Thursday 22 March 2018

New grading and points systems have bedded in, so just concentrate on doing your best

Going to College

(stock image)
(stock image)

Aoife Walsh

We saw a new Leaving Cert grading and CAO points schemes this year. Last year's exam candidates, and the current sixth years, quickly became familiar with the new grades.

The new system was deemed a great success overall. As intended, the reforms seemed to take the heat out of the points race and, hopefully, this year's Leaving Cert candidates, and those following after them, will reap the benefits of a less stressful process around college entry than we have seen in the past.

Regardless of these changes, for students, the approach to the Leaving Cert should be the same: they must continue to attempt as many higher-level subjects as they can, so that they achieve the highest grades as are possible for each individual. This will give school-leavers the widest choice in their post-school options, and more chance of making the cut-off for their dream CAO choice.

The new grading regime has replaced the old 28 grade system of A1s, A2s etc with a simplified 16-point grading scale.

Under the old system, the grade changed for every 4pc-5pc of marks; for instance, at 70pc, 75pc, 80pc. Now, each grade represents around nine percentage points. For example, a H3 indicates that a student achieved between 70pc and 79pc in an 'honours' paper.

In another major change, students are now awarded 37 points if they receive 30-39pc at higher level, which is a H7 grade. Very importantly, H7 is now also widely recognised as meeting the entry requirements for certain courses.

This encourages students who may be borderline higher level not to take the safe option of dropping down to ordinary level.

There was a bit of blip around this issue in relation to entry to primary teaching courses this year, but that has been rectified.

In the past, students deemed at risk of not achieving a minimum 40pc at higher level were likely to have been advised, by their teachers and guidance counsellors, to drop to ordinary level.

The changes are likely to see an increase in students staying at higher level, even if they find it challenging, and there was certainly evidence of that in the exams last June.

Additionally, because the grade bands are now wider than in the previous system, with each grade representing 9-10pc, students can be more confident in their predictions of how they are likely to perform at Leaving Cert, especially after their mock exams.

One consequence of the wider bands was a lower success rate in appeals against grades awarded in the exams, because many applicants needed a relatively large increase in marks to reach the next grade.

The 25 bonus points continue to be available for higher level maths, for all grades above H6.

We expect the changes will bring a certain stability to the points system. However, it will remain impossible to predict points for any course with any certainty.

Therefore, it is essential that students continue to work hard, to try their best and to aim to get the highest grades possible in each subject.

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

Irish Independent

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