I have been working hard to take the higher-level paper in one of my subjects, but now I think I should take the ordinary level. Is it possible to change at this stage?
At Junior Cert level students are required to submit the level they would like to take in spring and it is not possible to change after this time.
At Leaving Cert level, students are also required to advise the State Examinations Commission in advance about the level they wish to take. However, this is for planning purposes and, generally, students are free to change levels at a later date if they wish.
It is important to consider any changes in levels extremely carefully. As exams draw closer, it is normal to feel nervous about the ability to succeed at a particular level. Students may be genuinely coming to the conclusion that the level they have been preparing for is slightly out of their reach or perhaps they are just nervous.
Reflection on what has been achieved in a particular subject so far, and how much work this has required, is important. So too is reflection on what grades are likely to be achieved. This may be difficult, especially if a student is feeling overwhelmed by the exams in general. While most Leaving Cert students have now finished school and are at home preparing for exams, schools are still open.
A conversation with your subject teacher and guidance counsellor this week is likely to be very beneficial to any student in a quandary. This may help students become clearer on whether they are making this decision for the right reasons or as a result of nerves.
In general, it is good idea to take the higher-level paper wherever possible. This is due to the difference in points available at the two levels. The most important exception to this is if there is any possibility that a student may fail a subject. For most students applying to the CAO, failure in any subject will result in no CAO points for this subject and possibly missing out on matriculation requirements.
There are some restrictions on students dropping levels: for example, it is not possible to move from ordinary level Irish and foundation level Irish after the oral exams as the exams are different at the different levels.
Regardless of your final choice, it is important to make a decision before the day of the exam and stay with it. No matter what, do not let nerves on the morning of the exam influence the decision that may be regretted later.
*Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin