A new CAO points scale for students sitting the Leaving Certificate in 2017 has been unveiled.
For the first time, students will be awarded points for a mark of less than 40pc on a higher level paper , traditionally regarded as a “fail” .
Under the new regime, which directly affects incoming fifth years, students who achieve between 30-39pc on an “honours” paper will be awarded 37 points.
Currently, no points are given for a mark of below 40pc and the change is intended to encourage students to aim higher, while minimising the risk of getting no points.
The new CAO scale is part of a series of inter-related reforms focussing on the transition from school to college , and designed to take some of the heat out of the points race.
The points changes are directly linked to an overhaul of the current Leaving Certificate 14-stage grading system, stretching from A1 to NG (No Grade), at both higher and ordinary level.
From 2017, there will be only eight bands , at each level, in the grading system - H1 to H8 and O1 to O8. Scores of between 30-39pc will be awarded a H7 and be worth 37 points.
Currently a mark of 5pc generally separates Leaving Cert. grades - e,g, a B3 is 70-75pc and a B2 is 75-80pc –but under the new system, a grade will cover a 10pc stretch of marks, such as 70-80pc for a H3.
Arising from that, the CAO scale has undergone a significant revamp. 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.
In what is known as a non-linear scale, different increments will be used between each grade and while a H1 (90-100pc) will attract 100 points, a H2 (80-90pc) will get 88 points and a H3 (70-80pc) will be worth 77 points.
A H4 will be worth 66points. A H5 will be 56 points and a H6 46 points. There will be no points for a H8.
The H7 will be equivalent to O3, which will also attract 37 points. An O1 will be worth 56 points the same as a H5.
Because points are currently awarded in multiples of five only, a relatively large number of students can bunch on the same score ,which can result in CAO applicants with the same points subjected to random selection for a college place.
The new scale means that any points score between 0 and 625 is possible , which will allow for greater differentiation between individual students when it comes to competing for college places.