Leaving Cert 2018


What’s the best way for my son / daughter to access Leaving Cert Results?

Leaving Cert results are issued to the school or education provider. (If you are an external candidate, your results are issued directly to you.) Each school makes their own arrangements for students, regarding the time for collection.

All candidates also have the option of accessing their results using the SEC Online Results service which is available at 10am on the August results date.

Students will need their Personal Identification Number (PIN) and exam number (issued to all candidates before the commencement of the written exams in June)

Some students prefer to be with their peers when they receive their Leaving Cert results from the school. Others may prefer to access their results in private and/or electronically, with just a family member or other supportive presence close by.

How do we calculate points on Leaving Cert Results?

Students are awarded CAO Points based on the grades they achieve in their Leaving Cert. CAO award points for grades at both Higher and Ordinary level. Click here to see the breakdown of grades and points awarded.

Our points calculators for both Leaving Cert and QQI - FET students to assist them in calculating their points according to the new scheme.

Points are calculated from the marks on a student's best six subjects only.

In the excitement – this can occasionally be overlooked. An example of Leaving Cert Results set beside the points calculator is available here.

How do the Bonus Points for Maths work?

25 bonus points for Maths are currently awarded to all students who sit and pass the Higher Level paper e.g.

  • H1 (100 points) + bonus (25 points) = 125 points
  • H3 (77 points) + bonus (25 points) = 102 points
  • H7 (37 points) + zero bonus points = 37

If a student has repeated the Leaving Cert the bonus will apply to the single best sitting of the best six scores. This may or may not include Maths.

Bonus Points for Maths and Entry to Medicine

The maximum possible adjusted points score for applicants into Medicine increases from 560 to 565. For all scores over 550, each 5 point band equals one extra point.

The baseline score of 480 points will still apply but can include the bonus points if HL mathematics (cumulative points) is among the best six subjects. In other words:

  • All students presenting H6 or above in HL mathematics will have 25 points added to their score for mathematics
  • The six highest subject points scores will then be counted to achieve a cumulative points score, as is normal practice.

The bonus points will only be relevant in cases where HL mathematics (including bonus points) is scored as one of the candidate’s six best subjects for points purposes. Consequently, if HL mathematics is not among these six subjects, the bonus points will not be included in the total points score.

What is the deadline for applying to a restricted course?

Applying for a restricted course – you must have applied to CAO by 1 February 2020 at 5:15pm if you wish to apply for a restricted course. The restricted course must be included on your course choices list by that date or added to your application using the Change of Course Choices facility for a fee of €10 before 1 March at 5:15pm.

Restricted courses normally require additional assessment procedures, for example, the submission of a portfolio, an oral assessment or interview, or a written assessment. Restricted courses are identified in the handbook by the words “(Restricted - see page 3)” on the same line as the restricted course’s title. Please make sure to acquaint yourself with the additional requirements, if any, of the restricted course(s) that you have applied for and go to page 13 for more information about interviews and assessments.

Exception: If a restricted course shares the exact same assessment procedures with a course you had applied for by 1 February 2019, you may be permitted to introduce it on a Change of Mind. You should consult with the relevant HEI before introducing such a course.

My son has received his first choice and has accepted the course. He still wants to view his scripts and possibly appeal his grades in a couple of subjects. I know that it is possible for marks to go down - would he lose his current place if that happened and he no longer satisfied the course entry requirements?

The college can remove a place from somebody who is not fully entitled to it. If your son loses points when the results of his appeals are released, then someone else may be more entitled to the place on that course. He should consider whether the appeals are really worth his while.

My son/daughter wishes to appeal some of their grades but for some reason does not want to view their scripts. Can they appeal their grades without viewing their scripts?

Your child can submit an appeals application without viewing their scripts, however, it is recommended to view scripts as this will give them clarity about where they gained/lost marks. With this information, they will have a better idea of whether submitting an appeal is worth their while.

What if my son or daughter wants to view the marking on their Leaving Certificate scripts?

They must apply to view their scripts through the Candidate Self-Service Portal. See Key Dates

Scripts may be viewed at the school, during set hours on this date. 

The Organising Superintendent appointed by the SEC to your child's school will assign them to a viewing session. The student may bring one additional person along with them, ideally their subject teacher, where possible. 

How much does it cost to view scripts?

It costs nothing to view scripts, but there is a charge per subject if you then wish to proceed to the recheck stage. The fee is fully refundable if a script is upgraded on appeal.

What happens at the script viewing?

The candidate is awarded a viewing time by the school which they will need to attend as they can only view their Leaving Cert scripts in person.

