Leaving Cert results: Fewer fails and more ABCs in maths ease fears after exam tears
Leaving Certificate ordinary-level maths grades soared this year, with results that take the sting out of a day of widespread student upset in June.
In a double bonus for students who left exam halls in tears after claims of an 'undoable' exam paper, the fail rate has dropped dramatically while ABC grades have also shot up.
Almost 58,000 candidates receive their results today, including one student who has achieved 9A1s, while a further eight have scored 8A1s.
The striking improvement in ordinary-level maths grades will be attributed to a more generous approach to marking papers to compensate for the difficulties.
However, the State Examinations Commission (SEC) has played down any link between the unusually good results and representations by Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan, parents, students and experts such as the Maths Teachers Association.
An SEC spokesperson said the chief examiner had taken concerns into consideration but added that "contrary to the commentary that followed the examination which suggested that the Ordinary Level Mathematics Paper 1 was 'undoable' or 'impossible to pass', it was clear from the outset that candidates had no more difficulty than usual in achieving a D+ or a C+ grade. "In fact it was clear that candidates generally did better than they felt they had done immediately after the examination."
Such a level of improvement in overall performance would not be expected at a time when better students are migrating to higher level in the hope of gaining the 25 CAO bonus points.
The fail rate - anything below a D3 grade - in ordinary-level maths is traditionally high, usually around 9pc. However this year it fell to 5.9pc.
At the same time, the proportion of students achieving an A, B or C jumped to 74pc, from 64pc-67pc in the past two years.
While ordinary-level maths students had more cause to celebrate than expected, there was also a strong result at higher level.
The proportion of students taking higher level - many attracted by the 25 CAO bonus points for a minimum-grade D3 - stood at 27.4pc, the same as last year, which may indicate that uptake is levelling off. It is significantly higher than the 16pc of maths candidates who took it four years ago, before the bonus points were introduced.
Another feature of this year's Leaving Certificate, is the increase in the percentage of students taking physics, chemistry and biology, which was welcomed by the employers' organisation Ibec.
Tony Donohoe, Ibec's head of education policy, said the rising interest in maths and science had translated into increased demand for third-level science and technology courses.
But he said there was no room for complacency and warned that, as the economic recovery took hold, there could still be a skills gap in key sectors.