Established Leaving Certificate
Most Senior Cycle students choose the established Leaving Certificate programme. This 2-year programme covers a wide range of subjects.
Subjects are normally studied at either Ordinary or Higher Level. Two subjects, Irish and Mathematics, can be studied at Foundation Level. Foundation Level is geared to the needs of students who might have difficulty with those subjects at Ordinary or Higher Level.
Students normally study 6 or 7 subjects during the Senior Cycle. If they are following the established Leaving Certificate programme they must take at least 5 subjects, including Irish.
In choosing Leaving Certificate subjects, you should take note of subjects that you may need for the third-level courses of your choice. For example, if you hope to get a place on a course at one of the universities that make up the National University of Ireland, you must meet a minimum entry requirement of 6 subjects, including English, Irish and a third language, 2 of which must be at Grade C on a Higher Level paper.
Your school guidance counsellor will have information about the subject requirements for each third-level course. The legal school-leaving age is 16 years.
COVID-19 and the Leaving Certificate
All schools closed on 12 March 2020 due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. The Government Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business (pdf) includes the phased opening of schools and colleges in the new academic year 2020-2021.
The Leaving Certificate has been postponed. Students have been given the option of accepting calculated grades or sitting their written exams at a later date. Read more about calculated grades and the leaving certificate.
There will be no exam fee for 2020. All exams fees that have already been paid will be refunded.
Leaving Certificate subjects and assessment
Leaving Certificate students may take the Junior Certificate programme in French, German, Spanish or Italian as part of their approved Senior Cycle course, if their schools offer this option.
Assessment and examinations
The established Leaving Certificate is assessed through a written examination at the end of the 2-year programme. There are practical examinations and project work in certain subjects, such as Art, Construction Studies and Engineering. There are oral examinations in Irish and continental languages. The practical and oral tests take place during the final year of the programme. The written examination is held in June each year.
Marking system for examination grades
A new grading scheme for the Leaving Certificate was introduced in 2017. The scale has 8 grades, the highest grade is Grade 1 and the lowest grade is Grade 8.
The new 8-point grading scale replaces the 14-point scale at both Higher and Ordinary levels.
Marks between 100% to 30% are divided into seven grade bands (1-7). Each band is 10% wide.
The new scheme means that the Common Points Scale used by the CAO to determine entry into higher education institutions, has also been revised. You can read more on transition.ie.
|New grades*||% Marks|
|H1/O1||90 - 100|
|H2/O2||80 < 90|
|H3/O3||70 < 80|
|H4/O4||60 < 70|
|H5/O5||50 < 60|
|H6/O6||40 < 50|
|H8/O8||0 < 30|
*Grades at Higher level are prefixed with H. Grades at Ordinary level are prefixed with O.
Marking system (2015/16)
|90% or over||A1|
|85% but less than 90%||A2|
|80% but less than 85%||B1|
|75% but less than 80%||B2|
|70% but less than 75%||B3|
|65% but less than 70%||C1|
|60% but less than 65%||C2|
|55% but less than 60%||C3|
|50% but less than 55%||D1|
|45% but less than 50%||D2|
|40% but less than 45%||D3|
|25% but less than 40%||E|
|10% but less than 25%||F|
|Less than 10%||No grade|
Getting a copy of your Leaving Certificate results
You may be asked for evidence that you have completed State examinations when you apply for a job or for further education. It is always useful to have a copy of your results as well as the original Certificate, especially if you plan to work or study outside Ireland.
The State Examinations Commission can provide you with a certified statement of your results - see 'How to apply' below.
Leaving Certificate exam fees
During the COVID-19 emergency, the closing date for the payment of exam fees has been extended until after the Leaving Certificate exams are completed and the results have been issued. Read more about Leaving Certificate exam fees and COVID-19.
Established Leaving Certificate examination fees for 2020 are published on the State Examinations Commission website.
|First-time entry (school-based or external) 3 or more subjects||€116|
|First-time entry (school-based or external) 1 or 2 subjects||€71|
|School-based repeat entry||€301|
External candidates repeating the Leaving Certificate in 2020 paid fees on a sliding scale as follows:
|No. of subjects||Fee per subject in 2020|
|3 or more subjects||€326|
Penalties for late applications
Applications received from non-school (external) applicants during the period 29 January to 5 March 2020 are accepted on payment of a late fee of €32 per subject in addition to the normal fee.
A second late fee of €52 per subject in addition to the normal fee applies to applications made from 6 March to 29 April 2020. Entries for subjects with a practical, oral or project component are not accepted at this stage.
How to apply
If you are a post-primary school student, your school will send your details to the State Examinations Commission.
If you are an external (non-school) candidate for the established Leaving Certificate, you can apply online or on the application form available from the State Examinations Commission (SEC). The closing date for applications for the 2020 exams was 28 January 2020.
Applying for a copy of your exam results
To request a certified statement of examination results from the State Examinations Commission you can either apply online or download and complete an exam statement application form (pdf). Your application should include the following personal details:
- Full name of the candidate
- Name at the time of the examination (if different)
- Current address
- Day-time telephone number
- Date of birth
- Year of examination
- Name and address of school attended
- Examination number (if known)
Paper application forms should be sent together with the fee of €14.50 (if applicable) to the State Examinations Commission at the address below.
Where to apply