Higher-level maths bonus points pay off for CAO applicants
Leaving Certificate students with bonus points in maths continue to have the edge in securing a place on the most sought-after college courses.
Having the 25 extra CAO points virtually guarantees school-leavers an offer for an "honours" degree - Level 8 - programme.
The bonus points are awarded to students who achieve a minimum grade D in higher-level maths in the Leaving Cert. They were introduced in 2012 to encourage candidates to raise their sights.
The impact of the bonus points on the race for college entry is underlined in figures supplied to the Irish Independent by the CAO.
Last year, 26pc of all Level 8 offers to Leaving Certificate candidates went to those who used the bonus for points purposes - in other words, higher maths was one of their six best subjects. That was up from 22pc in 2012.
Crucially, among the 12,290 CAO applicants who had the extra points, 96pc (12,461) were offered a place on a Level 8 course - compared with 70pc for school-leavers generally.
The impact of the bonus varies depends on the areas of study the CAO applicant is pursuing.
At the top end of the scale, 64pc of students who received an offer for pharmacy had the extra points, followed by 58pc of physiotherapy applicants.
But among arts and social science applicants, 13pc of those receiving an offer had higher-level maths as one of their best six subjects, while it was 8pc for art and design students.
Applicants for construction-related courses were least likely to have had the bonus, with only 6pc having higher-level maths as one of the six best subjects. However, in a reflection of the growing demand for study in that area, that figure has doubled from 3pc in 2012.
The pulling power of the bonus is evident in the dramatic increase, since 2011, in the number of maths candidates who sat the "honours paper" - up from 16pc in 2011 to 27pc in 2014 and 2015.
This year could see a further rise in uptake, latest figures from the State Examinations Commission (SEC) suggest.
A total of 19,323 students are entered for the "honours" paper. At 35pc of all maths candidates entered for the June exams, it is a record number showing an interest at this time, and a further increase on 18,407 (34pc) this time last year.
There is always a fall-off between predicted entries, and the number who actually sit the "honours" paper on the day, but any drop will be from a record high base.
Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan said it was clear that students' confidence in their ability to take higher-level maths was rising, which was a very welcome development in view of the importance of science, technology, engineering and maths subjects. "The target participation rate is 30pc by 2020. I believe that this is achievable," she said.