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Less stress Leaving Cert students will have to answer fewer questions in June exams​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

These further adjustments will aim to reduce the load on students, leaving intact the general overall structure of the written examination papers"

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(stock photo)

(stock photo)

(stock photo)

Leaving Cert students will have to answer fewer question in the written papers this year.

More adjustments are being made to papers to reduce the load on candidates, who have suffered extended disruption to their education.

Students were previously advised that there would be greater choice between and within questions.

But new guidance on the exams and accredited grades process, released today, announces further changes.

It states that: “In addition to the adjustment to the examinations previously communicated to schools, further adjustments will be made to the written papers.

“These further adjustments will aim to reduce the load on students, leaving intact the general overall structure of the written examination papers.

“In the majority of cases these adjustments will involve reducing the number of questions that students will be required to answer.”

The duration of the exams will remain the same as set out in the timetable, allowing students more time to read the paper and answer the questions.

The State Examinations Commission (SEC) will issue further subject-by-subject guidance in relation to the adjustments in the week of March 22.

The changes are announced in A Guide to State Examinations and Accredited Grades for Leaving Certificate 2021, which has been published on the Gov.ie/leavingcertificate.

The oral exams – for those who are also sitting the written papers – are scheduled for between March 26 and April 15. They will be held in school outside of normal tuition time.

It is expected that the running of the orals will involve no more than five consecutive days in each school and may held before or after the normal school day, during the Easter holidays, or at weekends.

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They will be conducted under exam conditions by a teacher/teachers in the school or a neighbouring school or another suitable qualified teacher and they will be paid by the SEC.

The orals will be recorded electronically and the recording will be sent to the SEC for marking

Due to Covid-related restrictions, practicals in Construction Studies Engineering are not taking place and nor is Performance Assessment in Physical Education.

In these subjects the proportion of marks normally allocated to these components will be reallocated to the project.

However, revised arrangements are being made for the Music practical performance, which is expected to take place over Easter. Engagement is ongoing with public health experts on this.

The exams start on June 9, and there will be no second opportunity to sit them for those who, for reason of illness, or bereavement, are unable to take them in June.

The 63,000 Leaving Cert candidates return to school next Monday and they will have about a week, from Monday March 8, to register their exam choices on an SEC Candidate Portal.

This is where they will opt in for the exams and/or to receive SEC Accredited Grades.

They will be asked to confirm their subjects and the level (higher/ordinary/foundation) at which they want to be assessed.

The portal will re-open in late April/early May to enable candidates to review their choices.

The accredited grades will be based on a teacher’s estimated mark for a student in respect of his/her likely performance in each subject, signed off by the school.

The estimated marks provided by schools will go through a process of standardisation , which will include the use of national data on performance in Junior Cert and Leaving Cert exams of students in each subject, but not including last year’s calculated grades results.

The Leaving Cert data will not include the use of the historical performance of school by school data, the issue which caused major controversy in 2020. Data on the Junior Cycle performance of the Leaving Cert class of 2021, is likely to be used.

The document sets out guidance for teachers in how to arrive at a fair estimated mark and how to separate students who have very similar attainment levels by the tiniest of fractions.

In order to avoid awarding the same percentage mark to two students, they may include up to two decimal places - i.e. 83.22pc, 83.33pc.

Like last year, teachers are asked to draw on a variety of evidence of student attainment - including limited assessment up to May 14 - and to use their professional judgment in awarding estimated marks.

The guidance advises against over-assessment and says where it does take place, it should be set by the teacher, run for no more than an hour and there should be no more than three such tests up to May 14.

It specifically prohibits “the use of statistical or algorithmic models, such as those offered by commercial companies” and often associated with “mocks”. It says these “must not be in the process of data analysis and review and the estimation of percentage marks.”

Any efforts by parents or other to influence teachers’ marks will be treated very seriously – it will be covered by upcoming legislation. In order to minimise any such risk, the guidance advises schools against holding formal sixth year parent teacher meetings between March 1 and March 28.

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