It’s that time of year in schools when students’ attention starts to turn towards some very important decisions regarding preparing to enter Senior Cycle. There are many factors that should be taken into consideration, so it is important that students (and parents) do their research in order to make an informed decision.
Donegal Career Guidance Counsellor Rory White shares this advice:
The three key questions to ask yourself in relation to subject choice are-
- What subjects do I like?
- What subjects am I good at?
- What subjects will I need for the college course I am interested in?
How many subjects do I have to do for my Leaving Cert?
Typically, most students will study seven subjects for their Leaving Certificate, three Core and four Choice. The three core subjects are English, Maths and Gaeilge (unless exempt).
What levels can I study these subjects at?
Unlike in the new Junior Cycle where all subjects apart from the three core subjects are studied at Common Level, subjects in the Leaving Cert can be studied at Higher and Ordinary Level. The only exceptions here are-
- Maths and Gaeilge can also be studied at Foundation Level.
- LCVP Link Modules is studied at Common Level.
Are there any new subjects that I can study for my Leaving Cert?
Plenty! There are a large (and growing) number of subjects offered for Leaving Certificate, however not all schools offer all subjects.
Several of the subjects that you studied for your Junior Cycle will split to form new subjects. Science breaks into Biology, Physics, Chemistry and Agricultural Science. Business Studies breaks into Business, Accounting and Economics. Woodwork evolves into Construction Studies, Metalwork into Engineering and Tech Graphics into Design and Communication Graphics.
New subjects added in recent years that some schools have been piloting are Physical Education, Computer Science and Politics & Society. There are other niche subjects and a raft of languages that can also be studied. You can view all of the subjects on offer in lots of detail here.
Are all Leaving Cert subjects worth the same amount of CAO points for college?
Every subject carries the same amount of points with the one notable exception of Higher Level Maths. Students who achieve a grade of H6 and above will gain an extra 25 CAO points.
Should I take another language other than Irish and English?
This is commonly referred to as a Third language, typically Spanish, French or German are the three most popular taken in our schools. For students who may have a native language that is not offered by the school, they can opt to study this outside of school and still sit the Leaving Certificate exam, providing it is one of those examined by the State Examinations Commission. A third language is a requirement for a large number of courses in the NUI colleges but not for courses in Engineering, Science and Nursing. A third language is not a requirement for entry onto most courses in the Technological Universities, DCU and UL apart from those which involve the study of that language. Trinity College will accept Irish as their language requirement.
An interesting fact for students born in Northern Ireland or elsewhere in the UK is that Gaeilge will suffice for the language requirement.
A third language is also a requirement for entry into a cadetship with the Army, Navy and Air Corps.
There are always exceptions to the rule so it is best to check with the course provider or your Guidance Counsellor.
Should I take a science subject?
Having a lab science subject is a requirement for entry onto some courses. Most Healthcare related courses require a science subject e.g. Nursing, Physiotherapy. Some Medical courses require two science subjects e.g. Medicine and Dentistry. Most Engineering courses in the NUI colleges require a science subject also.
Is there any combination of subjects that work well together?
Some subjects are closely related and can help to ease the burden and cut down on some study when preparing for your Leaving Certificate. Biology, Agricultural Science and Home Economics overlap at times, Physics and Applied Maths have a strong correlation, Art and DCG can help each other out while Link Modules and Business are also good friends.
Where can I find out more information?
As always, CareersPortal is an excellent source of information. They have a dedicated Subject Choice area that will allow you to explore all of the subjects on offer, useful Tips and FAQs, how certain subjects are related to particular careers and a Subject Grade Explorer where you can find out which subjects are the most popular and which are generally awarded the highest grades each year.
- Remember the three key questions above.
- Do your research on the new subjects as they might be different than you imagine them to be.
- Keep as many options open to yourself as possible for college. Choosing a broad range of subjects such as including a language and a science subject is advisable.
- Ask your Guidance Counsellor if you have any questions.
- Do not choose a subject just because your friend is doing it!
Rory White is a Ballybofey-based Guidance Counsellor currently working with CareersPortal.ie, Ireland’s National Career Guidance Website. He previously worked with Donegal ETB in Finn Valley College, Stranorlar and is a member of the Donegal Branch of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors. For more than ten years he has been helping Leaving Cert and PLC students as well as adults choose a college course or decide to change their career journey to start something new. Rory’s columns on Donegal Daily share advice on making informed career and education decisions.
– Rory White BA/H.Dip in Guidance & Counselling