Overhaul of CAO points will see average scores drop for school leavers
Leaving Certificate students will see average CAO point scores drop slightly under a new system that will come into effect for those sitting the exam in 2017.
While 600 points - plus a possible bonus of 25 for maths - will continue to be the maximum, one example of the changes would see a CAO score of 420 this year translating as 396.
Among the aims of the first overhaul of the points system since 1992 is to reduce the number of CAO applicants tying on same score.
Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan yesterday unveiled the revised Common Points Scale, agreed by the universities and institutes of technology, and one of a number of inter-related measures designed to take some of the frenzy out of the annual school-leavers' points race.
Current fifth years will be the first to experience the changes. The reforms are also designed to encourage more students to sit "honours" papers without running the risk of getting no points if they are slightly short, which is why, for the first time, points will be awarded for a mark of 30-39pc on a higher level paper,
The new scale is directly linked to an overhaul of the Leaving Certificate grading system, currently divided into 14 stages from A1 to NG, at both higher and ordinary level.
From 2017, there will be only eight bands at each level - H1 to H8 and O1 to O8. A H7 will be awarded for scores of between 30-39pc and will be worth 37 points.
While, currently, a mark of 5pc generally separates grades - eg a B3 is awarded for 70-75pc and a B2 for 75-80pc - under the new system, a grade will cover a 10pc stretch of marks, such as a H3 for 70-80pc.
Following on from agreement on broader grade bands, the new, irregular CAO scale for converting those grades into points will allow for greater distinctions between individual students.
The top of the scale will continue to be 100 but it will no longer go down in standard steps of five or 10 points.
Different increments will be used between each grade and while a H1 will attract 100 points, a H2 will get 88 points; a H3, 77 points; a H4, 66 points; a H5, 56 points and a H6, 46 points. There will be no points for a H8.
The H7 is regarded as a similar standard to an O3, which will also attract 37 points. An O1 will be worth 56 points.
Because points are currently awarded in multiples of five, a relatively large number of students can bunch on the same score, and be subject to random selection for a college place. The new scale means that any points score between 0 and 625 is possible, allowing for greater differentiation between individual students
It will reward higher performance in some subjects. For instance, under the current system a student with six higher C1s is awarded 420 points and a student with three higher C3s and three higher B2s is also awarded 420. With the changes, a student with six H4s will accrue 396 points, while a students with three H3s and three H5s, will get 399 points.