Where it is not possible for a subject teacher to attend young people often invite a parent or older sibling along to view their scripts with them.

Remember, the viewing is a process whereby you take a look at your marked script(s) to check if the marking scheme has been applied correctly. There is no charge for viewing.

Scripts marked online are viewed online.  To see a list of these subjects which you can view online, click here.

An appeal is the process whereby you ask for your exam to be remarked. There is a charge for this (€40.00 per subject - which is refunded if an upgrade is granted)

You can apply for an appeal without carrying out a viewing of your script. However, it is highly recommended that you view your script before you apply for an appeal.

To apply to view your script, you must submit an application through the Candidate Self-Service Portal. The application for viewing scripts will open at 9am on Wednesday the 14th of August and you must submit your application by 5pm on Friday the 16th of August.

Script viewings will take place between Tuesday the 20th and Wednesday the 21st of August. 

What should we look for?

The first thing to check is that your marks have been added up correctly on the results sheet.

In the event that you find an error, this can be appealed, on the day, with form AP1 and means that a grade can be corrected without reassessment of the paper or the marking scheme.

However, the SEC (State Examination Commission) advises candidates to also lodge a formal appeal on the paper to cover all eventualities.

The formal appeal will look at the calculation of marks within questions, any disallowed questions and any dispute regarding the full marking of a particular question.

What happens next?

You must apply to appeal your grade on the Candidate Self Service Portal. The deadline for submitting appeals for 2019 is 5pm on Thursday the 22nd of August. 

The fee for each subject appeal is €40 and €15.50 for Leaving Cert Applied. This fee is refunded in the case of each upgrade. The appeals process operates within a fairly tight timeframe (see  Key Dates) so it’s important to ensure that deadlines are met and forms are completed and submitted on time. Oral and practical exams can only be reassessed when a full recheck has been requested.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of appealing a LC result?

There are pros and cons to the Leaving Cert appeals process.

On the minus side, it means an additional cost at what can be a very expensive time for any family. It may be disheartening and bring additional stress to the young person to go through an extended period of reassessment, without any positive change in the outcome.

On the plus side, the appeals process can help eliminate any doubts or recriminations about the exam result and help the young person move forward to the next stage of their lives. It also gives an opportunity to view good independent grading and feedback on their work which is helpful.

Also, if upgraded, you will be refunded. If it means the difference of getting a college course or not, it is worth a shot

The possibility of a downgrade (though rare enough) should also be born in mind.

Full details from the SEC are available here

Will points go up or down?

Every year different factors contribute to the increase in points across certain high demand courses - this year:

  • There is strong demand for courses in Education, Health, and Business courses
  • Demand is down for Arts, Journalism and Physical Sciences
  • Population trends, the total number of CAO applicants, the state of the economy, employment opportunities are additional factors that may affect the setting of points since they all have an influence on supply and demand of courses. 

Points may drop or remain steady in some cases as supply and demand for courses changes.

See our story on the most popular courses in 2019 here. This can give an indication of where points will rise and fall. Remember that nobody will know the points for each course until the offers are released!

For many students, the CAO Offers Process is a straightforward one. They are offered their first choice of course. They accept it and register for college, proceeding into a most exciting and rewarding time of life.

If my son/daughter doesn’t get their first choice, what other CAO options are available to them?

Hopefully, your son/daughter will be offered their first choice in the first round of offers but, if not, there are a number of additional CAO options available to him. These include:

  • Offer of another course choice further down the CAO list
  • Offer of a similar course at a lower level
  • Offer of their preferred course choice in ROUND 2 or subsequent round
  • The offer of their preferred course choice on the successful appeal of Leaving Cert Results. For information on this process click here
  • Courses with vacant places will be notified on available places list on CAO website, click here
  • Other options outside the CAO, click here

How is a CAO offer accepted? 

When an offer arrives, he/she should read through the offer and instructions carefully first.

To accept an offer, he/she simply logs into the CAO system using his/her access code and password and submits his/her acceptance of the offer.

He/She needs to be sure that /heshe does this well inside the deadline, particularly if he/she is returning her acceptance by standard post.

[See Key Dates for the closing date for acceptance of a first round offer.] 

If he/she is unavailable to do this for any reason, he/she should designate a trusted family member to respond on her behalf.

Note: If you have been offered your first preference course for either the level 8  or level 6 and 7 choices, you will not receive any further offers from CAO for the same list of courses. This applies regardless if you accept or reject your offer. You may still be eligible to receive an offer from the other list e.g. receiving your first preference from your level 8 list precludes you from receiving further level 8 offers but you may still be eligible to receive further offers from your level 6 and 7 list.

