Friday 18 October 2019

Aoife Walsh: 'Second chance maths exams offer an alternative to Leaving Cert grades'


Guidance counsellor Aoife Walsh
Guidance counsellor Aoife Walsh

Aoife Walsh

Higher level maths is a common requirement for courses at third level. It can present as a requirement for business, computer science, science and engineering courses. The grade required is a good indication of how complex and integral the maths element of that course might be.

Higher level maths is a difficult undertaking for many and requires consistent work and dedication. In the past, many students chose not to take, or stick with, the course despite having the ability, as they felt the time commitment was too much. The introduction of bonus points for a minimum 40pc mark at higher level now acts as an incentive for students to sit the exam.

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Borderline students still struggle to maintain the workload, but many remain at higher level because they need a particular grade to satisfy course entry requirements. Students who are worried about their ability to achieve the required grade should be aware that many universities and colleges offer a 'second chance' maths exam, success in which can act as an alternative to a required Leaving Cert grade.

These institutions allow students to sit an exam set by the college in spring or late summer. If a student achieves a passing grade, they will be deemed to have met the maths entry requirement for the course, regardless of their Leaving Cert result in the subject. Here are some examples.

National College of Ireland

The National College of Ireland will hold a maths exam for entry to their Level 8 BSc Hons in Data Science and level 6 Higher Certificate in Data Science. Both of these courses ordinarily require a H5 grade. The exam will be set at a similar standard to the Leaving Cert higher level exam. The college recommends that any student who may have been concerned about listing these courses on their CAO due to the maths requirement, should use the CAO 'change of mind' facility to enter them now.

There is also a preparation course for the maths exam and to register for it, students should email the school's liaison officer Karen Campbell ( or call 01-4498565.

Preparation classes will be held Monday, August 19 to Wednesday, August 21, while the exam itself will take place on August 22, with results available on August 26.

TU Dublin

TU Dublin - City Centre will hold a maths competency test for all its Level 8 programmes that require higher level maths for entry. It offers applicants the opportunity to meet the maths entry requirement for a course they have listed on the CAO if they don't achieve the required grade in the Leaving Cert.

The exam is set at Leaving Cert higher level standard and students should have studied the higher level course. It will take place in August and a two-day preparation course will be held in advance. Past papers are available on the TU Dublin City website.

Other colleges with similar 'second chance' maths exams include: IT Sligo, Letterkenny IT, Waterford IT, Carlow IT, University of Limerick, IT Tralee, NUI Galway, Maynooth University and Cork IT.

Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin


Q I see that SUSI is now accepting applications for new applicants. Is there any support available for those wishing to take up postgraduate study? 

A For a number of years, there was no possibility of State funding for postgraduate study. Thankfully, this programme has been reintroduced.

Those considering postgraduate study can apply for this means-tested support. The minimum income threshold is based on the number of dependents in a household. Applicants with four or fewer dependents must earn less than €31,500 to receive a fee contribution of €2,000. All applications should be made through

Applicants must also be increasing their NFQ award and attending a course in an approved institution. Funding is available for a certain number of years depending on the applicant's previous educational history. More information can be found on

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