Saturday 16 December 2017

Running the points race

Katherine Donnelly

Now that the points are tallied, the big question is whether they are enough to get into the course of choice.

It may be possible to make a pretty good guess at chances of landing a first preference, but with all the factors that come into play, there is nothing definite at this stage.

Last year was a record year for CAO applications, with 77,628 applicants; this is down to 73,328 this year, mainly as a result of a fall-off in demand from mature students.

Applicants may take some comfort from that softening in demand but the points levels depend on the course.

The cut-off points for courses in the CAO points system are determined by the number of places, the demand in any given year and the results that applicants bring to the process.

Where there has been a fall-off in demand, as there has been for instance this year in business, architecture, law and education, it is tempting to believe that points will fall.


So a dip could be on the cards, or there may be some stabilisation of points, but it doesn't mean that all courses in that area would follow that trend, particularly the one course that a student has set his or her heart on.

Similarly, where there is an increase in demand for a particular discipline, as there has been this year in science and engineering/technology, the fear for some students is that it will drive up the points beyond their reach.

Again it doesn't necessarily happen, and if it does, not necessarily in the same way for all courses.

As always, there will be a lot of interest in medicine this year. The number of applications is down on last year, probably as a consequence of students deciding their chances were slim after they sat the HPAT aptitude test in the spring, the results of which are combined with points to determine entry.

Many used the CAO Change of Mind process to switch preferences.

Although the competition would remain keen, the 3,245 medicine applicants left in the competition after the Change of Mind may have been encouraged by the drop.

However, when the HPAT results were released the week after the Leaving Cert it emerged that those scores have taken a considerable jump this year, and there is a general expectation that this will lead to an increase in overall points.

Irish Independent Supplement

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