My son has been offered Level 7 course. If he accepts this offer can he still be offered a Level 8 course in the next round?

Yes, he can accept the Level 7 course and this will not affect his chances of being offered a Level 8 course in the next round.

However, he may not be offered a level 8 course in the second round so it is a good idea for him to accept the Level 7 course anyway. Many students find that entering college at level 6 or 7 in their chosen course area works out very well in the long term. On completion, in most cases, they can progress to a level 8.

On the basis of the current Leaving Cert result, my daughter may fall short of the points for her course. However she thinks she may be upgraded on appeal. What should she do when the first round of CAO offers comes round?

Your daughter may receive an offer for a similar course lower down the list. If she decides that the first CAO course offered is not for her, then she can simply allow the offer to lapse and await the second round and the results of the appeals process.

Alternatively she may accept the offer and consider transferring or deferring to any new course offered that might be offered to her on appeal. She must also consider the possibility that her LC results may not be upgraded on appeal.

Our daughter has been offered a Childcare course at Level 7. Her first choice is Childcare at Level 8 in the same college but she fell short by a few points. She has been offered a Level 8 course in Psychology at another private college which charges full tuition fees. What should she do?

Before deciding whether to accept the Level 7 offer or allow it to lapse and possibly take up the Level 8 Psychology course in a private college, your daughter can consider the following:

  • Area of course and career interest
  • Progression links from Level 7 to Level 8. She can check this out here or with the individual college. It is often better to do a Level 7 course that progresses to the Level 8 course of career choice than to do a Level 8 course that is of less interest and career value
  • Location
  • Costs. Costs in Private colleges can run to several thousand euro more than the standard college registration fee

If she decides to accept the level 7 offer, this can be done online, before the deadline. If she accepts the level 7 offer, the level 8 Psychology offer will lapse.

She should keep an eye out for the second and subsequent rounds of CAO offers. As there may be still a chance that she will be offered her first Level 8 course choice. In this case, she can accept her first choice Level 8 offer and her Level 7 offer will lapse.


Is it possible to accept a Round 1 offer while also planning an appeal of scripts with a view to being upgraded to a higher course choice?

A round 1 offer can be accepted and later superseded by taking up a later offer arising out of a successful appeal.

E.g: Amy, with 445 points has been offered her second choice of DC230 Economics, Politics and Law at DCU at 420 points in the first round of CAO offers.

Though it’s not her first choice, she accepts it and will be happy enough to continue with this course.

On appeal, her grades bring her points score up to 450 points and she is offered her first choice of DC232 Law & Society at DCU 455 points. (Note: figures based on 2017 points)

Though it is now the end of September and several weeks into term, she has been offered a place on DC232. Amy must now decide if she:
a) wants to transfer over to a new course, several weeks into the college academic year
b) remain in her current course until the end of the year.

In some cases, colleges offer the option of a deferred place next year on the preferred course. Amy should contact the college student advisor. They will establish what the best option is for her.

Students are sometimes advised to consider a deferral until the next year if they are five or six weeks into a course.

My son is five weeks into a Physiotherapy course but has just been offered a deferred place in Medicine for next September. If he completes first year in Physiotherapy and takes up deferred place in Medicine, will we need to pay full fees for first year in Medicine?

So far, the (DES) Department of Education & Skills has allowed students to attend college in the intervening year before taking up their deferred course, without the student being liable for full fees the following year.

This situation is outside the control of colleges and there is no guarantee that the situation won’t change at some point in the future.

What are my options if I fail Leaving Cert Maths? 

A number of colleges offer students the MCT = Maths Competency Test or equivalent.

This gives the student a chance to boost the Maths results and secure their college place. Students that have studied the Leaving Cert Higher Level Maths programme are invited to sit the MCT.

Read more here on dealing with a fail in maths.

What if my child accepts a Round 1 offer and receives a better offer in Round 2?

He can accept the Round 2 offer which will automatically cancel out the Round 1 offer – since only 1 acceptance from any candidate can remain in the CAO system at any given time.

How does The CAO Random Number Process of allocating places work?

If only 3 places remain out of a possible 200 places on a course, and the 198th to the 202nd eligible applicants all have the same points, only 3 out of these 5 applicants can be awarded a place. When applying to college courses through the CAO, each applicant is allocated a random number for each course.

This number is totally random – similar to a lottery number, and bears no relation to any other factors including CAO number, date of application, or order of course choice.

The applicant with the highest random number is allocated the first of the three remaining places and likewise for the two remaining places. The three eligible course applicants with the three highest random numbers are allocated the three remaining places.

