LEAVING Certificate students are opting for higher-level maths in next week's exams in even greater numbers than a few months ago.
The surge comes on the back of a promise of 25 extra CAO points just for passing the higher-level paper -- that is, getting a D3 grade or higher.
The promise is a response to calls from employers for more school-leavers and graduates with the analytical skills for jobs in the modern economy.
Latest figures show that 12,990 students plan to sit the higher-level paper this year -- up 24pc on 10,435 this time last year. The figure has risen by about 600 since March.
However, students can decide up to the moment of accepting a paper from the examiner to switch to ordinary level.
In previous years, about 25pc of students who entered for higher level dropped back to ordinary level when it came to sitting the exams.
Even if that happens, the numbers actually taking the exam will be significantly up on previous years.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn urged students to "keep their courage, hold their nerve and stick with higher level".
He said it was understandable that candidates would feel nervous when they were in the exam hall and the examiner was coming around with two sets of papers, but "they will have been studying higher level and will be well able to do it".
Students get the benefit of the extra 25 CAO points if Maths is one of their six best subjects.
With bonus points likely to push up the CAO points for many courses, it could make entry to college more difficult for applicants who are not sitting higher-level maths.
On the other hand, students not taking higher-level maths could achieve a better points score with six other subjects. Guidance counsellors are concerned that the bonus points will drive up the entry requirements for courses such as medicine, pharmacy and law, where higher-level maths is not a requirement.