CAO Points System
The CAO awards points to students based on their achievements in the Leaving Certificate examination. A student’s points are calculated according to these tables, counting their best six subjects only. If a student has sat the Leaving Cert more than once, their points are calculated according to their best year’s performance.
A new Leaving Certificate grading scale was introduced in 2017. The new scale has 8 grades, the highest grade is a Grade 1, the lowest grade a Grade 8. The highest seven grades 1-7 divide the marks range 100% to 30% into seven equal grade bands 10% wide, with a grade 8 being awarded for percentage marks of less than 30%. The grades at higher level and ordinary level are distinguished by prefixing the grade with H or O respectively, giving H1-H8 at higher level, and O1-O8 at ordinary level. This new 8-point grading scale will replace the current 14-point scale at both Higher and Ordinary levels. Currently, the majority of students receiving a given grade are within 3 percentage marks of a higher grade, and 5 extra points, creating pressure towards rote learning and using the marking scheme to gain those few additional marks.
25 bonus points continues to be awarded for higher level mathematics, at grades H6 and above.
The new broader grade bands will ease the pressure on students to achieve marginal gains in examinations and encourage more substantial engagement with each subject. The new grading system will also allow for greater flexibility, variety and innovation in Leaving Certificate assessments. The broader objective is to allow for an enhanced learner experience in senior cycle, with a greater focus on the achievement of broader learning objectives. The new 8-point scale moves the Irish Leaving Certificate closer to school leaving examinations in other countries, such as Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, Finland, and to the International Baccalaureate.
The revised points scale will award points for the new H7 grade. This is designed to encourage the take-up of higher level curricula in senior cycle, and to reduce the risk of taking higher level examinations. At present, many students (up to 20% in some subjects) withdraw from higher level close to the LC examination. Furthermore, the research conducted by the Education Research Centre confirms that the level of achievement represented by a H7 is equivalent to the level of achievement represented by an O3, and the State Examinations Commission will reinforce this alignment through its standard-setting and grading processes. Given that points will be awarded for an O3, it is appropriate to award the same number of points for a H7 grade.
The revised points scale is also designed to reward high levels of performance in some subjects above more even performance across a broader number of subjects. The revised scale distinguishes between applicants who would otherwise, under the existing points scale, achieve equal aggregate points scores. For example, under the current points scale, an applicant with 6 higher level C1 grades is awarded 420 points. An applicant with 3 higher level C3 grades and 3 higher level B2 grades is also awarded 420 points. Under the new points scale, in 2017 an applicant with 6 H4 grades will be awarded 396 points, while an applicant with 3 H3 grades and 3 H5 grades will be awarded 399 points.