You can read the full explanation here.

If my son is awarded a place on a course (e.g. by Random Number) and another student is upgraded on appeal, can my son lose his place on the course?


How is it possible to get more than the required number of points for a course and still not be offered a place?

This can happen if an applicant doesn’t meet all of the following entry criteria:

  • Individual College minimum entry requirements
  • Specific Course requirement – eg a particular grade in Maths or a language

Entry requirements can be checked for each course on

It is also important to ensure that if a language exemption in the Leaving Cert has been granted, that it has been registered with NUI or other appropriate authority. 

No offer?

My son worked very hard for his exams but got no offer of a college place in the first CAO round. He did not appeal his LC results as he felt they were a fair reflection of his performance. Does he have any chance of a place this year through the CAO?

He may still be offered a course in Round 2. Alternatively he can check into for vacant places. These are courses which have not yet filled all available places.

When checking through available places on the CAO site, it’s important to note that private colleges charge full tuition fees. A small number of colleges including TU Dublin offer direct entry courses. He can contact the individual college for details of these courses.

Other non-CAO options can be explored from here

My son received two offers from the CAO - a Level 8 and a Level 7 course. Can he accept both and make a final decision later?

No. He can only accept one offer at a time.

If he is having difficulty deciding, he has a few days from the date of offer to make up his mind [See Key Dates]. This gives him time to weigh up the options including which course is most suited to his interests and career plans down the line. He can discuss the issue with his Guidance Counsellor, or call the NPC / IGC helpline.

He can also check out the course content, modules and progression routes here or by going directly to college websites.

I missed the points requirement for my first choice by 20 points - and did not get offered it in round 1. Does this mean I can never be offered my first choice?

It does not mean you can never be offered your first choice, it simply means in round one you were not entitled to a place on the basis of your points but you may become entitled to an offer in round two.  If you become entitled to a place in round two then you will be offered it regardless of what you did or did not accept in round one.

I was offered my first choice but I'm no longer interested in this course. Can I apply for a course with vacant places even though I was offered my first choice?

Yes, you can. Vacant college places are available online here.

If I defer my second choice offer, will I still be offered my first choice if points come down in round two?

Yes, you will be offered your first choice in round two if points come down. Be sure to contact the admissions office of the college that offered you a place and request permission to postpone until next year. Outline your reason for seeking a deferral. The college will then contact CAO on your behalf.

If you are not offered your first choice and wish to pursue your second choice (which you previously deferred), you must reapply through CAO next year, listing just that one course in your application. If you list other courses other than your deferred place, you are then back in open competition with next year's applicants.

If I accept my offer of Law in Galway, what are the possibilities of being able to transfer to law in Trinity after my first year, which I missed due to points?

You would have to contact the HEI involved as each college has its own transfer policies.

It looks like my son won't get any other offers. If he accepts the current one, does it necessarily mean he has to go on the course until he weighs up some other options?

He is not obliged to accept it but accepting it would give him some breathing space to think this through. He could then contact the college directly and also look for a deferral.

A PLC course may also be another option. Remember - the Government will only pay for you to do first year once. Making a wrong choice can prove to be expensive.

If I accept my first choice for a Level 7 course in CIT, can I still get my first option for Level 8 offered to me in round two, if the points were to drop?

The answer is yes. Your level 6/7 will have no effect on your level 8 list.

My daughter got offered a place on the Physiotherapy course in UCD and had medicine as her first choice. Can she accept the offer and then later decline it?

Yes she can. If after having accepted the course she decides to repeat her Leaving Cert she can contact UCD and tell them that she is not taking up the place on the course.

Do the points tend to drop by much in the second round of offers?

The answer to this varies very much from course to course. In the high-demand courses you don't tend to get massive drops of points going from round to round, that is even if there is a second round for these courses. But in courses that are in lower demand you can get a drop in points.

These tend to be in the region of five or 10 points but, as always, there are exceptions. This very much depends on how many people do not take up an initial offer on the course and hence how many places down the course merit list the CAO have to go to fill the unfilled places.

How much is it going to cost?

Talking through the financial implications, as you judge appropriate for your family, is always helpful in working out a realistic budget for the months and years at college. Here are some pointers:

Registration Fee

Colleges charge an annual student contribution commonly known as a Registration Fee or Student Contribution Charge, which all students must pay*. It covers student services and exam fee costs.

The amount of the student contribution varies from one institution to another. The standard rate is currently €3,000.

Tuition Fees

Most undergraduate students attending publicly funded third-level courses do not have to pay tuition fees, as these come under the terms of the Free Fees Initiative. The tuition fees are paid directly to the college concerned by the Department of Education and Skills. 

