Wednesday 22 November 2017

Choosing the right Leaving Cert subjects for you

Going to college...

Guidance counsellor, Aoife Walsh
Guidance counsellor, Aoife Walsh

The subjects that a student selects for the Leaving Certificate can have a big influence on performance in the exam. While some are essential for entry to particular third-level courses, others are never required. Here are pointers to help any student to make good choices.

What do you like?

Every subject at Leaving Cert is challenging. Most schools offer five class periods a week for each subject and, in addition, students should be doing two-to-three hours further study in each subject in their own time. Students who study what they enjoy are likely to perform better in those subjects. This will result in higher grades, higher CAO points and, therefore, more options. Students are likely to pursue third-level courses that are related to subjects they enjoyed at school, so, by choosing subjects they enjoy, students are likely to be choosing what they may need as well.

What are you good at?

One way students can maximise their results is by playing to their strengths. Firstly, consider Junior Certificate results if they are available. It is important not only to look at the subjects in which they 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.

Many students may also have participated in some aptitude testing and, if so, 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 speak to their families and friends.

What do you need?

There are a number of subjects that a student may require 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 still not 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, where students can enter key words that result in a list of relevant courses and their descriptions. 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

Question: We moved back to Ireland three years ago and we opted for our daughter, who is in 6th class, to do Irish. She is struggling. Is it too late for an exemption? What impact will it have if she does not have Leaving Cert Irish for entry into UCC, Trinity, NUIG?

Answer: Students may apply for an exemption from studying Irish for a number of reasons, including being born outside of the state, being educated outside the state for more than three years  and returning after 11 years of age, and as a result of a learning difficulty. In order to put the exemption in place you should write to the school principal outlining the reasons you are requesting the exemption. Decisions must be made in line with the guidelines issued by the Department of Education, but it is the school that decides if a child meets the criteria.

If your daughter receives an exemption for Irish she will be exempt from the requirement to present Irish for matriculation to all colleges who require it, including University College Cork and NUI Galway. Trinity requires students to present with English and another language and she can apply to be exempted from this requirement also.

Important dates


Open Day — Griffith College Dublin

Teagasc Open Day — Mountbellew Agricultural College

Information Sessions — Roslyn Park/National Learning Network


Agri Careers  — RDS

Media, Film & Photography Open Evening —St. Kevin’s College Crumlin

March 4

Teagasc Spring Open Day — Kildalton Agricultural College

March 5

CAO late application facility opens

Mature Students Admissions Pathway (MSAP) test — Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway 

March 8

Interviews — Colaiste Ide CFE

Open Evening — Dublin Business School

Medicine/Dentistry Entrance Exams for Lithuanian Uni of Health Sciences — Dublin International Foundation College

Open Day — Galway Technical Institute

March 9

Enrolment Day — Ballsbridge CFE

Open Evening — Bray Institute of FE

Open Day — Kerry CFE

Interview & Information Day — Marino CFE


Irish Independent

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