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Leaving Cert

Male students are getting better grades in higher level maths

More students have been opting to do the higher level paper in recent years.

shutterstock_411211954 Shutterstock / Syda Productions Shutterstock / Syda Productions / Syda Productions

MORE STUDENTS ARE doing higher level maths for their Leaving Certificate exam.

The State Examinations Commission’s chief examiners’ report found that, from 2011 to 2015, the percentage of people doing higher level increased from 15∙8% to 27∙4%, a rise of over 73%.

More male students are opting to do higher level, and they’re getting higher grades than their female counterparts.

Overall, some 53,570 students sat the maths exam last year.

lc maths five years

The report notes that the increase in the number of candidates taking higher level has been “substantial”, and is often attributed to bonus points being awarded in the CAO system.

However, such a steep change over such a short timeframe necessarily has a very significant impact on the grade distributions that might be expected at the various levels.

“The candidates whose choice of level is least certain are those near the overlap of standards between the levels – they are among the lower achieving candidates at higher level and the higher achieving candidates at ordinary level,” the report states.

lc grades

Over the same five-year period, the ordinary level cohort fell from 72∙1% to 62∙1%, a decrease of almost 14%, while the foundation level cohort has remained relatively constant at just over 10%.

There has been a phased implementation of new mathematics syllabuses at both Junior and Leaving Certificate in recent years, as part of an initiative called Project Maths.

Gender breakdown

The gender breakdown of students doing various levels has been relatively stable over the last five years, with a slightly lower percentage of female than male candidates doing higher level and foundation level, and a higher percentage doing ordinary level.

lc maths male female

A higher percentage of male candidates has achieved A grades and B and C grades over this period. These patterns have been fairly consistent since the introduction of the new syllabus.

gender a1

At ordinary level, female candidates outperformed their male counterparts with respect to A/B/C grades and E/F/NG rates in each of the last five years.

gender ol

At foundation level, male candidates outperformed their female counterparts in 2015 with respect to A/B/C grades and E/F/NG rates. From 2011 to 2014, female candidates outperformed their male counterparts with respect to all grades.

Junior Certificate

From 2011 to 2015, the number of students taking the higher level maths exam for the Junior Cert increased from 45∙6% to 55∙3%, the ordinary level cohort fell from 46∙5% to 38∙8%, while the foundation level figure fell from 7∙9% to 5∙9%.


At higher level, a higher percentage of male candidates were awarded A grades, while female candidates outperformed their male counterparts at ordinary level. A full grade breakdown can be read on

jc grades

Reports on a number of other subjects, including physics, chemistry and business, were also released today, and can be viewed here.

Read: Irish is considered among the hardest and least interesting subjects in school

Read: This sketch perfectly sums up the struggle of the Irish Leaving Cert oral

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