Thursday 23 February 2017

Entry requirements explained

How do you know if a student will be able for the college course of their choice? A reader asked this question in relation to her daughter's CAO choice of a particular science honours degree course, where points were 350 last year.

"If a course carries a 'low' requirement of points, it must mean the take up is low," says the reader. She wondered if a strong interest in any particular course was enough to carry a student successfully through that course.

It is a good question. A strong interest in a course is among the most important requirements for applicants. Applicants must also meet a specified level of ability.

Every college has certain minimum entry requirements, and usually sets specific Leaving Certificate subject requirements for particular courses, without which applicants will not be offered places, no matter how many are going a-begging. These requirements are deemed by colleges to be the minimum standard which a student should obtain if he or she is to be able for the course. So when students meet these specific entry standards, they should in theory be able for the course, and this is where their interest and passion -- not to mention the proper amount of study throughout the course -- should carry them through.

Minimum entry requirements can vary. Maths is a requirement, although higher level LC maths is rarely a minimum requirement.

As far as science subjects are concerned, some colleges require at least two grade C3s or higher from a group of subjects at higher level (including laboratory sciences and geography), others sometimes require at least a grade C3 in a maths or science subject at higher level.

UCD usually requires at least a grade B3 at ordinary level maths, and at least a pass in a laboratory science subject, although some of its science courses have more demanding requirements.

Obviously, the better the students' standard entering the course, the better they should do.

The question of points is often misunderstood. People often assume that if the points are high, that the course is very difficult, and that if they are low, the course is easy. Points only reflect the competition for places on a course, and have more to do with scarcity value of places, rather than the intrinsic difficulty of any given course.

Points only become an issue for entry selection if there are more applicants than there are places for particular courses.

Courses in science and technology are usually challenging, no matter what the entry points are. The important thing is that the students applying should be interested in the course, and should probably have enjoyed maths and science subjects in school.

A problem arises when students apply for courses, not because of interest, but because they think they might get a place because the points are low. They accept a place on the course only because they failed to get a place in a course of higher preference to them. With no interest to sustain them, they may drop out.

Open days: Bray Institute of Further Education, Bray Co Wicklow, open session today , from 1.30 pm to 4pm Tomorrow, Pulse College Dublin holds an Open Day on its audio courses from 6:30pm at its Windmill Lane Studios.

Irish Independent

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