Wednesday 17 January 2018

Choose subjects you like for Leaving Cert

Guidance counsellor Aoife Walsh
Guidance counsellor Aoife Walsh

Many transition year (TY) and third year students are currently grappling with which subjects to take for Leaving Cert. Thankfully, this issue is not as complex as it may first appear.

While the decision to select, or drop, certain subjects may have an impact on post Leaving Cert opportunities, it is likely to be less than students and parents may think.

In my opinion, subject selection has a greater influence on how a student performs at Leaving Cert overall - and the better their results, the more choices they have.

Here are three considerations which will help any student make good choices for Leaving Cert.

Choose what you like

Every subject is challenging. Most schools offer five class periods a week for each subject. In addition, students should be doing two to three hours study in their own time. This means students will be spending a lot of time engaging in subjects for the next two years. By choosing subjects that they enjoy, students will find it easier.

Students are likely to perform better in subjects that they enjoy. Higher grades and higher CAO points mean that students will have more options and will be able to compete for access to more courses. Students are also likely to pursue courses that are related to subjects they enjoyed at school; therefore, by choosing subjects they enjoy, students are likely to be choosing what they may need as well.

Choose what you are good at

One way students can maximise their Leaving Cert results is by playing to their strengths. It is also likely that by choosing subjects they are good at they are choosing fields they hope to study or work in later on.

There are a number of considerations that may help young people become aware of the subjects in which they are strong. Firstly, consider Junior Certificate results, if available. It is important not only to look at the subjects in which students achieved the highest grades, but also why students performed best in these. Perhaps the subject was taught by a favourite teacher, perhaps a large project component helped.

At this stage, many students will have participated in some aptitude testing and it is important to consider these results and discuss them with someone who is able to interpret them, such as a guidance counsellor. Other testing is available on

Finally, students should consider their hobbies and interests, subjects they have taken in TY and also speak to their families and friends.

Think about what you might need

There are certain subjects that may be required for entry to third level; however, often these requirements are less complex than originally thought. Students should spend about 80pc of their time considering what they like and what they are good at, and 20pc of their time considering what they need.

If students have ideas about what they would like to study after school they should research the entry requirements for these courses thoroughly in a variety of different institutions. If students are not yet clear on what they would like to study at third level they should research the requirements for a number of different areas and consider common themes.

This can be done on Students should pay particular attention when considering their choices in the areas of languages, sciences and technical subjects.

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

Important dates


Further Education & Training Fair - Brandon Hotel Tralee


Teagasc Spring Open Day -Pallaskenry Agricultural College


Closing date of some art and design courses - UCAS


Music Entrance Test - Maynooth University


Interviews - Liberties College

Information Session Dublin - Open University, Holles St, 4-7pm

Q. I wish to apply for a PLC course that will help me get into commerce in UCD in the event I don't get enough points in the Leaving Cert. Is there a specific one I should do and if so how do I find out what it is?

A Most, but not all, third level courses accept FETAC qualifications for entry. There is a simple enough way to find out if a particular third level course accepts a FETAC qualification, and which FETAC courses they will consider. As you are interested in a particular course we will use this as an example. However the process outlined below can be used to check out which FETAC qualifications any third level course will accept. is extremely helpful in this regard. On its website, click on Course Finder and look up the third level course in which you are interested in Higher Education/CAO. Click on the course title (in this case commerce) and scroll down until you see a section entitled QQI FETAC applicants, which provides information on which FETAC qualifications are accepted for entry, and any subject requirements. In the case of commerce in UCD the following course code is listed 5M2012. This means that UCD will consider applications from graduates of this course. If this section doesn't appear it is quite likely there is not a PLC entry route to this course.

The next step is to see where this course is offered: copy the course code and paste it in the PLC/Further Education section of Course Finder. It may be helpful to restrict the search by county.

It is prudent to check that the course offers all subjects that may be required for entry to your chosen third level course. For example, in the case of commerce in UCD any student who does not achieve the required maths grade in the Leaving Cert will be expected to present a distinction in C20139 or 5N1833 maths for entry.

Irish Independent

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