PLC Courses

Charges for Post-Leaving Certificate courses (PLCs) operate under slightly different rules. Registration fees apply, but there are no fees for tuition. Students are liable for a €200 participation contribution, imposed on all PLC courses. The following categories of student are exempt from paying the contribution:

  • Full current medical card holders in their own right and their dependent children.
  • Those who are eligible under the student grant Scheme
  • Those in receipt of the Back to Education Allowance or VTOS allowances.
Students must also cover the cost of the various student services - examination fees, insurance, registration charges, books, and where required - uniforms and specialised equipment. 

Private Colleges

Free fees do not apply to courses in private colleges, whether they have Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) approval or not. The fact that a course is listed by the Central Applications Office (CAO) is not, in itself, enough to make it a free fees course.
Private colleges charge full tuition fees. For exact figures check individual college websites.

[See also SUSI Grant Scheme and check if Fees are Tax Deductible]

Accommodation Costs

For students who are likely to be living away from home, on-campus accommodation, student villages or halls of residence are often the best choice for 1st year, as these offer a comfortable bridge between home and the independence of living in a flat or apartment. Check individual college websites for details.

Living Expenses

Students will also need to budget for weekly living expenses for an academic year (a nine-month period from September to May). 

Things to consider: rent, supermarket shopping, meals on campus, electricity/heating bills, refuse bills, parking fees, mobile phone costs, travel, clothing, snacks on campus, socialising, health, books and materials,
laptop, course related travel and field trips, Erasmus year or internship abroad. 

Check out this student budget calculator

Parents that have been through the process suggest it’s a good idea to be prepared for a few unexpected expenses along the way.

Student Loans

Some colleges are now offering student loan systems (e.g. TCD ) which are designed to ease the burden of payment for the student contribution charge.

Note: *If you are getting the Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) you may qualify for exemption from the student contribution. 

Part time job or not?

This is ultimately up to the individual young person. Many college courses involve intensive programmes of lectures, practicals, study and assignments, leaving just about enough time for sports and leisure activities and some socialising. The additional income from a part time job is always welcome in a student pocket but the longer term focus will be on achieving a good degree and drawing the maximum benefit from college life.

Building up employability skills through part time work will no doubt be beneficial for a students future career path and so will always be worthwhile.  

If the student can access relevant internship or paid work that directly links into their career plans or gives them the chance to put learning into practice, this can be a valuable asset in CV and job application terms further down the line. 

How can we establish if our son / daughter is eligible for a grant?

Students can check if they are eligible for a grant using the SUSI ready reckoner available here. If eligible, application for the grant is through SUSI. 

SUSI stands for Student Universal Support Ireland. Students who are eligible for a grant under the scheme may qualify for a maintenance and a fee grant. 
Eligibility for a grant is calculated on the basis of family income. Several factors are taken into account and the system is designed to be as fair as possible. 

View quick guide on How SUSI operates.

All the information you need is at

Advice: Watch out for grant application deadlines and securing the correct documentation in time. [More]

We are not eligible for a grant as we are just slightly over the income limit. What financial supports are there in this case?

Watch out for college scholarships, funding programmes and a range of additional financial supports in college. You will find information about these on college websites and at the section on 'Grants & Scholarships' and visit  Student Finance for more information.

Some banks such as Bank of Ireland offer a 'College Finance Loan' to parents or guardians of students to borrow each year, the cost of their son or daughter’s Student Contribution Charges. The total amount required depends on the duration of the course, ranging from 1 to 4 years.

Is it true that having to repeat a year at college will incur the full tuition fee for the repeated year?

Unfortunately if a student fails a year, they are liable for the cost of full tuition fees for the year they must repeat. Full tuition fees are significantly higher than the standard registration fee.

If a student decides to drop out of a course part way through the year and start again the following september either on the same course or a different course there will be financial consequences. 

The student must first write formally to the registrar in their college advising them that they wants to withdraw immediately. 

Each college receives about €4,000 in funding per student each year from the Higher Education Authority (HEA)

This is paid in two tranches, with the second chunk paid from February 1st. The HEA will only pay this sum to a college on behalf of a student once. This means repeat students end up footing this bill.
If you pay half the registration fees in September and then offically leave your course before February 1st you will not be billed with the remaining €1,500 balance of the €3,000 college registration fee.

How do we apply for SUSI?

There is a single grant awarding authority for all Further Education (PLC) and Higher Education (Undergraduate) courses called Student Universal Support Ireland - also known as SUSI.

Eligibility for a grant is calculated on the basis of family income. Several factors are taken into account and the system is designed to be as fair as possible. 

