Almost 119,000 candidates are due to start the Leaving and Junior Certificate exams today.
It is a slight increase on last year, reflecting the rise in student numbers at second-level that has also contributed to record applications to the CAO for college entry this year.
There are 58,865 students entered for the Leaving Certificate, including the alternative Leaving Cert Applied, up almost 1,000 on 2014, and 59,919 planning to sit the Junior Certificate.
This year has seen new highs in the numbers planning to sit higher level maths, attributed to the introduction of 25 CAO bonus points for those who achieve a minimum grade D in the Leaving Cert the "honours" paper.
This is part of a strategy to boost national performance in maths and ensure that school-leavers and graduates have the foundation for skills needed in the new economy.
Among the almost 5,000 exam centres is one on the Mediterranean island of Malta, to cater for students from war-torn Libya, where the Leaving Cert has been offered in one school since 1997. Because of the unstable political and security situation in that country since 2011, the State Examinations Commission (SEC) makes special arrangements for the candidates to sit the exam, either in Ireland or Malta.
Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan led the message of good luck to candidates and said while it was important that they tried their best, the State exams were only one pathway, and there were an increasing range of education and training opportunities available.
National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals director Clive Byrne said the exams could be a stressful time for students and urged all parents, family and friends to support candidates.
Measures to minimise the risk of error in material presented to candidates now include having the Leaving Cert papers checked by experts who have not been involved in their preparation.
The results of the Leaving Cert will be issued on Wednesday, August 12, while Junior Cert results will be issued in mid-September.