06 June, 2018 - Ministers Bruton, Halligan and Mitchell O’Connor wish almost 121,000 students sitting state examinations good luck

The Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton T.D., the Minister of State for Training and Skills, John Halligan T.D. and the Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor T.D. today (Wednesday the 6th of June) wished all students who are beginning the Leaving and Junior Certificate examinations well. 

Minister Bruton said:

“I want to wish all students starting their Junior and Leaving Certificate examinations today the very best of luck. You have put in a huge effort to get to this point and you should be very proud of the work that you have put in.

“Almost 58,000 thousand students are sitting the Leaving Certificate examinations this year, including students taking the Leaving Certificate Applied and the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme. I’d like to remind everyone that although these exams are important, they are just one pathway in education. There are now a range of opportunities available to you to fulfil your ambitions. 

“As well as higher and further education courses, we now have a very broad range of apprenticeship and traineeship programmes available, in very exciting new areas, such as ICT and financial services, as well as the traditional craft courses. These are very attractive options that lead to very rewarding careers, when considering your next steps.

“I am delighted that the new approaches to teaching and learning in the Junior Cycle are supporting students to engage in active learning and to develop the skills needed for the 21st century. Progress continues to be made on the rollout of the new Framework for Junior Cycle with the introduction of five new subject specifications in the next academic year.

“I’d like to pay tribute to all the teachers, principals and of course parents for their role in supporting their students in preparing for these exams. We are very fortunate in Ireland to have such a dedicated and committed teaching profession. Teachers and school leaders have a transformative impact on a child’s life and make an invaluable contribution to our society. Thank you for your efforts again this year and the best of luck again, to all students sitting the state exams.”

Minister Halligan said:

“I would like to send the best of luck to all students embarking on this important milestone in their life. While recognising that these exams are important, students should be aware that there are more pathways than ever before open to you to help you achieve your full potential following on from the Junior and Leaving Certificate. There is a wide range of opportunities in the further education and training sector, including traineeships and apprenticeships, as well as in the third level sector. The work of the school leaders, teachers and families also deserve our special appreciation for the support and guidance provided to students.” 

Minister Mitchell O’Connor said: 

“Over the next couple of weeks students have an opportunity to demonstrate all they have learned over the last few years. This important time marks the culmination of their hard work. Exam pressure can result in students feeling stressed and challenged. They are facing into the unknown in more than one way, both exams and wondering what the future holds.  I would urge all students to avail of the excellent supports offered by teachers, parents, families and friends at this important time. I would also like to acknowledge the commitment and hard work of the battalions of dedicated and inspirational teachers who have invested so much into their students’ vocational and educational welfare.  Finally I would like to commend the mature students, who have returned to education, and will sit the Leaving Certificate examination.” 

The Ministers also acknowledged the role of the State Exams Commission (SEC) which is responsible for the significant logistical operation of the State examinations, involving over 120,000 students, more than 4 million exam papers and over 5 thousand examination centres. 


Notes for Editors 

  • The rollout of the new Framework for Junior Cycle continues with the introduction of five new subject specifications from September 2018; Mathematics, Home Economics, History, Music and Geography.
  • New specifications for Science and Business Studies were introduced to 1st year students in 2016 and will be examined for the first time as part of the new Framework in 2019.
  • Under the Framework for Junior Cycle, being rolled out up to 2022, students will no longer be assessed solely on the basis of a single terminal examination conducted by the State Examinations Commission at the end of Third Year. Instead, a new dual approach to assessment has been introduced, aimed at supporting student learning over the three years of Junior Cycle, by giving greater prominence to classroom-based assessment and formative assessment. This will enable learners to demonstrate a much wider range of skills and abilities in their learning.
  • When fully implemented, the modernised Junior Cycle programme will provide each student, and their parents, with a much broader picture of the student’s learning in a new Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement (JCPA). The JCPA record will reflect the learning opportunities and experiences encountered during the three years of Junior Cycle and will provide opportunities for all this learning to be valued, acknowledged and affirmed.
  • The first examination of the new Leaving Certificate subject, Politics and Society, will take place on 20 June 2018. 

