Saturday 21 September 2019

Aoife Walsh: 'Students should consider whether they need to stick with higher level maths'

 

Guidance counsellor Aoife Walsh
Guidance counsellor Aoife Walsh

Aoife Walsh

Students who achieve a minimum H6 grade (40p-49pc) in higher level maths at Leaving Cert receive 25 bonus CAO points. This has been practice since 2012 and has had the desired effect of increasing the uptake of students taking the subject at 'honours' level.

Students who achieve a minimum H6 grade (40p-49pc) in higher level maths at Leaving Cert receive 25 bonus CAO points. This has been practice since 2012 and has had the desired effect of increasing the uptake of students taking the subject at 'honours' level.

Before the arrival of bonus points, many students dropped to ordinary level maths in the months before the State exams, partly because of workload and partly because of a fear of getting no points at all in the subject if they did not achieve at least 40pc.

Arising from more recent changes to the Leaving Cert grading system, candidates who achieve H7 (30-39pc) in higher level subjects are awarded 37 points. This is also encouraging students to take higher level. Students who scrape through a higher level maths paper with 40pc are handsomely rewarded as they will be awarded 71 CAO points, compared with a maximum 56 at ordinary level. Students may feel the need to stay with higher level regardless of how difficult they find the course.

But hanging on regardless of performance and against the advice of the teacher can have a detrimental impact on the student's other subjects, as well as their ability to cope with the stress of the Leaving Cert in general.

If students are now being advised by their teacher to drop from higher level to ordinary maths, they should give it careful consideration.

Maths is the most common subject to appear as an entry requirement for third level, although many courses will accept a H7. Students should check the maths requirement for every course they have listed on their CAO.

They should also consider how much of an impact the workload and stress of studying for higher level maths is causing. Is it taking away from other subjects? Students could end up performing worse overall by losing marks in other subjects because of their efforts in higher level maths.

If a student requires higher level maths for entry to a course, it may be worth questioning if that course is suitable for them. Generally, the maths entry requirement is a good indicator of how much maths will be on the course. If a student is struggling to meet the maths entry requirement, they are quite likely to struggle to cope with maths at third level.

My advice to students considering which level of maths to take this year is to listen carefully to the advice of their teacher - they do have students' best interests at heart.

If still unsure, the student should consider making an appointment with their guidance counsellor, who can assist in teasing out their feelings and the potential consequences of their decision.

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

 

Q I am a fifth-year student and my guidance counsellor says I need to start thinking about my UCAS application now if I want to apply for medicine in the UK. This seems very early. What do I need to do?

A UCAS is the centralised applications agency for the UK and Northern Ireland. Anyone interested in applying for medicine must submit their application no later than October 15. The UCAS application is very different from the CAO: applicants must submit a personal statement and an academic reference, as well as some other details.

It is very wise to begin researching medical courses now. There are a huge number of courses when compared with the five undergraduate courses in the Republic. You could also use the coming months to visit campuses and attend open days or at least to plan your research. For example, the Queen's University Belfast Open Days take place on September 5, 6, and 7 - which is earlier than most Irish universities. You should also use this time to research which entrance test is required by your chosen college(s). Finally, you should begin working on your personal statement, which will benefit from being shared with a variety of people and redrafted.

If you have a query, email Aoife at aoifewalsh@independent.ie; Twitter @edguidance.

Irish Independent

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