Failing a Leaving Cert exam doesn't mean the end of the world
As the dust settles after yesterday's results, most Leaving Certificate applicants are now entering a limbo stage, waiting until Monday next (August 23) at 6am when CAO publishes the college offers.
The outstanding students who get multiples of A1 grades are, of course, deserving of high praise and congratulations.
For the majority of candidates, however, their satisfaction is likely to be of a quieter sort. Most candidates will be happy to see a couple of well-earned B or C grades, or even a pass grade in a subject they found difficult. And thousands of candidates have to endure the bitter disappointment of failing a subject, and dread above all else the detailed discussion of their exam results with friends and neighbours. Their feelings must be respected above all.
Quite a number of calls to our Irish Independent /National Parents Council helpline concerned the implications of failing a subject.
How serious is it to fail a subject? The significance of a fail grade to a student depends on the subject and the third level course they have applied to.
Most students take seven subjects. For the purposes of points, their six best results are counted, so if they are happy with their results in six, it is not the end of the world if they fail a seventh subject, although it would be a pity to have wasted an opportunity to study something one could succeed in.
However, if they fail an important subject, like English or maths or Irish, this may have repercussions for them.
Maths results always spark discussion and debate. This year's figures show that around 4,313 (about 8.24pc) students out of almost 52,290 candidates who took maths at one of three levels failed that subject, with about 3.7pc failures from 8,390 candidates at higher level, 9.8pc failures from 37,903 candidates at ordinary level and a failure rate of 4.8pc from 5,997 candidates at foundation level.
Failing maths is a problem for most students, as a pass in maths is an entry requirement for most college courses.
However it is not essential for most Arts, Law or Social Science degree programmes in NUI colleges, which can come as a pleasant surprise to some applicants.
Applicants to honours engineering degree courses cannot afford to get less than a grade C3 at higher level maths. Without that, they are ineligible for honours engineering degrees.
This year, 2010, is the first year that the new curricular development initiative in maths, called Project Maths, was examined at Leaving Certificate level.
Project Maths involves the phased development and introduction of new syllabuses in mathematics for both Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate students. Certain elements of the syllabus have been introduced to an initial group of 24 schools since September 2008.
Around 1,800 Leaving Certificate candidates in those 24 schools were examined in Project Maths this year.
Students following the programme took the same Paper 1 as the other Leaving Cert mathematics candidates but had a different Paper 2.
The percentage of honours grades achieved by the Project Maths candidates was somewhat higher, and the failure rate was lower than those for the other Leaving Certificate maths candidates, but the SEC warns against reading too much into the differences, given the small numbers taking Project Maths.
Several HEIs, including NUI Galway, NUI Maynooth, DIT, and University of Limerick, all offer special maths exams in the next couple of weeks to applicants who have failed to meet the maths requirement for engineering degrees in the college. GMIT offers a maths programme for disappointed applicants. Check details online -- all HEIs can be quickly accessed through CAO's website, www.cao.ie. Just follow the link to 'HEI contact details'. l Our Irish Independent /National Parents Council freefone helpline continues today on 1 800 265 165.