Established Leaving Certificate

Introduction

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

Schools reopened from the start of the new school year (pdf) - end of August 2020.

The Department of Education and Skills will publish the Leaving Certificate Calculated Grades on 7 September 2020.

The postponed Leaving Certificate 2020 examinations will start on Monday, 16 November 2020, subject to public health advice. This includes the Leaving Certificate Established, Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) and the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA). All exams will be written only, except for 5 subjects where coursework completed before schools closed will be marked and included. The written exams will be based on the normal question paper format, content and structure.

The 5 subjects where coursework will be graded and included are:

  • Home Economics (already marked by the SEC)
  • LCVP Portfolio
  • Design and Communication Graphics
  • Physical Education (PE) Physical Activity Project
  • Engineering

The State Examinations Commission (SEC) will publish detailed information about the postponed exam timetable, logistics and how you can apply to sit an exam.

If you sit any written exams in a subject and also got a Calculated Grade in that subject, you will be awarded the higher grade of the two. Read more about calculated grades and the Leaving Certificate.

Leaving Certificate 2020-2021

The Government has announced changes to some assessments for the 2020-2021 Leaving Certificate Programmes. Students will have greater choice in written exams and some mandatory sections on written exam papers will be adjusted. Coursework briefs will be delivered sooner to give more preparation time and the practical exam requirements in some subjects will be adjusted.

You can find the details of subject and module changes in the Department of Education’s Assessment Arrangements for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate Examinations 2021.

Exam fees

There will be no exam fee for 2020. The State Examinations Commission has refunded students who paid exam fees.

Leaving Certificate subjects and assessment

The Department of Education and Skills publishes syllabus and curriculum information. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment provides a list of Leaving Certificate subjects.

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.

Grading scale for Leaving Certificate from 2017
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
H7/O7 30 <40
H8/O8 0 < 30

*Grades at Higher level are prefixed with H. Grades at Ordinary level are prefixed with O.

Marking system (2015/16)

Percentage Range Grade
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

Due to the COVID-19 emergency, there is no exam fee for the Leaving Certificate 2020. The State Examinations Commission has refunded students who paid exam fees. Read more about Leaving Certificate exam fees and COVID-19.

Leaving Certificate 2020-2021 examination fees will be published in early 2021 on the State Examinations Commission website.

The Established Leaving Certificate fees for 2020 were:

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
1 subject €116
2 subjects €211
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 were 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 applied to applications made from 6 March to 29 April 2020. Entries for subjects with a practical, oral or project component were 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 2021 exams will be published by the SEC.

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

State Examinations Commission

Cornamaddy
Athlone
Westmeath
Ireland

Tel: (090) 644 2700
Fax: (090) 644 2744
Page edited: 4 September 2020