New Leaving Certificate and Junior Certificate / Cycle Grading 

Leaving Certificate

A new grading system for the Leaving Certificate was introduced in 2017. The new system reduces the number of grades from 14 in the old system to 8 under the revised arrangements. The new grading bands are designed to improve the learning experience of students. They will allow for the focus of learning in the Leaving Certificate to change as broader grade bands will ease the pressure on students to achieve marginal gains in examinations, and encourage more substantial engagement with each subject. 

The following table provides an explanation of the revised grading system compared to the previous grading system.





Grade   Descriptor


Grade   Descriptor











Higher,   Ordinary, Foundation/ Ard, Gnath, Bonn

≥ 90 to   100


≥ 90 to   100


≥ 85   and < 90


≥ 80   and < 90


≥ 80   and < 85


≥ 70   and < 80


≥ 75   and < 80


≥ 60   and < 70


≥ 70   and < 75


≥ 50   and < 60


≥ 65   and < 70


≥ 40   and < 50


≥ 60   and < 65


≥ 30   and < 40


≥ 55   and < 60


≥ 0 and   < 30


≥ 50   and < 55


≥ 45   and < 50


≥ 40   and < 45


≥ 25   and < 40


≥ 10   and < 25


≥ 0 and   < 10


The new grading system is now used on the Statements of Provisional Examination Results and on the final Leaving Certificates. The grades are used consistently across all three examination levels – Higher, Ordinary and Foundation. The Statements and Certificates indicate the level taken using the following notation beside each subject:

Higher/Ard   level,


Ordinary/Gnath   level,


Foundation/Bonn   level


All grades will be awarded in accordance with the published grading system.

Junior Certificate/Cycle

English was the first subject examined in 2017 in the reformed Junior Cycle programme. A revised grading system was introduced for English in 2017 which will be rolled out to other subjects as these reformed subjects come on stream. This means that at this year’s examinations, the grading that applies to English and that which applies to all other Junior Certificate subjects will be different. This year, both sets of grades will be in use; the new descriptors for Junior Cycle English and the existing Junior Certificate grades for all other subjects. This format of grading will continue to apply until 2021 when the last of the Junior Certificate examinations are terminated. In the Junior Certificate, candidates will continue to achieve grades of A, B, C etc. to NG based on marks achieved, a total of 7 grades. In the Junior Cycle, achievement will be indicated using the grade descriptors of Distinction, Higher Merit, Merit, Achieved, Partially Achieved, and Not Graded, a total of 6 grade descriptors.

The following table provides an explanation of the current and revised grading system for Junior Certificate / Junior Cycle subjects.

Junior   Certificate

Junior   Cycle



Grade   Descriptor


Grade   Descriptor





Higher,   Ordinary, Foundation/ Ard, Gnath, Bonn

≥ 85 to   100


≥ 90 to   100


≥ 70   and < 85


≥ 75   and < 90

Higher   Merit

≥ 55   and < 70


≥ 55   and < 75


≥ 40   and < 55


≥ 40   and < 55


≥ 25   and < 40


≥ 20   and < 40

Partially   Achieved

≥ 10   and < 25


≥ 0 and   < 20

Not   Graded (NG)

≥ 0 and   < 10


Both the old and the new grading systems will appear side-by-side on the Statements of Provisional Examination Results issued by the SEC and on the final Junior Certificate Profile of Achievement (JCPA) which will be generated by schools and which issued for the first time in respect of the 2017 examinations. The JCPA will include details of the final grades awarded by the SEC following the conclusion of the Junior Certificate/Cycle appeals process. Junior Cycle English will be offered at Higher and Ordinary Level and there is no longer a Foundation level option in this subject.