Students can check if they are eligible for a grant using the SUSI ready reckoner available here. If eligible, application for the grant is through SUSI. 

View quick guide to How SUSI operates.

All the information you need is at 

Advice: Watch out for grant application deadlines and securing the correct documentation in time. [More]

Ten Top Tips for Grant Application

  • Where possible, complete the grant application together with your son/daughter, parent/guardian.
  • Have your PPS number to hand (Student and Parent)
  • You will also need accurate information relating to your income for previous year e.g. P21 / P60.
  • Timing - Apply As soon as possible - applications open in early April and remain open all summer and into the beginning of the college term. You will need to contact SUSI for late grant application details.
  • It is possible to apply for a grant before final selection of course or college.
  • Set aside a suitable time to complete the form. It takes less than half an hour to complete.
  • Once the form is submitted, it will not be possible to make changes.
  • Establish the correct category of student (dependent students are assessed on parents' income).
  • Establish the correct family income band.
  • Remember there are two separate grant maintenance rates:
    • Adjacent rate - this is for students living less than 45 kilometres from the college they plan to attent
    • Non-adjacent rate - this is for students living more than 45 kilometres away from the college

Employer-Sponsored Programmes

Some companies provide specialised training programmes where candidates start working immediately but also complete training alongside their work responsibilities.

These programmes normally afford candidates trainee contracts, which entitles them to a salary as they work and train. 

Lidl runs a Retail Management Degree Programme in conjuction with Dublin Business School. The programme features on-the-job and off-the-job training, based in store and at DBS. For more information on the programme, click here.

The Central Bank of Ireland runs a scholarship scheme which offers candidates the opportunity to work in the Central Bank while working towards a degree qualification at Griffith College Dublin. This is a salaried position where candidates split their time between work and study. More details here.

Graduate Entry Programmes

Some popular courses which are in high demand at undergraduate level are also offered as graduate degrees. Disciplines such as Medicine and Teaching always attract a lot of interest from CAO applicants, but not everybody who applies to these courses is offered a place. However, many of those who are employed in the teaching and medical professions pursue the disciplines as graduates through graduate-entry degree programmes. Once students have completed their primary degree, they can then apply to the graduate-entry degree programme of their preferred profession. This can be a great alternative route to your preferred course.

Note: Entry requirements to graduate-entry degree programmes vary from college to college. It is best to check with the degree provider to determine specific entry requirements.

Post Leaving Cert Courses

What is a PLC Course?

A PLC or Post Leaving Cert / further education course is a recognised programme of study. It forms a bridge between secondary school and third level education. 

PLC qualifications are usually Level 5 or 6 on the NFQ. They are fully accredited and recognised by colleges, employers, and employment organisations.

Courses typically consist of eight modules and a work placement. They are usually year-long programmes of classroom learning coupled with applied practical learning. Students are assessed on assignments, research, placement and end of year exams.

PLCs offer courses across a comprehensive range of career interests

What are the advantages of doing a PLC?

PLC colleges offer a broad range of programmes [search here] covering a range of career interests, including many with a practical content.

  • The Higher Education Links Scheme offers PLC students an alternative route into Third Level college – full information on course listings available here. If a student fails to meet the Leaving Cert Points requirement, they can still access their course of choice by meeting the entry requirements.
  • The compulsory Work Experience module is useful, allowing students to gain valuable experience of their chosen workplace
  • Courses offer a more gentle progression from school to college
  • It can be useful and cost-effective way to spend a gap year if a young person is waiting to take up a deferred place or remains undecided about their plans
  • It offers a taster course for subjects not available in a Leaving Cert Curriculum
  • Students that have completed the Leaving Cert Applied can access third level education through the PLC route. 

How and when are applications made?

Application is made online directly to the college in question by completing the appropriate application form. Most colleges also have an interview process.

PLC courses fill up quickly. Many students apply during their Leaving Cert year to be sure of having a contingency plan.

For information on financial support to PLC students go to

UCAS Clearing

UCAS is the British system for undergraduate University entry. Clearing is a service available for colleges in the UK between July and September. It is similar to the 'vacant places' system in the CAO process.

For most people, UCAS clearing is used after the leaving cert exam results are published in August. It can help students without a university or college place to find suitable vacancies on higher education courses in the UK.

College fees in the UK have risen steeply over the last number of years and there may be less interest in UCAS options now, with Brexit on the horizon. However, for some students, it remains a good option.

If you have the flexibility and reasonable exam results, there is always a good chance that you will find another course through UCAS Clearing. For full details click here

Repeat Leaving Cert

Repeat Leaving Cert courses are available at a number of specialised colleges, ETB colleges and some schools.

