking Art outside of School

The changes to examinations arrangements are especially pertinent to students who intend to take Art as an additional subject outside of the normal school setting, either on their own or with private tuition outside of a school or centre.  Practical Coursework must be conducted under the supervision of a class teacher with the work authenticated by the teacher and principal. As it is not possible to meet the authentication requirements outside of a formal educational setting, coursework cannot be accepted from external candidates. If you intend on taking Art outside of school ensure that your coursework can be authenticated otherwise you will forfeit 50% of your Art grade.

Career Possibilities

Art is useful for careers in animation, art teaching, computer design, architecture, fashion design, interior design, graphic design, painting and decorating, photography and art therapy.

Career Guidance

Subject Group: Artistic

These subjects involve developing creativity and the appreciation of the work of others. This involves learning the methods and techniques of the subject and producing your own work using these skills.

Required for 3rd Level?

For most level art and design courses, a portfolio is required as well as the Leaving Cert.

Note: Each college has its own date for submission of a portfolio and you will not be notified by the college or the CAO, you will need to research the deadline yourself.

Portfolios take a lot of time to complete and some students take night classes, summer courses to complete them. There are also a number of portfolio preparation courses offered through PLC colleges.

This subject may be essential for entry into some third level courses. Click on the link below to view courses that may require this subject for entry:


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