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Subject Choice

Leaving Certificate

Physical Education

Career Zone
NFQ Level
2 Years


The purpose of the physical education course is to develop the student’s ability to participate in physical education and physical activity.

The course is suitable for students who have a strong interest in sports, physical fitness or physical activities such as dancing. It develops the student’s performance levels, as well as introducing the student to insights into physical activity from the social and life sciences.

Students choose from a wide variety of physical activities and will work to improve their performance in these activities.

As the written assessment comprises 50% of the marking, ability in the physical activity alone will not be sufficient, students will need to engage with the classroom portion of the course. The course is structured so that knowledge learned in the classroom, such as how to analyse skills and improve nutrition, will directly benefit the student’s physical performance goals.

The course recognises the importance of promoting physical activity and the demands an active lifestyle can place on students and adults. The course equips students to be proponents of active lifestyles equipped with the knowledge to maximise their own and others potential.

Why Study Physical Education

  • For students with a talent for a physical activity, the course could be a valuable source of leaving cert points. However, students will need good attention to detail to work on the required skills for the physical assessment and a willingness to study the classroom sections of the course.
  • For students faced with sacrificing sports or other activities to make time for their leaving cert preparation, the Physical Education course offers a way to balance the two.

What kind of student might Physical Education suit?

  • The course should suit physically active students who are engaged in individual or team sports as well as activities such as dance and gymnastics.
  • Students who plan to pursue a career in sports and fitness occupations, such as physiotherapy, physical training or sports coaching, will benefit from the course.
  • Sports need not be a career goal to justify taking the course, the course content will benefit any student for whom participation in sports or dance makes up a significant part of their day to day lives.
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 students who sat the Higher Level Physical Education exam in 2019.

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


Explore Marks Distribution for all Subjects:

Course Overview

The physical education course features theoretical and practical sections. The two sections are interlinked, with the knowledge gained in the theoretical section enabling the student to improve his/her performance in the practical assessments.

In the theoretical section students will study the factors that impact on physical performance, the relationship between sport and society and examine the benefits of participation in physical activity. The topics studied are varied, they include learning how to maintain fitness, nutrition, develop skills, the ethics of sport and the promotion of active lifestyles.

In the physical section, students will be assessed on their skill level in three activities. There is a wide range of physical activities that can be selected, such as football, rugby, sailing, swimming, dance, running and weight training. Students will then work on improving their preparation, participation and performance in their chosen activity.

Course Content

The theoretical section is separated into two strands, students will study 4 topics in each strand for a total of 8 topics studied.

Strand 1 Towards optimum performance

In this set of topics students study the factors that influence physical performance, including how they can be applied to their own performance.

1. Learning and improving skill and technique

2. Physical and psychological demands of performance

3. Structures, strategies, roles and conventions

4. Planning for optimum performance

Strand 2 Contemporary issues in physical activity

Students learn about the culture of sports, it’s role in society and how people experience physical activity and sport. There are six possible topics, but only four are set for each Leaving Cert cycle.

These topics are run every year

5. Promoting physical activity

6. Ethics and fair play

These topics rotate, with two of the following four appearing in each Leaving Cert cycle

7. Physical activity and inclusion

8. Technology, media and sport

9. Gender and physical activity

10. Business and enterprise in physical activity and sport

For the physical section students will select three activities. There are 6 categories of physical activity and students must select one from three different categories.

The six categories of physical activity are:

  • Adventure activities – Orienteering, Kayaking, Rock-climbing, Sailing, Rowing/Sculling
  • Artistic and aesthetic activities – Artistic gymnastics, Rhythmic gymnastics, Dance
  • Athletics – Running, Throwing, Jumping
  • Aquatics – Lifesaving, Survival swimming, Two swimming strokes, Water-polo, Synchronised swimming
  • Games – Gaelic football, Hurling/Camogie, Rugby Union, Soccer, Basketball, Hockey, Netball, Olympic handball, Badminton, Tennis, Volleyball, Table tennis, Handball, Squash, Cricket, Softball, Rounders
  • Personal exercise and fitnes – training, aerobics, spinning, indoor rowing, weight training, core stability, circuit training

Students will focus on three goals in the three selected physical activities.

  1. Develop the standard of their performance
  2. Be creative in their personal performance as an individual performer and/or as a member of a team/group.
  3. Be consistent in the quality of their performance.

Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of the Leaving Certificate Physical Education Students will have developed their:

  • level of performance in physical activity
  • ability to reflect on performance in physical activity
  • knowledge and understanding of the factors which influence performance and participation in physical activity
  • appreciation of the benefits of physical activity for lifelong health and wellbeing
  • capacity to undertake different roles in physical activities
  • understanding of the principles underlying ethical participation in physical activity
  • understanding of the role of physical activity and sport in the social and cultural life of Ireland.

Exam Structure

As the course is still being formulated, it is not possible to say with certainty the content of the assessments, however the general structure is available to us.

Students will be assessed in three ways,

  • Written examination, worth 50% and which will have higher and ordinary level versions
  • Physical activity project, worth 20% and which will have higher and ordinary level versions
  • Performance assessment, worth 30% with common format for both higher and ordinary level.

Written examination

Half of the marks available for the course will be determined by a written examination, areas it will cover include the following

  • Understanding of the factors which affect participation and performance in physical activity and the relationships between them
  • A case study requiring students to apply their learning to a physical activity.

Physical Activity Project

Students will choose an activity from one of the six activity categories and select one of the following two roles

  • performer
  • coach/choreographer.

They will then develop their personal performance in their chosen role and activity by applying the knowledge and skills developed during the course.

The physical activity project should cover eight to ten weeks and will involve a project report completed in a digital format. This report will describe the students progress in the project under four headings.

  1. Performance analysis
  2. Identification of four performance goals
  3. Evidence of ongoing training/practice and reflection
  4. Concluding analysis.

Performance Assessment

Students will select a physical activity and demonstrate their ability in a range of skills, techniques and/or compositional elements. In addition, they will be required to demonstrate understanding of the rules, conventions and safety practices of the chosen activity.

Assessment will be via recorded footage of the student performing the chosen activity, the footage should demonstrate the student’s ability in the activity. Schools will supply recording devices to students suitable for capturing the required footage, paid for by a government grant. The footage will then be sent to the State Examinations Commission.

Schools will supply recording devices suitable for capturing the required footage, paid for by a government grant. The footage will then be sent to the State Examinations Commission.


Career Possibilities

The immediate image suggested by the Leaving Certificate course is a career as an athlete or dancer. However, horizons are much broader, the Leaving Cert course will equip students with knowledge and skills suited to a wide range of career paths. The course would be a first step towards careers in health and fitness, nutrition, physiotherapy or sports administration.

For students who do not peruse a career in a related area the knowledge gained from the course could still have an enormously beneficial contribution throughout their life. Enabling them to maximise their own physical activity and that of the members of their community.

Career Guidance

Subject Group: Social

These subjects explore common issues faced by all people living in society. They develop the skills and knowledge used to manage personal resources and guide human behaviour.

Required for 3rd Level?

This subject is not an essential requirement for any courses in the CAO system.

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