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Students face tight points race for college places as Leaving Cert results are released

All 61,000 candidates receiving results today had marks adjusted upwards to ensure grades were no lower than 2021

Leaving Cert students who applied for the most sought-after courses face a fight for places

Katherine DonnellyIndependent.ie

The Leaving Cert class of 2022 faces a tight race for college places next week after the third year of bumper grades.

All 61,000 exam candidates receiving their results today had their marks adjusted upwards to ensure grades overall were no lower than 2021.

Overall, the results are broadly similar to last year, in line with a promise made to students.

The marks adjustment led to little over half (50.5pc) of grades moving up, for the other half the bump up in marks made no difference to the final grade.

While results across the board are no lower than 2021 and remain at historically high levels, exam chiefs have managed to avoid further inflation.

But even at 2021 levels, it means there will be fierce competition between CAO applicants for college offers in next Thursday’s first found.

As students get their results, one university president said: “The sooner we get back to what might be called a normal Leaving Cert, the better.”

Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, president of University of Galway – the new name for NUI Galway – said “the point of points is discernment, to distinguish between students and my concern, in particular, is for the best students.”

This was the first year since 2019 that there was no reliance on grades based on teachers’ marks – introduced because of the disruption caused by the pandemic – which sparked the grade inflation.

Results are issuing online to students from 10am while they will also be able to get their results in-person through their school.

Education Minister Norma Foley led the congratulations to the 58,056 candidates who sat the traditional Leaving Cert and 3,051 Leaving Cert Applied (LCA) candidates.

The figures include 397 who took 1,151 papers in a deferred sitting in July for those who experienced close family bereavement, serious injury or illness or on public health grounds due to Covid-19.

Ms Foley gave a guarantee that results would be no lower than last year, after students argued they would be at a disadvantage when competing for CAO places with Leaving Cert candidates from 2020 and 2021.

To fulfil that commitment, papers were marked in the normal way, following which the State Examinations Commission (SEC) applied an adjustment to all of the marks.

The distribution of grades at each level (Higher, Ordinary, and Foundation) while not identical to 2021 are similar when aggregated across subjects within the given level. The SEC said it was done “in a manner that is fair and equitable for candidates”.

No marks were adjusted downward and the SEC said all students who were at the same score in each subject/level following the marking process moved to the same score following the application of the adjustment.

All marks increased but grades changed only if the new mark following the adjustment brought the grade over the threshold for the next grade boundary.

Of 410,162 Leaving Certificate grades awarded in the traditional Leaving Cert, 50.5pc increased by one grade, while the remainder were unchanged.

In examples of how close the overall profiles were to last year, 14.4pc of higher level grades are H1, compared with 14.3pc in 2021, while 12.8c of higher level grades are H5, compared with 13.4pc last year.

Overall, following the marking process, the results were lower than 2021, when students had a choice of exams or accredited grades based on teachers’ marks, or both – if they had both, the were awarded the higher grade.

The gap was seen right across the full range of achievement, but it was more pronounced at the lower end.

To address this, additional marks were added to all scores from the marking process on a gradually reducing basis.

It went from 11pc for marks at the bottom end of the scale down to 2.7pc at the top of the scale. The type of statistical adjustment employed is commonly used across the field of educational measurement .

For an exam marked out of 100, it added just over 11 marks to zero, almost seven marks to 50 and almost three marks to 100, but the top mark is capped at 100. The SEC engaged Educational Testing Services (ETC), a US-based non-profit expert in the educational testing field, which also assisted with last year’s accredited grades, to advise on the design and implementation the post-marking adjustment.

Additionally, a separate contract was awarded to Trinity College Dublin to undertake quality checks on the work carried out by ETC.

The same post-marking adjustment was applied to the Leaving Cert Established, Leaving Cert Vocational Programme and Leaving Cert Applied. SEC chairman Pat Burke said the results met the commitment that candidates would not be disadvantaged when competing with the class of 2021 or previous years for opportunities in further or higher education or employment.


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