Repeating is a particularly good option for students that have a:

  • Strong likelihood of improving their results with work and study
  • Solid existing record of study and ability to apply themselves to study
  • Have gained stronger educational focus and will genuinely benefit from spending the year repeating the Leaving Cert
  • Narrowly missed the course of choice by just a few points
  • Missed the course of choice on random selection
  • Students that experienced health, trauma, family issues or bereavement etc.
  • Students whose focus was on sports or other areas of talent or expertise.

Find out more here.

Study Abroad

Key websites:;

Studying abroad can offer fantastic opportunities to students for learning, travel, networking, internship. The quality of educational experience can be very high. In terms of value, the cost of living in some European countries is significantly lower and tuition fees can be lower than at home.

Why is this option growing in popularity?

Many EU countries offer courses through English, with more affordable tuition fees. Students that wish to study Medicine, Veterinary or Dentistry & Pharmacy can find it easier to access a place on English speaking degree programmes abroad, where the entry requirements are more accessible than at home.

Gap Year

The trend of taking a year out between school and college - or Gap year - tends to fluctuate. But taking time out, away from the formal educational path can work well if there has been personal or family upheaval of some kind, if the young person has heavy sporting, creative or voluntary sector commitments, if there is a health issue that needs to be addressed or for financial reasons.

For some young people it is just not the right time for college or they have not yet decided on a career or course of study. If you think Gap year may be a realistic option for your child, some discussion round planning and goal-setting may make the process a more rewarding one for everyone. Students who found the gap year most valuable have said that setting clear goals, planning and organising carefully for the experience helped them to reap the maximum benefit from taking a year out.  

A number of voluntary organisations offer voluntary work abroad including:

Non-CAO Undergraduate Courses

There are a small number of courses run by Higher Education providers that take on students each year outside of the CAO system.

These are fee paying courses, but in many cases, the fees are not that much more than the registration fees paid by CAO students and it is worth remembering that you can claim some back in tax.

These courses are accredited by a number of different bodies, sometimes in the UK, so it is important that you check out and understand who is the qualifying authority.

My son has been given a registration start time. How does this work?

In some colleges, students are allocated a particular registration start time. This is when they can register for modules including electives. This system is designed for maximum fairness, convenience and efficiency.

Useful Points:

  • Instructions and guidelines should be followed correctly. It will save hassle.
  • Check if the registration has an expiry date.
  • Do not miss your allocated registration time if at all possible.
  • Early registration gives the student the best chance of securing the right modules.
  • Do your homework and go along armed with a knowledge of the module & subject content of your course when registering.

Where can I find more information about registration and other key college dates and issues?

College websites provide comprehensive information on registration and enrolment. In addition, some colleges now run parents' Information Sessions. Keep up to date on the Events Calendar here - choose the 'Events for Parents' category to filter your search. 

At what point in the registration process are fees paid?

Fees are paid at the point of enrolment or registration. Some colleges offer flexible late registration and fee options. In others, late payment of fees can result in a penalty charge. Incoming students are informed of the dates and deadlines. If they are away at registration time, they need to ensure internet access to complete registration.

What is a module? 

A large number of college courses are made up of modules in a range of subjects. A module is a self-contained section of learning work by subject for a given academic year. Colleges vary in how the module system operates but in NUI Maynooth for instance an entire year of undergraduate study is typically worth 60 credits (based on the ECTS - European Credit Transfer System). Different modules are given different credit weightings across compulsory, required and optional modules.

Different Colleges - Different Module Options

Course structure systems, subject and module streams vary amongst colleges. In Maynooth University, Arts students have the opportunity to change or amend their subject choice up to six weeks following registration for 1st year. The option of general electives outside the core degree pathway is made available from 2nd year in Arts and 3rd Year in Science. UCD operates a system of compulsory modules, in-programme elective modules and general elective modules.

In some college courses, there are no module options or choices given - all modules are compulsory.

