55,000 students prepare for exams
About 55,000 students will cram into exam halls around the country for this year's Leaving Certificate.
The State Examinations Commission (SEC) said tests have been set for 90 curricular and 15 non-curricular subjects, with more than 17,000 students trying to take advantage of an offer for bonus points by taking Higher Maths.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn sent a message of best wishes to the students.
"This is a nervous time in households right around the country as our students wait for the state exams to finally begin," he said.
"But, it is also worth bearing in mind while the state exams are an important milestone in a young person's life, they are not the only one. There are a vast array of opportunities for education, training and to get new skills throughout their lives."
This year's state exams season will see 54,933 students sit the Leaving, including the vocational programme, and 3,042 doing the Leaving Cert Applied, while 60,698 will sit the Junior Cert. There are also 2,755 candidates who are not post-primary students but are sitting the Leaving Cert papers.
In an attempt to prevent a repeat of the errors on some exam papers last year - the most serious in the Higher Level Maths paper where a trigonometry question was incorrect - the State Examinations Commission reviewed personnel involved in preparing exams.
Exam bosses hired subject experts who were not involved in the initial setting of papers to scrutinise written questions.
"The aspiration of any examining body, including the SEC, is to preside over a system that is completely error-free. However, it is recognised, across the examination sector including internationally, that this will always be an aspiration rather than a completely achievable goal," the commission said.
Some 17,065 students have indicated they will sit the Higher Maths paper thanks to the possibility of 25 bonus points in the overall results, but the number who actually sit and take the test is expected to fall on the day, possibly by as much as 2,000 based on traditional figures.
English is the first paper and the last tests, Italian, Japanese and technology, are on the afternoon of Friday June 20. Results will be issued on Wednesday August 13.
This year's school exam season will involve tests for 115,399 candidates in 90 curricular and 15 non-curricular subjects.
Some 578 drafters, setters and translators were involved in setting 506 different test instruments - including orals, aural recordings, practical and project briefs, portfolio and coursework items as well as the written exams on about four million papers made up of approximately 47.7 million A4 pages.
Among the non-curricular language subjects in which students can sit a paper Polish is the most popular with 766 students signed up for this year followed by 290 for Lithuanian, 141 for Romanian and 108 for Latvian.
Outside of Ireland, the Leaving has traditionally been sat by students at the International School of the Martyrs, Tripoli, Libya since 1997.
In the last three years due to the unstable political and security situation following the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime students at the school have been asked to travel to Ireland or Malta to sit the tests.
This year again an examinations centre has been set up in Malta to cater for 54 students but the State Examinations Commission said it was unclear as yet how many students will travel to the Mediterranean island for their exams.