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Taking the Leaving Cert again

Q: Why do people repeat the Leaving Certificate?

A: Many people cannot understand how anybody can repeat the Leaving Certificate. They wonder who on earth would want to go through that ordeal again.

But some students will be disappointed with the results they have received and know that better Leaving Certificate results are necessary if they want to achieve their objective.

The numbers repeating the Leaving Certificate include students from opposing ends of the results spectrum. Some have wonderful results but are just a little short of the points they need for a highly competitive course.

Figures released by CAO some years ago revealed that a big percentage of the applicants to the highly competitive healthcare courses were more likely to have repeated their Leaving Certificate to gain entry than candidates for any other faculty.

On the other hand, some candidates repeat the Leaving Certificate because they failed to make the basic grade. It can make all the difference to a school leaver to be able to say: "I passed the Leaving Certificate in six subjects, including English and Maths, and I got honours grades in a couple of subjects."

Such a result can open many doors to an applicant. Indeed five passes in the Leaving Certificate, including English and Maths, will open many doors also.

So repeating the Leaving can alter the life chances for candidates of either category.

Q: How many people repeat the Leaving Certificate?

A: The State Examination Commission (SEC) gives figures for two separate categories which contain repeat exam candidates.

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The first category counts exam candidates who are repeating the Leaving Certificate in a recognised school. The second category counts "external" candidates, that is, students sitting the Leaving Certificate external to the recognised school system, usually through private "grind" schools. Not all external students are repeating the Leaving Certificate. Some of them are taking it for the first time. In 2008 there were 4,101 "external" and 1,778 "repeat" candidates

Q: If you repeat the Leaving Certificate do you have to do all the subjects again?

A: The quick answer is: No, you do not. Third level colleges will generally accept subject requirements from different year's exams, although points are calculated on the basis of the results of your six best subjects in one year's sitting.

What you repeat depends on your reasons for repeating. Some students repeat because they wish to increase their points. So obviously, such a student would have to sit six subjects.

When students are repeating for the purpose of improving their points, they need not repeat subjects in which they have satisfactory results. Effectively, they often leave behind two or three of their original subjects which they have already passed, for example, English, Irish or Maths, unless they particularly enjoy doing these subjects or need to get a better grade in one of them.

They usually repeat four or five of their original seven and frequently take up one or two new subjects for the first time. Teachers in charge of a "repeat" class will give advice on the subjects most appropriate for a student to take in this manner.

Q: Is it easy to take up a new subject in one year?

A: All Leaving Certificate subjects involve a heavy work load, and syllabuses are based on a two year programme. Business Studies, Home Economics Scientific and Social, Classical Studies and Geography are among the popular one year choices.

Usually a student will try to choose a new subject that complements their other subject. Home Economics Scientific and Social overlaps a little with Biology, for example.

Q: Is it possible to repeat just one subject in the Leaving Certificate?

A: It is possible just to take one subject in the Leaving Certificate. Typically, if a student is quite happy with his or her points but failed to get the necessary grade in a particular subject required for entry to a particular course, (higher level mathematics at grade C3 for engineering degrees for example, or higher level Irish at grade C3 for entry to primary teacher bachelor of education degree courses), a student may just repeat that subject.

Another example might be a student who is hoping to do a degree course and only got one grade C on a higher level paper, whereas the minimum entry requirements for most honours degree courses is at least two grade Cs or higher. They could repeat any of their subjects to get a second higher grade C.

Q: Do students get better results in a repeat Leaving Certificate?

A: They do, if they work harder. If students are motivated about repeating and develop a better work schedule that they had the first time around, they often significantly improve their grades. They can be very satisfied when they achieve a result that they believe better reflects their potential. They can also perform better in college when they go in with a stronger foundation.

However, if a student has done his or her best in the first attempt at the Leaving Certificate, and if there were no factors such as illness that detracted from their performance, there may be very little point in pushing themselves to unnecessary or even impossible limits.

It is sometimes advisable to move on and make the best of the next step. Many people really blossom when they leave the school system behind and are free to choose their own courses of study.

Q: Where do you go to repeat the Leaving Certificate?

A: Students sometimes have a choice of locations. Occasionally a second-level school in an area has a dedicated repeat Leaving Certificate class. Many vocational education committee schools offer repeat Leaving Certificate classes also. There are a number of private sixth form colleges, with a strong tradition of repeat leaving certificate classes.

There will be a very significant difference between the fee charged by a VEC college and a private establishment but good results can be achieved in either setting, particularly if the student enters the repeat year with a positive and motivated attitude.

Probably one of the most important things that a student repeating the Leaving Certificate can do is to pay particular attention to developing good study skills. Poor study skills may lie at the heart of previous unsatisfactory performance, so change is a necessary. Some students who repeat successfully feel more in control of their lives and get to move on to the adult world.

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