Selecting Course Modules

Some core elements of courses are compulsory but where there is an element of choice in registering for in-programme modules, a little strategic thinking can help with the selection process. Points to consider are:

  • Relevance of module to final degree and career prospects
  • Number of credits
  • Modes of assessment - e.g. attendance, participation, assignment, presentation
  • Professional exemptions - e.g. on successful completion of degree to a specified level, some business modules provide exemptions into Chartered Accountants Ireland (CAI), Association of Chartered Accountants Ireland (ACCA) Irish Taxation Institute, Chartered Insurance Institute. Some degree programmes are approved by the Teachers' Registration Council for the purposes of registering as a secondary teacher
  • Is the module workload manageable when set alongside concurrent module workloads?
  • Career & Educational Progression - e.g. links into post-graduate programmes
  • Employablity Skills - Does the module offer an opportunity to develop solid employability skills e.g. through placement, research, team or project work
  • Level of genuine interest in subject 

Choosing General Elective modules

It's down to the individual student to choose what's right for them. Some may wish to choose a module out of personal interest and a desire to be informed, or simply to engage with a topic that offers a break from intensive course and study work. Others may see the module as a way to develop key Employability Skills outside the mainstream course.

Colleges offer help and guidelines to undergraduates on picking modules and subjects but here are a few points to bear in mind: Is the student eligible for this elective? Some modules (e.g. Maths) will require a certain level of competency. Is the time-table compatible? What modes of teaching are used? How does assessment work? How is the assessment load distributed across the semester? How intensive is the workload? 

I do not want to interfere in this process but I would also like to be supportive. What can I do? 

It's possible to be supportive without interfering. As a parent / guardian it may be that you can act as a sounding board, being available for the new undergraduate to tease out the pros and cons of each choice for themselves by asking the right questions and helping to clarify their thoughts and options. It's tempting to offer advice but best to wait until asked if at all possible. 

What supports are there in college for my son or daughter as they settle into college after registration?

Colleges offer a variety of supports to incoming students as they make the transition into third level education. These include:

  • Orientation programmes - including social events
  • Study Skills Seminars
  • Examination, Project & Assignment support
  • Student Advisors
  • Counselling Support & Pastoral Care
  • Health care advice and support
  • Clubs & Societies
University of Limerick, for instance, offers a targeted First Seven Weeks Programme designed to provide strong, targeted support to students during the crucial early weeks of adjusting to college life. The programme includes Welcome & Settling In Week, Study Skills & Time Management, Health & Well Being, Liaison with Advisors, Learning Support Centres, Career & Civic Engagement Awareness, Critical Thinking & Long Term Career Planning.
Students that have entered college through the DARE Disability Access Route to Education) have access to a number of additional supports including orientation and educational needs assessment, assistive technology library support, academic and learning support, examination support.
Students that have entered college through the HEAR (Higher Education Access Route) have access to orienntation programmes, academic supports, financial supports, personal and social supports.

Can I repeat the Leaving Cert and add together the best results from both sittings?

You can only use the points from your best six subjects in one sitting of the Leaving Cert. The rule is that points from both sittings cannot be added together if you opt to repeat.

It is not necessary to re-sit all your exams, unless you want to. 

If you need a particular subject for matriculation purposes and you didn't pass the subject or get the required points for matriculation in your first sitting (i.e. you may need to have passed maths for your course) you can go back and repeat the subject exam and use the result in this subject for matriculation purposes only.  You can't add the points from that exam onto your Leaving Cert points as your final points must come from only one sitting of the Leaving Cert. 

You can take up an entirely new subject for the first time when repeating - this can be a popular option. Although the workload of Leaving Cert courses are set out as two-year programmes, students will sometimes find that subject content can overlap. For example, if your strengths lie in Biology you can see how this coincides with chapters in the Home-Economics syllabus, therefore, lessening your workload.

What are my options if I failed Leaving Cert Maths?

If a poor Leaving Cert Maths result has made a significant impact on your chances of getting a specific course, all hope is not lost.

Some colleges host Alternative Maths exams.

Students who failed to guarantee themselves a place on a particular course due to their Leaving Cert Maths result may have a second chance opportunity to sit an alternative exam.

Colleges are also facilitating Preparation Courses in order to assist students that have difficulty with Maths.

Maynooth University is offering this facility for Engineering courses specifically, while NUI Galway is holding the exam for entry into Engineering and Information Technology Programmes.

Links are provided below for details of Preparation Courses and Alternative Maths exams:

What is the deadline for sending documents to support a DARE/HEAR application?

Applying for DARE and/or HEAR – to be considered for DARE and/or HEAR, applicants must have registered on the CAO system by 1 February 2020 at 5:15pm. To apply to DARE, you must answer YES to Question 1 (‘Do you wish to be considered for DARE?’) on Section A of the fully completed Supplementary Information Form (SIF) by 5:15pm on 1 March 2020.

To apply to HEAR, you must indicate on your CAO application that you wish to apply for HEAR and fully and correctly complete all elements of the online HEAR form by 5:15pm on 1 March 2020. Supporting documents for DARE and/or HEAR applicants must be sent to CAO offices before 15 March 2020 at 5:15pm.